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Benjamin Rush "Ben" Milam (October 20, 1788 – December 7, 1835) was a leading figure in the Texas Revolution. Milam County, Texas was named in his honor, as were the Ben Milam Hotel in Houston and the Milam Building in San Antonio. He was born in Kentucky.
Milam was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, on October 20, 1788. He was the fifth of the six children of Moses Milam and his wife, Elizabeth Pattie Boyd.
Milam had little or no formal schooling. He enlisted as a private in the 8th Regiment of the Kentucky Militia, but eventually was elected a lieutenant. He served in the War of 1812.
Early Years in Texas
In 1818, after learning of the trading opportunities with the Indians of the upper Red River, Milam traveled to Coahuila y Texas to trade with the Comanches. While there, he met David G. Burnet, who at the time was living with the Indians in an attempt to get over his tuberculosis. In New Orleans in 1819, Milam met José Félix Trespalacios and James Long, who were planning an expedition to help the revolutionaries in Mexico gain their independence from Spain. Milam joined Trespalacios and was commissioned a colonel by him.
In Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City, Trespalacios and Milam met the same reception Long had previously received. The non-revolutionaries had them jailed. While in prison, Long was mysteriously killed (reportedly shot by a guard), and Milam blamed Tresplacios. Milam was again imprisoned for threatening to kill Tresplacios. Milam and his friends were sent to Mexico City where Agustín de Iturbide ordered all of them shot. Milam and the others were imprisoned until the fall of 1822, when they were released, thanks to the influence of Joel R. Poinsett, U.S. Commissioner of Observation to Mexico. Poinsett secured their freedom and, with the exception of Milam, all were returned to the United States on the sloop-of-war USS John Adams (1799).
By the spring of 1824, Milam had returned to Mexico, which was adopting the 1824 Constitution of Mexico and a republican form of government. Milam was granted Mexican citizenship and commissioned a colonel in the Mexican army.
From 1800 to 1820, Milam was Arthur Wavell's partner in a silver mine operation in Nuevo León. The two also obtained empresario grants in Texas. In 1829, Milam intended to organize a new mining company in partnership with David Burnet, but failed due to a lack of funds. In 1835, Milam went to Monclova, the capital of Coahuila y Texas to urge the new governor, Agustín Viesca, to send a land commissioner to Texas to provide the settlers with land titles. However, before Milam could leave the city, word arrived that Antonio López de Santa Anna had overthrown the representative government of Mexico and established a dictatorship. Governor Viesca fled with Milam, but both were captured and imprisoned at Monterrey. Milam eventually escaped, thanks to sympathetic jailers who gave him a horse and let him escape.
By chance, he encountered a company of Texas soldiers commanded by George Collinsworth, from whom he learned of the movement in Texas for independence. Milam joined them, helping to capture Goliad on October 10. He wrote: "I assisted Texas to gain her independence. I have endured heat and cold, hunger and thirst; I have borne losses and suffered persecutions; I have been a tenant of every prison between this and Mexico. But the events of this night have compensated me for all my losses and all my sufferings."
He then marched with them to join the main army in capturing San Antonio. On November 18 Stephen F. Austin resigned command of the Texan forces at San Antonio to fulfill his mission to the United States as a commissioner. Edward Burleson was elected on November 24 by the volunteers to take Austin's place and then commissioned as commander of the volunteer army by the provisional government on December 1.
While returning from a scouting mission in the southwest on December 4, 1835, Milam learned that a majority of the army had decided not to attack San Antonio as planned, but to go instead into winter quarters. Burleson and his council of officers were reluctant to attack, and the next day at 3 pm, Milam went to Burleson’s tent to ask permission to call for volunteers to storm the city. Burleson had little choice but to go along with Milam's plan. Milam was convinced that putting off the final assault on San Antonio would be a disaster for the cause of independence. He then made his famous impassioned plea: "Who will go with old Ben Milam into Bexar?" Three hundred volunteered to attack at dawn on December 5.
The Siege of Bexar
Plans were quickly made. The men would form at an abandoned mill, Molino Blanco or Zambrano's mill, at 3 a.m., while Burleson was to hold the rest as a reserve. At the same time, Captain James C. Neil was to open fire with two cannons on the Alamo to distract the Mexican soldiers.
On December 7, 1835 Milam, standing with Frank Johnson and Henry Karnes near the Veramendi house, was shot in the head by a Mexican rifleman and killed instantly. He fell into the arms of Samuel Maverick. He had been trying to observe the San Fernando church tower with a field telescope given to him by Stephen Austin. Robert Morris was chosen to take over Milam’s command of the first division.
The Mexican Army lost more than 400 killed, deserted or wounded in the ensuing battle. Texan losses were only 20 to 30 killed. The siege ended on December 9, 1835 when Martín Perfecto de Cos sent a subordinate to negotiate a truce with the Texans. Morris gave Cos and his troops six days to leave the Alamo. Burleson provided the Mexican Army with as much supplies as he could spare, and the Mexican wounded were allowed to remain behind to be treated by Texan doctors.
- In 1897 the Daughters of the Republic Of Texas placed a marker on Milam grave site at Milam Park, San Antonio; the marker was moved in 1976 & the location of the grave was forgotten until it was found again in 1993.
- On July 17, 1938, a statue of Milam was unveiled at the Milam County Courthouse, in Cameron, Texas.
- Miller, Edward L., New Orleans and the Texas Revolution, Texas A&M University Press, ISBN 1-58544-358-1.
- Nofi, Albert A., The Alamo and the Texas War for Independence, Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-81040-9.
- Benjamin Milam from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Benjamin Milam at Find A Grave
- Antiques Roadshow Appraisal: 1834 Ben Rush Milam Signed Manuscript Document
- tamu.edu archives