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STEELE, ALFONSO

STEELE, ALFONSO (1817–1911). Alfonso (Alphonso) Steele, last Texas survivor of the battle of San Jacinto, was born on April 9, 1817, to a pioneer family in Hardin County, Kentucky. At the age of seventeen he traveled by flatboat down the Mississippi River to Lake Providence, Louisiana, and there in November 1835 joined Capt. Ephraim M. Daggett's company of volunteers bound for Texas to aid in the revolution. They arrived in Washington-on-the-Brazos on New Year's Day 1836 but quickly disbanded, since the Texans had not yet declared their independence. Many volunteers returned home, but Steele stayed, working in a hotel and grinding corn for bread to feed the delegates gathered to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. Once independence was declared, Steele set out with a company of men under Capt. Joseph L. Bennett to join William B. Travis in San Antonio, but when they reached the Colorado River they received word that the Alamo had fallen. Near Beeson's Crossing on the Colorado the company fell in with Gen. Sam Houston's army on its retreat from Gonzales and marched under Houston's command to Buffalo Bayou. In the battle of San Jacinto Steele was a private in Capt. James Gillespie's company of Sidney Sherman's regiment. He was severely wounded in the first volleys of the battle but continued in the fight until it ended. Houston rode Steele's gray horse through much of the battle, until the animal was shot beneath him. After months of recuperation, Steele was discharged and made his way to Montgomery County, where he farmed and raised cattle. There he married Mary Ann Powell on September 28, 1838. In 1844 they moved to a part of Robertson County later organized into Limestone County; they resided there until Mrs. Steele's death in 1903. The couple had ten children and many descendants who distinguished themselves in military service. In 1907 Steele revisited the San Jacinto battleground at the invitation of Houston's son, Andrew Jackson Houston, and retraced the course of the historic engagement. On February 10, 1909, the Thirty-first Texas Legislature honored him as one of two living survivors of the battle of San Jacinto. A poem entitled "The Last Hero" was written and dedicated to him by Jake H. Harrison. Steele died on July 8, 1911, near Kosse, at the home of a grandson, and was buried in Mexia. A portrait of him hangs in the Capitol.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Notes and Fragments, October 1911. Hampton Steele, Biography of Private Alfonso Steele (MS, Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Alphonso Steele, Alonzo Steele).

James R. Curry

Citation

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

James R. Curry, "STEELE, ALFONSO," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fst26), accessed September 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.