Cameron County

Named for

Ewen Cameron

Story by Daffan Van Kirk for "Rio Grande Roundup"

Ewen Cameron was born in Scotland in 1808. By 1836, he was in the army of the Republic of Texas. He was the namesake and possibly a descendant of Cameron of Lochiel, the legendary highland hero. This may have contributed to the feeling of self-confidence that pervaded the air about him. He was a natural leader. He stood 6 feet two and half and was a 200 pounder.


Photo from "Rio Grande Roundup" by Brian Robertson


Those were the days when Mexico could not believe that Texas was not Mexico. Mexican army raiding parties made constant excursions among the Texas settlements. By June 1842, in Refugio County , a spy company was organized with Cameron as captain. They were called"cowboys," but the term was not used in the modern sense. After a note worthy Mexican attack on San Antonio in September of that year, Cameron and his group joined the Somervell expedition. Its aim was to run down and punish the Mexicans. But when the Mexicans disappeared over the river , headquarters sent orders for the troops to disband. Some 300 of them , however, were too fired with enthusiasm to take the disappointment. They declared themselves ready to continue the pursuit to Mexico City , if need be. Cameron was ring leader of the chase.

When the band reached the Rio Bravo, it was Cameron who led the attack on Mier. He was exceptionally brave, by all accounts, and he was in enthusiastically followed. But the town proved to be thoroughly garrisoned.

It was Christmas Day, 1842. The Texans put up a vigorous fight. It became too evident, however, that the supply of ammunition was running out. They resisted surrender, even hurling rocks for some time. Cameron was among those who held out against surrender as long as possible, but it came at noon of December 26.

News of the attack had reached Matamoros, meanwhile, and the troops sent to relieve Mier took the Texan intruders on the start of a long captivity.

Through the tortuous march into Mexico as prisoners, with its days of privation and suffering , it was Cameron who looms in leadership qualities. Various plans were made for an escape , but something seemed to prevent their reaching climax . Finally, a time was set. It was at Salado, south of Saltillo , at sunrise on February 11, 1843. Cameron was to give the signal. Afterwards, no one could remember for sure what the signal was. It did seem as if there was a loud answering voice, calling Cameron by name. What friend would have been thoughtless enough to call out the name that would give the Mexicans certain identification of the man in charge!

They were 220 unarmed men in a strange country, among 400 well-armed captors. They made their escape, but lost in the mountains without food or water it was not for long. Within two weeks 134 were captured, then the rest. Only four made a successful escape to Texas 500 miles away.

Mier Expedition

The incident that followed the recapture of the prisoners is well-known in Texas history. Santa Anna ordered all the captives shot. Governor Mexia, however, did not obey. Later came the order the the prisoners should be decimated-every tenth man to be executed. There were 176 prisoners; 17 black beans and 159 white were drawn.

Cameron drew, first a white bean. But before the prisoners reached Mexico City , by special order of Santa Anna, Cameron was shot. Santa Anna reasoned that 176 was almost 180, so 18 men should have drawn black beans. And who deserved one more than Cameron, the ring leader ?

Photo from "Rio Grande Roundup" by Brian Robertson

What event in history has had as extensive a group of chroniclers! Some kept diaries, some wrote soon after the events occurred, some recalled experiences after they were old men. Yet questions remain.

Photo from "Rio Grande Roundup" by Brian Robertson

Photo from "Rio Grande Roundup" by Brian Robertson

One fellow Scot was known to have thwarted all attempts at escape on the way. Could special arrangements have been made with the captors ? I wonder what happened between them . Was it in their native Scotland, or on the long journey to the new life, or in the Texas Republic? Were they once friends or always at odds ? Was it jealousy or something more vicious ?

There are a great many possibilities, and I find myself biased in favor of the big Scot. What bitter pleasure of triumph there must have been over the end of his enthusiasm and charm.