Texas: The Black Bean Episode

A few years ago, the State of Texas had a publicity campaign with the trademarked slogan Texas: It's Like A Whole Other Country.

That slogan aptly described Texas. The loyalty and love this state inspires in their citizens is akin to the loyalty one feels toward a nation.

We've got beaches and mountains, plains and deserts, small picturesque towns and huge throbbing metropolises.

We've got an ocean, many rivers, lakes, and creeks with names like Woman Hollering. We've also got an amazing history that is the stuff of legends.

On March 25, 1843, one such event occurred that still stirs people's souls: The Black Bean Episode.

In February 1843, the Mier Expedition, mostly composed of men who were in political opposition to Sam Houston, mounted an ill-fated raid into Mexico. Most of the men were captured and were marched from Mier to Mexico City. At Salado, Tamaulipas, the prisoners escaped. Within a week, 176 were recaptured, and a decree was issued that all who participated in the escape were to be executed.

Shortly afterwards, the execution order was amended to killing every 10th man. The victims were chosen by lottery. 176 beans were placed in a clay jar with 17 beans being black. Each of the 176 men drew a bean. If it was black, it was a death sentence.

Commissioned officers drew first. Enlisted men were called according to the muster roll. Observers of the drawing later extolled the courage and resolve of the men who were forced to participate in the lottery. Some left messages for their families with the survivors. Then the men marked for death were unshackled from their companions and isolated in another courtyard. At dusk on March 25, they were shot.

Today the 17 executed that day are remembered: James Decatur Cocke, William Mosby Eastland, Patrick Mahan, James M. Ogden, James N. Torrey, Martin Carroll Wing, John L. Cash, Robert Holmes Dunham, Edward E. Este, Robert Harris, Thomas L. Jones, Christopher Roberts, William N. Rowan, James L. Shepherd, J. N. M. Thompson, James Turnbull, and Henry Walling.

Shepherd survived the firing squad by pretending to be dead. The guards left him in the courtyard, and he escaped into the darkness. Unfortunately, he was was recaptured and shot.

The rest of the men were imprisoned where many of them died from their wounds, disease, and starvation. Occasionally, a few were released. The last of the remaining Mier men were finally released by Santa Anna in September 1844.
Monument Hill State Park - La Grange, TX, United States. Monument Hill Tomb historical marker.
Monument Hill State Park Marker

Takeaway Truth

In 1848 the bodies of the executed were returned from Mexico to be buried at Monument Hill, near LaGrange, Fayette County.

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