Joseph Bonnell

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Joseph Bonnell
Born (1802-08-04)August 4, 1802
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died September 27, 1840(1840-09-27) (aged 38)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Place of burial Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch US Army
Texian Army
Years of service 1825–1840
Rank Captain
Unit 3rd US Infantry Regiment, 8th US Infantry Regiment

Joseph Bonnell (August 4, 1802 – September 27, 1840) was a formally recognized hero of the Texas Revolution. He was a West Point graduate (Class of 1825) and a member of The Long Gray Line (a phrase used to describe all graduates and cadets of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York).

Joseph Bonnell Marker

Formal recognition by Texas Legislature[edit]

His heroism in support of the War for Texas Independence is acknowledged in Texas House of Representatives Resolution #615 "Paying tribute to the life of Lieutenant Joseph Bonnell, hero of the Texas Revolution, and commemorating the placement of a historical marker at his grave site", which was adopted on 3/17/2005 by the 79th Texas Legislature. The resolution reads in part: "...he successfully quelled an uprising...through a peaceful negotiation with Caddo Chief Cortes; his efforts helped enable General Sam Houston to focus the full strength of his army on defeating Mexican troops led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the famed Battle of San Jacinto, effectively securing the independence of the Republic of Texas."

1835 Caddo Indian Treaty[edit]

Joseph Bonnell, First Lieutenant, 3rd Infantry Regiment, US Army, Fort Jesup, Louisiana, was an official witness to the US and Caddo Indian Treaty of July 1, 1835 in which the Caddo Indians sold all of their lands in the United States to the United States.[1] Lieutenant Bonnell asked to read the treaty before the chiefs signed and was refused by the US Agent.[2] After the signing, it was discovered that the US Agent had included a hidden provision by which associates of the US Agent were enriched.[3] Lieutenant Bonnell gave a deposition for the benefit of the Caddos which ultimately reached the US Supreme Court in US v. Brooks, 51 US 445 (1850).

1835-1836 appointment and commission in Texas Army[edit]

Bonnell’s integrity and character came to the attention of Major General Sam Houston of the Texas Army who asked Bonnell to be his Aide-de-Camp,[4] an appointment approved by the government of Texas.[5] Bonnell performed the duties of Aide by providing General Houston with a comprehensive report on how to organize and establish an army.[6] General Houston recommended that Bonnell be commissioned as a Captain in the Regular Army of Texas,[7] and this was done by the government of Texas.[8]

Situation in March/April 1836[edit]

In March and April 1836, during the “Runaway Scrape,” there were many reports of as many as 1,700 hostile Indians massing in East Texas.[9] This threatened the security of General Houston’s Army and the settlers in Texas. On April 7, 1836, US Major General Edmund P. Gaines, then commander of the southwest military division of the United States at Fort Jesup, Louisiana, ordered Bonnell to go into East Texas by himself to quell the Indian uprising.[10]

One tribal uprising - one infantry lieutenant[edit]

Bonnell found the Indian villages empty except for women and children, the warriors having gone to the field. He finally located Caddo Chief Cortes and negotiated with him to have the warriors return to the villages in peace. Bonnell successfully completed his dangerous mission, which was of great benefit to General Houston and the Texas Army by allowing General Sam Houston to focus the full strength of his army on defeating Mexican troops led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the famed Battle of San Jacinto. Bonnell returned to Fort Jesup and wrote his report on April 20, 1836, the day before the Battle of San Jacinto.[11]

Bonnell, Houston, and West Point graduates[edit]

The sword carried by General Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto was given to him by his friend, Joseph Bonnell.[12] Bonnell had been in West Point with Texas Army Lieutenant William S. Stilwell who was with the “Twin Sisters” artillery at the Battle of San Jacinto.[13] Bonnell was also at West Point with Albert Sidney Johnston, who later became Commanding General of the Texas Army and Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas when the new capital was built in Austin.[14] In August 1836, three months after the Battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston, Joseph Bonnell, and Albert Sidney Johnston were all in Nacogdoches, Texas.[15]

1840 - end of life[edit]

Captain Joseph Bonnell, US Army, died on September 27, 1840 at the home of his brother in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[16]


It was Bonnell who discovered the plot of Manuel Flores to incite the tribes to war against Texas.[17]



