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A Fictional Dairy of James Jim Bowie

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            James Bowie was born on April 10, 1796 in Logan County (USA) to Rezin Bowie and Elve Ap-Catesby Jones. Bowie and his brother Rezin enlisted in the Louisiana militia in the late 1814 following a plea of volunteers to fight the Mexican troops in the war of 1812. This was a war that they never participated in for they arrived late in New Orleans just in time to find a treaty (the treaty of Ghent) which ended the war signed in that same year on December. He however mastered the art of the militia after which he settled in Rapides Parish. In June 1819, he joined the ‘Long Expedition’ which was geared towards liberating Texas from the Spanish rule. The group took no time in liberating Texas with Bowie returning to Louisiana before the invasion was repelled by the Spanish troops. On September of 1827, Bowie near Natchez and on the banks of Mississippi participated in the Sandbar fight which developed during a duel between Samuel Levi Wells and Thomas Maddox (http://heartofsanantonio.com/Alamo/bowie.html).

Following the death of his father in 1818, the two brothers sought to expand their inheritance with the hope of taking advantage of the growing population in Louisiana. This they sought to do by speculating in land tracts. Lack of capital lead them into partnership with a pirate named as Jean Lafitte in 1818 to raise money. With the US government having already outlawed the importation of slaves, their slave business in which they were undertaking became more and more risky. Thus Bowie devised a plan, to import slaves and then go report on himself to the customs house with a view of getting half the price of what the imported slaves would earn at an auction as a reward (Shannon, 1955, 57).

He made three importations of smuggled slaves and each time the customs officers offered the slaves for sale at an auction, he would buy them himself at half a price and the go resell them at a high market value. This scheme earned the brothers a lot of money and in no time they had enough for their land speculation. In 1825, the two brothers joined with their small brother to buy a plantation near Alexandria known as Acadia. In two years time, they established the first steam mill in Louisiana for grinding sugar cane. In 1831, they sold the plantation together with their slaves and the two brothers bought another plantation in Arkansas (Shannon, 1955, 81). After a major court battle in the late 1820’s it was noted in 1831 after research that the land sold to the people by the Bowie’s never belonged to them but that the original land grant documentation had been forged.

The US Supreme Court upheld a reversal in 1833 and the case of the disgruntled purchasers verses the Bowie’s never continued due to a mysterious loss of the documents. In January 1 1830, Bowie left Louisiana for permanent residence in Texas. After taking an oath of allegiance to Mexico he proceeded to Bexar and his fluency in Spanish helped him settle fast in the area. He was elected a commander of the Texas Rangers later that year. He became a catholic and citizen of the Mexico in 1830, after promising to establish textile mill in the province of Coahuila y Tejas. He entered into partnership with Veramendi in an effort to fulfill his promise and together they sought to build cotton and wool mills in Saltillo. He then bought out land for speculation which he continued until the Mexican government passed out laws to stop much of land speculation in 1834 and 1835. In 1831, he married nineteen year old Maria de Veramendi, the daughter of his partner who became the vice governor of the province. After a short time they moved to stay with Maria’s parents and had two children, Maria Elve and James Veramendi (Claude, 1944, 95).

He later became interested with the story of the ‘lost’ Los Almagres mine which had earlier been operated by the local Indians. He did obtain permission from the Mexican government to mount an expedition into the Indian Territory to search for the legendary silver mine. He then had to fight for his live together with that of his brothers and his other men with the hostile Indians. Bowie’s surviving members of the team returned to San Antonio on December the same year later to return for the expedition the following month. He however returned empty handed after two and a half month of searching. Some stories still hold that he found the fabled San Saba mines, also known as the Bowie mines, near the geographic center of present day Texas.

Between 1830 and 1832, after the Mexican legislature passed a series of laws that seemed to discriminate against Anglo colonist, there emerged a conflict between the Mexican troops led by their commander, Jose de Piedras and the Texans led by Bowie. The reason behind this was that the military supported the president and Anglo colonist in Texas supported Santa Anna and General Jose Antonio who led the Texas to oust commander loyal to the president at that time. Bowie and eighteen other companions ambushed the Mexican troops gaining victory over them.

