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WESTOVER, IRA J.

WESTOVER, IRA J. (ca. 1795–1836). Ira J. Westover, officer in the Texas Revolution, was born in Massachusetts about 1795. He appears to have been in the mercantile business before moving to Texas with his wife, Rebecca Greenleaf Westover, and adopted son (probably his nephew, Lucius W. Gates) in 1834. Starting from Jeffersonville, Kentucky, the family floated down the rivers to New Orleans in a flatboat. At New Orleans they embarked in a brig for Texas. The ship was wrecked on June 6, 1834, on Padre Island, and the party was without food or water for five days. They were eventually rescued by Mexicans and taken to San Patricio. Although the Westovers had planned to join the McMullen-McGloin colony, they soon left it and went to the Power and Hewetson colony, where they received a lot in the Irish-Mexican villa of Refugio and a league on the San Antonio River. Like numerous other settlers in the predominantly Catholic "Irish Colony," the Westovers were Protestant. Lewis T. Ayers was preparing to join Westover in a mercantile venture at Refugio when the Texas Revolution broke out. From the outset Westover was a staunch patriot. He was captain of the municipal militia and also a member of the Refugio committee of safety and correspondence. Learning of George M. Collinsworth's movement against the Mexican garrison at Goliad, Westover enlisted sixteen Refugio colonists, including his foster son and James Power, Walter Lambert, John Dunn, and Thomas O'Connor, who either participated in Collinsworth's capture of La Bahía on October 9, 1835, or arrived with the first reinforcements. The Texan force now occupying La Bahía consisted of Westover's company and the companies of Collinsworth, Plácido Benavides, John Alley, and Benjamin Fort Smith, the last of whom was elected colonel. After Smith, Alley, and Benavides left with their men to participate in the siege of Bexar, and Collinsworth left for Bay Prairie to recruit volunteers, Philip Dimmitt was elected captain of the La Bahía garrison, and Westover became his adjutant. With James Kerr, John J. Linn, and James Power, Westover formed an advisory council, which controlled Goliad affairs during the first month of Dimmitt's command. Westover was also elected to represent the Municipality of Goliad in the Consultation, but because of his participation in the Lipantitlán expedition he arrived after that body had adjourned.

Under Dimmitt's orders Westover, accompanied by Power and Linn, led Dimmitt's attack against the Mexican garrison at Fort Lipantitlán in November 1835. Although the exploit was acclaimed by Stephen F. Austin, and Westover was thanked by resolution of the General Council, Dimmitt reproved him for letting weapons and enemy leaders escape and allowing repossession of the fort after the Texans left. Westover commanded the Texans the following day at the battle of Nueces Crossing, in which the contingent defeated a Mexican force many times its size. He further incurred Dimmitt's ire in a diplomatic incident involving Agustín Viesca, deposed governor of Coahuila and Texas. Westover put Dimmitt in the position of having to snub Viesca in order to keep from acknowledging Mexican sovereignty, an incident which upset both Viesca and the Mexican population of Goliad. When Westover subsequently refused to support Dimmitt's efforts to discipline the garrison, Dimmitt removed him as an officer of the post. Westover left Goliad and took his seat on November 23 in the General Council at San Felipe. There he served on the standing committee on naval affairs, which sponsored the resolution establishing the Texas Navy. With James Power, James Kerr, Lewis Ayers, Juan A. Padilla, and others thought to be favorably known to Mexican citizens, he signed an address issued by the council in Spanish and English explaining the Texas side of the conflict with Antonio López de Santa Anna. On December 7 the council appointed Westover a captain of artillery in the regular army, and on December 17 he resigned from the legislative body to recruit a company primarily from around Refugio and San Patricio and from those Refugio volunteers in Dimmitt's command who had been discharged when Dimmitt left Goliad. Gen. Sam Houston made Westover's home his headquarters during his visit to Refugio following Dimmitt's resignation in January 1836, and with Houston and his staff, James Power and Westover went to inspect the defense and port facilities of Copano. When James W. Fannin reorganized the La Bahía garrison, Westover's company was put in the Lafayette Battalion, along with Burr H. Duval's Mustangs, David N. Burke's Mobile Grays, Samuel O. Pettus's San Antonio Greys, Benjamin F. Bradford's Alabama Greys, Amon B. King's Kentucky Volunteers, and Jack Shackelford's Red Rovers. Westover's was the only regular army unit in Fannin's regiment during the Goliad Campaign of 1836.

When Fannin left on February 26 to relieve William B. Travis at the Alamo, Westover's company was left to hold La Bahía, though Fannin returned the next day. During the retreat to Victoria, Westover, Shackelford, and Duval protested Fannin's resting his command on the open prairie before reaching the cover of Coleto Creek. Following the battle of Coleto, Westover and most of his company, including his adopted son, were killed in the Goliad Massacre on March 27, 1836. Among the survivors were Abel Morgan and Andrew Boyle, both of whom left accounts of the battle and their commander's last days. Westover's widow fled San Patricio to Harrisburg, where she and Mrs. Jane Harris joined others in the Runaway Scrape. Mrs. Westover eventually went to Galveston, then returned to San Patricio. After the death of her second husband she moved to Austin, where she married Oliver Jones. The couple eventually moved to Galveston. While they were visiting Col. Cornelius Ennis in Houston, Rebecca Westover McIntyre Jones died on December 24, 1865, and was buried in the cemetery of the old Protestant Episcopal Church.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Andrew A. Boyle, "Reminiscences of the Texas Revolution," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 13 (April 1910). Harbert Davenport, Notes from an Unfinished Study of Fannin and His Men (MS, Harbert Davenport Collection, Texas State Library, Austin; Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). Hobart Huson, Captain Philip Dimmitt's Commandancy of Goliad, 1835–1836 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1974). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (New York: Sadlier, 1883; 2d ed., Austin: Steck, 1935; rpt., Austin: State House, 1986). Abel Morgan, An Account of the Battle of Goliad and Fanning's Massacre (Paducah, Kentucky?, 1847?). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

Hobart Huson

Citation

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

Hobart Huson, "WESTOVER, IRA J.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwe38), accessed September 02, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.