  1. ^ F. Todd Smith, The Caddo Indians, Texas A&M Press, College Station, 1995, p. 121.
  2. ^ F. Todd Smith, supra, p. 122.
  3. ^ F. Todd Smith, supra, pp. 122-123.
  4. ^ Butler-Gunsaulus Collection, Box 2, Folder 48, Houston, Samuel to Joseph Bonnell, November 22, 1835, Special Collection Research Center, University of Chicago Library, 1100 E. 57th St., Chicago, IL 60637.
  5. ^ Texas State Archives; John Holmes Jenkins, III, Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836, Presidial Press, Austin, 1973, Vol. 9, p. 385. Document 4366, Resolution approving the appointment of Lieutenant Bonnill [sic]; reprint in Gammel, Laws of Texas, I, 905-1062.
  6. ^ Texas State Archives, A. J. Houston Collection; John Holmes Jenkins, III, supra, Vol. 3, pp. 369-370, Document 1654, Bonnell to Houston, December 30, 1835.
  7. ^ Lamar Papers, I, pp. 293-294; John Holmes Jenkins, III, supra, Vol. 3, p. 476, Document 1756, Houston to Robinson, January 11, 1836.
  8. ^ Alex Dienst Papers, TXU-A, 2.325/v.5; John Holmes Jenkins, III, supra, Vol. 5, p. 42, Document 2287, List of Officers, March 10, 1836. Bonnell is spelled “Bonnel” or “Bonnsl.”
  9. ^ F. Todd Smith, supra, p. 128; John H. Reagan, “Expulsion of the Cherokees from East Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1, July 1897, pp. 38-39; Texas State Archives, Biographical and Historical Files, Army Papers; United States and Mexico, 1828-1838, 25th Congress, 2nd Session, No. 351, House Documents, pages 775-779; John Holmes Jenkens, III, supra, Vol. 5, p. 17, Document 2261, Greenwood to President of Convention, March 7, 1836; Vol. 5, pp. 25-26, Document 2271, Franks to Convention, March 8, 1836; Vol. 5, p. 144, Document 2370, Raquet to Chairman, March 19, 1836; Vol. 5, p. 149, Document 2380, Mason to Nelson, March 20, 1836; Vol. 5, p. 153, Document 2388, A. Hotchkiss Report, San Augustine, March 21, 1836; Vol. 5, p. 429, Document 2703, Deposition of C. H. Sims, April 11, 1836; Vol. 5, pp. 429-430, Document 2703, Deposition of William Sims, April 11, 1836; and Vol. 5, p. 430, Document 2703, Deposition of M. B. Menard, April 11, 1836.
  10. ^ Letter of April 7, 1836 from Major General Edmund Pendleton Gaines to 1st Lieutenant Joseph Bonnell, Letters sent by the Western Department, Volume 7, Record Group 393, Records of the U.S. Army Continental Commands, Part 1, Entry 5568, pages 278-279, Gaines to Bonnell, April 7, 1836.
  11. ^ Report of Lieutenant Joseph Bonnell to Major General Edmund Pendleton Gaines, April 20, 1836, U.S. Serial Set, Microfiche 4904, United States and Mexico, 1828-1838, 25th Congress, 2nd Session, No. 332, House Documents, Volume 12, Number 351, Fiche 9, Document 351, pages 774-775. Entire paragraph is from this report.
  12. ^ Charles Edward Lester, The Life of Sam Houston, J. C. Derby, publisher, 1855, page 153.
  13. ^ The Register of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, published by the West Point Association of Graduates, 2005 (listing all graduates): Joseph Bonnell, Class of 1825, Cullum No. 418; William Shaler Stilwell, Class of 1827, Cullum No. 505. Stephen L. Moore, Eighteen Minutes, Republic of Texas Press, Dallas, 2004, page 263, 313, and 436: Lieutenant Stillwell was with one of the “Twin Sister” artillery pieces at the Battle of San Jacinto.
  14. ^ The Register of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, supra: Albert Sidney Johnston, Class of 1826, Cullum No. 436. Bonnell was a Cadet Lieutenant while Johnston, in the class below Bonnell, was a Cadet Sergeant Major: USMA Post Orders, Vol. 3, 1823-1825, 1st Class Cadet Bonnell to Cadet Lieutenant; 2nd Class Cadet Johnston to Cadet Sergeant Major. Also see Charles P. Roland, Albert Sidney Johnston, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1964, 2nd Printing 1990, page 58, 82, and 100.
  15. ^ Paul N. Spellman, Forgotten Texas Hero, Texas A&M Press, College Station, 1999, page 23; Charles P. Roland, supra, pages 54-55; John Holmes Jenkens, III, supra, Vol. 7, p. 484, Document 3738, Bonnell to Gaines, Nacogdoches, July 19, 1836; Vol. 8, p. 71, Document 3826, Menard to All, July 30, 1836.
  16. ^ North American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, PA, September 29, 1840, page 2. Bonnell had been granted a four month leave “for the benefit of his health” on July 16, 1840: Military Intelligence, Army and Navy Chronicle (1835-1842), July 16, 1840, 11, 3, American Periodical Series Online, page 46.
  17. ^ Handbook of Texas, Gaines, Edmund Pendleton