He later served as a delegate to the convention of 1833 which aimed at formally requesting that Texas become a state on its own within the Mexican federation. A cholera outbreak was experienced several months later leading to Bowie in fear of his family getting affected to send them to the family estate in Monclova in the company of her brother and his wife’s parents. The cholera outbreak by bad luck struck Monclova leading to the loss of Bowie’s wife, their children her brother and her parents. This led Bowie to become a drunkard and a careless person. In 1835, he was forced to abandon his land speculation business which he had by then resumed, following an order by the president to abolish the Texas government and to arrest all Texans doing business in Monclova. He was then forced to return (flee) to the Anglo areas of Texas (Raymond, 1978, 111).

            The Anglos in Texas began to wage for war against Santa Anna. However the Texas government refused to give him a commission, but Houston, the commander in charge found him useful and treated him as a colonel, based on his ranger service for Veramendi. Together with the Anglos in Texas and some few Indians who Bowie had managed to oppose the Mexican government, Bowie and his troops started the Texas revolution on October 2, 1835. Bowie troops fought the Mexican troops with the guidance of Bowie and worn the battle which ended the battle of Concepcion as it became to be known (http://heartofsanantonio.com/Alamo/bowie.html).

After the end of the war he resigned from the army because of lack of an official commission in the army and also due to his dislike of the minor tasks of scouting and spying. On November 1835, Texas declared itself an independent state. Bowie later appeared before the council asking for a commission which the council denied him largely due to his land dealings. He was later to be offered a commission by Houstin to be an officer in his army which he refused on the argument that he wanted to be in the midst of fighting. Instead he enlisted himself as a private and distinguished himself again in the Grass fight on November of the same year.

In this particular fight he ambushed one hundred Mexican soldiers who had been sent to cut grass for the horses. This trigered by a believe that the party carried valuable cargo thus the idea was to seize the cargo. What ensured after was a fierce war between the Mexican troops and the Texans but at this particular time the Texans had victory to celebrate if only for a short while. The Mexicans later attacked but Bowie and other Texans had withdrawn to their families. Despite this Texas did enjoy another victory over the Mexican troops (James, Richard, 2003, 62).

Bowie was later to volunteer in the battle of the Alamo under the command of his former commander in the battle of Concepcion. In this particular battle, he offered to lead other volunteers to defend Alamo. Due to his connection owing to his marriage and his fluency in Spanish, the predominantly Mexican population often furnished him with important information about the movement of the Mexican army. However Bowie became ill and the two doctors charged with the task of treating him never diagnosed what he was suffering from. He was confined to bed as been sick and incapable of participating in the battle. His co-commanding officer, Travis, led the army to attack the Mexican troops. After hours of fierce battle on the front line, Bowie ordered his caretakers to take him with his cot on the battle front line. He perished with the rest of the Alamo army on March 6, 1836. His death was never properly put into account and many conflicting and varying versions about the nature of his death roam to this day. What was evident after his death was that even after the rumors of his wealth, Bowie turned out to have owned a very little estate (Raymond, 1978, 182).

His most famous legacy was what was known as Bowie knife with which he fought his battles. It is believed that this large butcher like hunting knife was a gift from his brother after the incidence of 1826 in which Bowie met Norris Wright, one of his many enemies then, in Alexandria and tempers flared with Norris Wright firing point blank at Bowie. The bullet is however said to have been deflected thus it never got to Bowie. Reports of Bowie’s knife however remain to this day with claims that he did plunge his knife in his assailant’s breast and slashed him severely. Reports of his prowess and his lethal blade drew the attention of the people and he was proclaimed the most formidable knife fighter in the south. In fact, stories run that knifes ordered from blacksmiths and cutlers were ordered in the likeness of Bowie’s knife (Claude, 1944, 123).

Work Cited

Claude Douglas. James Bowie: the Life of a Bravo. London, Upshaw Publishers, 1944, pp.95, 123

James Bowie. Retrieved on 5th October 2008 from http://heartofsanantonio.com/Alamo/bowie.html

James Haley & Richard Edmondson. Jim Bowie: Frontier Legend, Alamo Hero. London, Routledge, 2003, pp.62

Raymond Thorp. Bowie Knife. University of New Mexico, 1978, pp.111, 182

Shannon Garst. James Bowie and His Famous Knife. New York, Messner Publishers, 1955, pp.57, 81

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