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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, Milam Street 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.
Early years in Texas
In 1818, after learning of the trading opportunities with the Indians of the upper Red River, Milam traveled from Kentucky 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 intended to help Mexican revolutionaries fight for their independence from Spain. Milam decided to join the pair in their efforts for Mexican independence.
While Long traveled to La Bahía, Milam and Trespalacios traveled to Veracruz and Mexico City. Both parties met a hostile reception, and Milam and Trespalcios were imprisoned. While in prison, Long was mysteriously shot and killed by a guard, and Milam came to believe that the murder was plotted by Trespalcios. This incident drove Milam and some of his friends to plot to kill Trespalcios, and when that plot was discovered, Milam was again imprisoned. Milam and his friends were sent to Mexico City, where they were held until the fall of 1822, when Joel R. Poinsett, U.S. Commissioner of Observation to Mexico 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 new 1824 Constitution of Mexico and a republican form of government. Trespalacios and Milam reconciled, and he was granted Mexican citizenship and commissioned as a colonel in the Mexican Army.
In 1825 Milam and Arthur G. Wavell, an English general in the Mexican Army, became partners 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 G. Burnet, but their efforts failed due to a lack of funds. Milam and Wavell's empresario efforts also failed when they were unable to introduce enough new citizens to Texas after the Mexican government passed an act in 1830 that prohibited further immigration of United States citizens into Texas. 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. While returning from a scouting mission in the southwest on December 4, 1835, Milam learned that a majority of the army had decided to go into quarters for the winter instead of continuing on with the planned attack on San Antonio. 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 San Antonio?" 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 many 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's grave site at Milam Park, San Antonio; the marker was moved in 1976 and 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.
- Hall, Franklin. Who Will Go With Old Ben Milam Into 1930.
- 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