John Coker

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John Coker (1789–1851) was a soldier in the Texas Army during the Texas Revolution, noted for a daring action during the Battle of San Jacinto that helped seal the decisive Texian victory.

Biography[edit]

John Coker was born in Laurens County, South Carolina. He moved from South Carolina to Texas in 1834 and applied for land in Stephen F. Austin’s colonies (4).

Coker served in the Texas army from March 6 to September 5, 1836. He was a member of Captain Henry Wax Karnes' Company and served in Erastus Deaf Smith’s spy company in the Battle of San Jacinto. He was one of a party of seven men who burned Vince's Bridge and kept Antonio López de Santa Anna’s army from retreat or reinforcement, thus assuring the Texan victory (5).

Young Perry Alsbury, who was also at Vince's Bridge, in an 1858 letter to Congressman Grimes stated “While sitting in our saddles, John Coker, my left file-leader, made the following remark and the suggestions following: "Boys, before many hours we will have one of the damndest, bloodiest fights that ever was fought and I believe it would be a good plan to go and burn that bridge so as not only to impede the advance of reinforcements of the enemy, but it will cut off all chance of retreat of either party (2)."

Deaf Smith knew more about the lay of the land in and around the San Jacinto battle grounds than any man in Sam Houston's army. So when he went to Houston and told him of Coker’s idea that unless the bridge over Vince's Bayou was burned, the enemy could keep on getting reinforcements and, if defeated, Santa Anna would cross the bridge and escape to wait for those reinforcements and come back. Houston agreed with this plan, but said, "You will have to pass within 100 yards (100 m) of the Mexican cavalry and they will cut you to pieces." Smith told him that if he would permit him to take six men, he would burn the bridge or perish in the attempt(4).

Vince's Bridge was not chopped down, as mistakenly stated by some historians, but was instead burned. A larger force would have been required to cut down the massive and lengthy structure in so short a time. After the successful destruction of the bridge was announced to the Texans just before the battle, they knew that there was no chance for retreat for either army. They rushed forward, and in 18 minutes, completely routed the panic-stricken Mexicans (2).

Santa Anna, in his attempted hasty escape from the encircling Texans, soon came to the burned bridge, which he thought was on the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou and his private secretary believed was on the Brazos River. The general was later captured after being significantly delayed by the destroyed structure (5). The others who were with John Coker on that mission were Deaf Smith, Young Perry Alsbury, Denmore W. Reaves, John T. Garner, Moses Lapham and Edwin R. Rainwater.

John Coker was not wounded in the battle but his service record states that at the battle of San Jacinto, John Coker lost a horse valued at $175, when it was shot during the battle (4).

In 1838 in recognition for his service, the Republic of Texas awarded him 1,920 acres (8 km2) in north central Bexar County, where he settled in 1841 and founded Coker Community (2). He is buried in the Coker family plot in the Coker Cemetery (1).

Young Perry Alsbury wrote of John Coker, "He is a man who is second to none in honesty of purpose, valor and patriotism." (2)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • 1. "Coker Community Has Experienced Scope of Area Development" By Susan Goodell
  • 2. "Y.P. Alsbury letter" Texas Archives
  • 3. "Coker Community Church Facts" By J. William Roten, Bulletin of Coker Community Church.
  • 4. "John Coker" A Texas Historical Commission historical marker.
  • 5. "Battle of San Jacinto" A Texas Historical Commission historical marker.

External links[edit]