James C. Neill

James C. Neill

James Clinton Neill (c. 1790ndash March 31, 1848) was a 19th century American soldier and politician, most noted for his role in the Texas Revolution and the early defense of the Alamo.He was born in North Carolina.

Early life and career

Neill was born in North Carolina. He enlisted on 20 September 1814 and was discharged on 10 April 1815. He fought in the Creek War and was wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. In the military he commanded a company in Major William Woodfolk's Battalion of Tennessee Militia Infantry. He lived in Tennessee with his wife Margaret Harriett, who bore him three childrenndash George Jefferson Neill (b. 1808), Samuel Clinton Neill (b. 1815) and Harriett (b. 1820).


After time in Tennessee he moved his young family to Alabama, Neill served in the state legislature, then on to Texas. The family moved to Texas in 1831 with Stephen F. Austin's third colony where he received a league of land(4,428) acres. They settled in (Viesca District) what is now Milam County. Neill served as a district representative in the Convention of 1833.

Texas Revolution

Due to his previous experience in battle, Neill had some knowledge of artillery. In 1834 Neill and his family moved to Mina, modern day Bastrop. On September 28, 1835, when armed conflict with Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican troops seemed inevitable, he joined the Texian militia as a captain of artillery. On October 2, 1835, he saw action at the conflict at Gonzales. Texian John H. Jenkins recorded that Neill actually fired the famed Gonzales "Come and Take It" cannon, crediting him with firing "the first shot of the Texas Revolution." From December 5–10, Neill's battery provided covering fire for the assault on San Antonio de Béxar. Neill and his command had taken a cannon across the San Antonio River and fired upon the Alamo as a diversionary tactic.

On December 7, the Texas General Council commissioned Neill lieutenant colonel of artillery in the regular Texian army. He was given several captured Mexican field pieces to augment his firepower. He now commanded over twenty artillery pieces, the largest amount west of the Mississippi River and north of the Rio Grande. On December 21, Neill received orders to take command of the 104-man garrison at the nearby Alamo mission, which he began fortifying as reinforcements slowly trickled in. On January 17, 1836, James Bowie arrived with the suggestion from Sam Houston to remove the artillery and blow up the Alamo. Houston had written the Provisional Government asking for approval of his orders. Houston sent Bowie to San Antonio because he trusted Bowie's opinion. Instead of leaving the Alamo and falling back to Gonzales or Copano Bay, Bowie and Neill became committed to its defense. Bowie, impressed with Neill's leadership, wrote, "No other man in the army could have kept men at this post, under the neglect they have experienced"." Despite Houston's orders to have the Alamo destroyed as indefensible, Neill and Bowie vowed "... we will rather die in these ditches than give it up to the enemy." However, Neill was soon badly in need of supplies, as well as soldiers. In late December, Frank Johnson and James Grant stripped the Bexar garrison of provisions to supply their government sanctioned and ill-fated Matamoros expedition, leaving Neill to hold the town with fewer than 100 men. While constantly calling for reinforcements, supplies and money to pay his troops, he buttressed the defenses of the Alamo.

On February 11, Col. Neill left the Alamo to seek supplies and recruits, and to care for his family, all of whom had been stricken with a serious illness. He was furloughed for twenty-one days. Before he left, he appointed William B. Travis to temporary command. Neill was heading back to the Alamo when the fort fell to Mexican troops on March 6 (the Battle of the Alamo). By the day of the battle, Neill had reached Gonzales, where he signed a personal voucher for ninety dollars to buy medicine for the Alamo garrison.

On March 13, he joined the withdrawal of Sam Houston's army to Groce's Retreat on the Brazos River. Unable to transport their cannons, Houston ordered them dumped into the Guadalupe River before abandoning Gonzales. That changed on April 11 when the "Twin Sisters" —two matched six-pounders— reached the Texian camp. The brass cannons were a gift from the people of Cincinnati, Ohio. Since Neill was a ranking artillery officer, Houston named him to command the revived artillery corps. On April 20, Neill commanded the Twin Sisters during the Battle of San Jacinto. During this fight, his artillery corps repulsed an enemy probe of the woods in which the main Texian army was concealed. Neill was seriously wounded when a fragment of Mexican grapeshot caught him in the hip.

See also the Timeline of the Texas Revolution.

Later life

In 1838, the Republic of Texas granted Neill a league of land in Harrisburg County for his service during the revolution. He unsuccessfully campaigned for the position of major general in the regular Texas army in 1839, losing to Felix Huston. In 1842, he led an expedition against Native Americans along the upper Trinity River. In 1844, he was appointed an Indian agent. He was granted a pension in 1845 by the United States Congress of $200 a year for life as compensation for the injuries he received at San Jacinto. In 1848, he and two business partners donated land in Corsicana for the site of the first county courthouse.

Neill died at his home on Spring Creek in Navarro County and was buried in Grimes County.


*Barr, Alwyn, "Texans in Revolt: The Battle for San Antonio, 1835," University of Texas Press; ISBN 0-292-78120-2
*Davis, William C., "Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic," Free Press; ISBN 0-684-86510-6
*Hardin, Stephen L., "Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution," University of Texas Press; ISBN 0-292-73086-1
*King, C. Richard, "James Clinton Neill, The Shadow Commander of the Alamo", Eakin Press; ISBN 1-57168-577-4
*Nofi, Albert A., "The Alamo and the Texas War for Independence," Da Capo Press; ISBN 0-306-80563-4

External links

* [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/NN/fne11.html Handbook of Texas Online, James C. Neill article]
* [http://www.rootsweb.com/~txnavarr/markers/james_clinton_neill/index.htm Texas State Historical Marker for Neill]

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