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DESPALLIER, CHARLES

DESPALLIER, CHARLES (1815–1836). Charles Despallier, Alamo defender, was born in Rapides, Louisiana. Most sources list him born in 1812 based on the alleged age of twenty-four at the time of his death. He, however, was probably born as Joseph Charles Despallier, son of Bernard Martin Despallier and Maria Candida Grande, on December 1, 1815, and baptized in St. Francis Catholic Church, Natchitoches, on April 14, 1816. The Despallier family was of French descent; their origins are found in Lower Normandy, where their surname was Martin until they added the toponym des Pallières. Charles grew up on the estate of his parents near Pineville, Rapides Parish.

His father Bernard (born either in the French colony of Saint-Domingue or in Louisiana) was a captain of the militia at the Poste des Rapides. After the Louisiana Purchase, he proposed to move a thousand Louisianan families to Texas. He was however ousted from the Spanish Army, was involved in the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition, and had to return to Louisiana.

Charles's older brother, Blaz Philipe I Despallier (born in 1809, Trinidad de Salcedo), published a Louisiana newspaper called the Frontier Reporter and Natchitoches & Claiborne Advertiser. He traveled to Texas and took part in the siege of Bexar but became ill.

Charles Despallier arrived in Goliad by the end of 1835, where he met his brother Blaz. According to Theodore Gentilz, a French painter, Madam Candelaria (see VILLANUEVA, ANDREA CASTAÑÓN) was cooking for the brothers Despalier. Blaz was honorably discharged due to his illness and returned to Louisiana.

Their other brother Victor Madison Despallier may also have been involved in the Texas Revolution. He was a friend of James Bowie and acted as his attorney. He was born in 1812 in Rapides, one more reason why Charles was not born during that same year.

Charles Despallier was one of the ninety-one who signed the Goliad Declaration of Independence of December 20, 1835. He was a member of William B. Travis’s company and was attached to him as a personal aide. Despallier was acting as either or both a scout and messenger. He distinguished himself during the siege of the Alamo. On February 25, 1836, Travis cited his men for bravery in a letter to Sam Houston: “Charles Despallier and Robert Brown gallantly sallied out and set fire to houses which afforded the enemy shelter, in the face of the enemy fire.” Despallier left the Alamo as a courier. He returned with the Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers on March 1, 1836, making him one of the “Immortal Thirty-two.” He died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.

His heirs applied for headright, donation, and bounty land grants which were approved many years later. The sole living heir then was young Blaz Philipe II, the son of Charles’s brother Victor Madison. Because of strong similarity in names, the claim has been made that Carlos Espalier and Charles Despallier are the same person. They must at least have been second cousins, and both have been recognized as Alamo defenders.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Rasmus Dahlqvist, From Martin to Despallier: The Story of a French Colonial Family (North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013). Daughters of the American Revolution, The Alamo Heroes and Their Revolutionary Ancestors (San Antonio, 1976). Bill Groneman, Alamo Defenders (Austin: Eakin, 1990). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Amelia W. Williams, A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and of the Personnel of Its Defenders (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1931; rpt., Southwestern Historical Quarterly 36–37 [April 1933-April 1934]).

Rasmus Dahlqvist
Rasmus Dahlqvist

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Rasmus Dahlqvist, "DESPALLIER, CHARLES," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fde89), accessed April 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 13, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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