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HARRIS, ABRAHAM

HARRIS, ABRAHAM (1824–1915). Abraham "Abe" Harris, Mexican War veteran, Confederate military officer, and president of the Texas Association of Mexican War Veterans, was born on October 21, 1824, in England. In 1829, when he was five, Harris and his family immigrated to the United States and settled in New York, probably in the town of Montgomery. Harris was employed as a cabinetmaker during the 1840s until, at the age of twenty-two, he left his hometown and enlisted in the United States Army at Utica, New York, on January 20, 1847. He mustered at Governor's Island, New York, as a sergeant and was placed in Company F of the Eighth United States Infantry. From there, his unit left for Vera Cruz, Mexico, to serve in Gen. Winfield Scott's army during the Mexican War. Although no record could be located concerning Harris's combat service, the Eighth U. S. Infantry took part in the battles of Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, and Molino del Rey, as well as the decisive battle of Mexico City on September 8–15, 1847.

Following the Mexican War, Harris served as sergeant major to Maj. Ripley A. Arnold of the Second Dragoons. General Scott had dispatched Arnold to North Texas to establish a military post there in order to protect the territory from Indian incursions. Because of his background in cabinetry, Harris helped build the barracks and officers’ headquarters used by Major Ripley and the Second Dragoons. The post was named Camp Worth but was not yet a recognized fort. The camp did, however, have its moments of hostilities concerning Indians. In 1850 a group of Tonkawas came under attack by Comanches and Caddos. The Tonkawas requested that Major Arnold give them refuge in the fort, which the major obliged. After threatening to attack the post, the Comanches and Caddos were persuaded with food to lay down their arms. Harris described the event as "the peaceful outcome of the only hostilities Fort Worth ever experienced." On January 20, 1852, Harris's term of service in the U. S. Army came to a close, and he was formally discharged at Camp Worth. He remained, however, in North Texas, even after the soldiers stationed at Camp Worth were moved to Fort Belknap on September 13, 1853. The abandoned buildings of the camp were used as stores by settlers and former soldiers that remained in the area, including Harris. From this outcropping of abandoned military buildings, the city of Fort Worth would emerge. During the 1850s, while Harris lived in Tarrant County, he met and married Margaret Conner of Navarro/Ellis County, and the couple had five children—four boys and one girl. However, Margaret died on February 23, 1861.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Harris enrolled in the Confederate Army on January 26, 1862, in Tarrant County. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in Capt. Stephen C. Ragan's Company of Johnson's Volunteer Regiment. Harris's company mustered into Confederate service on February 15, 1862, in Dallas, Texas, and was organized along with several other units into the Fourteenth Texas Cavalry Regiment.

The Fourteenth Texas Cavalry's earliest engagement was at Corinth in April–June 1862. This battle resulted in a promotion for Harris on May 8, 1862, when he was elected lieutenant colonel of the regiment. The Fourteenth also saw action at Murfreesboro, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, and Nashville. While serving in Georgia, Harris remarried on August 23, 1863, this time to Sally Lavina Logan. The couple had one child.

On May 9, 1865, Lieutenant Colonel Harris surrendered his command to Brig. Gen. G. L. Andrews (USA) at Meridian, Mississippi. However, he did not return to Texas immediately. According to the 1870 United States census, Harris and his wife settled in Centre, Cherokee County, Alabama, where he took up cabinetry once again.

By 1880 Harris had returned to Tarrant County, Texas. He continued to apply his craft in cabinetry and in 1888 purchased land in Arlington, though Fort Worth remained Harris's primary residence. During the latter years of his life, after retiring in 1899, Harris was celebrated in Fort Worth as the oldest surviving member of the original settlers that founded the city. He played up this fact by giving speeches and newspaper interviews about the "Battle of Fort Worth," and the city's early beginnings, and even served as president of the Tarrant County Old Settler's Association. In 1905 Harris told one newspaper interviewer that he believed secession had been wrong on the part of the southern states and that it was time for them to admit their mistake. Harris was also heavily involved in the Texas Association of Mexican War Veterans and at the age of eighty represented the organization at the Thirty-first Annual Convention of the United States Mexican War Veterans' Association. He was instrumental in persuading U. S. senators and congressmen to support a bill that provided increased benefits for Mexican War veterans. In 1907 Harris was elected president of the association, and in 1908 he was named "president for life" of the United States Mexican War Veterans' Association.

In 1910 Harris was living with his daughter from his second marriage. He was retired, widowed, and over eighty-five years old. On March 28, 1915, Abraham Harris passed away in Fort Worth, Texas, the city he helped establish. He is buried in Pioneers Rest Cemetery in Fort Worth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of the North Mexican States and Texas (2 vols., San Francisco: History Company, 1886, 1889). Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Richard F. Selcer, The Fort That Became a City: An Illustrated Reconstruction of Fort Worth, Texas, 1849–1853 (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1995).

Matthew K. Hamilton

Citation

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

Matthew K. Hamilton, "HARRIS, ABRAHAM ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhakd), accessed August 28, 2014. Uploaded on April 6, 2011. Modified on June 27, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.