African-Americans at San Jacinto

One group that could not cite muster rolls to bolster their claims for pensions as Texas Revolution veterans were the freemen, who had usually served as slaves during the revolution. Many of those who applied probably never were able to get their application beyond the county court. Even when the application was forwarded to the state, the question of validity remained.

Each of the men signing the petition to award Republic pensions to the two veterans-Francis W. Johnson, William T. Austin, and Elisha Marshall Pease-had been prominent in the Texas Revolution. and they were a continuing force in Texas politics and public affairs. Even their intervention did not result in the Texas legislature's passing a special relief act for Thomas Stephens and Mack Smith.

We have no record of a pension for Thomas Stephens, but Mack Smith eventually did receive one. Although his service was verified by Jesse Billingsley and Andrew Neill-both prominent commanders in the Texas Revolution, the Comptroller Stephen H. Darden forwarded the application to the Attorney General with the following notation: "The proof accompanying the within application is sufficient to entitle the applicant to pension unless the law is inapplicable to him for the reason that he was a slave at the time the service was performed."

On June 5. 1875, Attorney General George Clark responded: "Repectfully returned to Hon. S.H. Darden, Comptroller - If the proof is satisfactory that the applicant did service as a soldier in the Revolution, and participated as a soldier in any of the battle fought for independence, I do not consider the fact of his being a slave at the time, as standing in the way of his receiving his pension - He is certainly a "survivor" and at the time the bounty of the State was put into operation, he was as capable of taking, as any other citizen - The Statute makes no discrimination as to "race, color or previous condition."

Link - Petition for Stephens and SmithClick on image for larger image and transcript.
Petition and Act for the relief of Thomas Stephens and Mack Smith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page last modified: March 28, 2016