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NEW ORLEANS GREYS

NEW ORLEANS GREYS. The New Orleans Greys, two companies of United States volunteers that served together in the Texas Revolution, were organized at a meeting held in the grand coffee room of Banks's Arcade in New Orleans on the evening of October 13, 1835. The arcade owner, Thomas Banks, was a supporter of Texas independence, and his red-brick, three-story building on Magazine Street between Natchez and Gravier streets was often used for meetings in the service of Texas independence. Nacogdoches alcalde Nicholas Adolphus Sterne was present at this meeting and offered weapons to the first fifty men who would volunteer for Texas. By the evening's end nearly 120 men appear to have been recruited; no original muster role exists. Two companies were formed, the first under Capt. Thomas H. Breece and the second under Capt. Robert C. Morris.qqv Weapons and equipment were provided, probably from the stores of the Washington Guards, whose armory was located on the second floor of the arcade. Hermann V. Ehrenbergqv, who joined Breece's company, indicates that the uniforms were "grey...for service on the prairie." Ebenezer Heath, a member of Morris's company, stated that "the color of our uniform was a grey jacket & pants with a seal-skin cap." Indians around Nacogdoches mistook the Greys for United States regulars. The descriptions seem to suggest that both companies wore the 1820s-pattern United States fatigue jacket and either the M1825 or M1833 United States forage cap. The Greys' arms were described as "rifles, pistols, swords & large knives"; Morris's company possibly carried rifles, and Breece's men were issued United States-pattern muskets.

The two companies left New Orleans within two days of each other. Breece took an overland route, up the Mississippi and Red rivers aboard the steamer Washita. His company disembarked at Alexandria and then, avoiding Fort Jesup, followed the Old Spanish Trail to its crossing into Texas at Gaines Ferry. Between the ferry and San Augustine, a delegation of local women greeted the company and presented it with a blue silk banner that bore the words "First Company of Texan Volunteers from New Orleans." The company was welcomed with a public dinner at San Augustine. At Nacogdoches, also, the Greys were treated to a dinner of roasted bear and champagne. Here some two-thirds of the company were given horses before proceeding to San Antonio.

Morris's sixty-eight-man company sailed from New Orleans and arrived at Velasco on October 22, 1835. There elections were held for company officers, and Morris was reconfirmed as captain; William Gordon Cooke of Virginia became second officer. Morris's company proceeded to Brazoria by steamship and marched inland to Victoria, where some of the men were issued horses. The rest secured mounts at La Bahía. The company then proceeded to San Antonio to join the Texas army. They arrived before Breece's company. In San Antonio Morris was appointed a major and assumed command of a division made up of both companies of Greys; Cooke assumed command of Morris's old company. Cooke noted that seventy men were in his company and fifty in Breece's.

The Greys took an active part in the siege of Bexar, in which Breece's company apparently suffered one killed and two wounded; Cooke's company suffered six wounded. After the capture of Bexar both companies underwent a series of organizational changes as a result of the Matamoros expedition of 1835–36. All but twenty-two members of Breece's company and one of Cooke's company left San Antonio under Francis White Johnson and James Grant.qqv Those who remained at San Antonio were under the command of Capt. John James Baughqv. When Baugh became garrison adjutant, William Blazeby took command of the company, all members of which died in the battle of the Alamo. The company standard was among the flags captured by the Mexicans; it is now the property of the National Historical Museum in Mexico City.

The Greys who went south with Grant and Johnson became members of either the San Antonio Greys under Cooke or the Mobile Greys under Capt. David N. Burke. After Cooke's departure with Sam Houston in January 1836, his company was commanded by Samuel O. Pettus. Though a number of the Greys continued with Grant, including both Morris and Breece, most chose to become part of the garrison at Goliad under Col. James W. Fannin, Jr. Nathaniel R. Brister of the Greys was promoted to regimental adjutant when Fannin reorganized his command in February. Both Morris and Pettus were killed with Grant. Nineteen members of Cooke's old company were killed in the Goliad Massacre. Four members of the Greys escaped from the massacre, including William L. Hunter and Hermann Ehrenberg. Three, including Joseph H. Spohn, were spared. Although the Texan disasters at the Alamo and Goliad destroyed the New Orleans Greys as military units, at least seven Greys were present at the battle of San Jacinto, including William Cooke, the only senior officer of the Greys to survive the Texas Revolution. Thus the Greys are one of the few volunteer units to be able to claim Bexar, the Alamo, San Patricio, Refugio, Coleto, Goliad, and San Jacinto as battle honors.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

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). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Hermann Ehrenberg, Texas und Seine Revolution (Leipzig: Wigand, 1843; abridged trans. by Charlotte Churchill, With Milam and Fannin, Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Walter Lord, A Time to Stand (New York: Harper, 1961; 2d ed., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978).

Kevin R. Young

Citation

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

Kevin R. Young, "NEW ORLEANS GREYS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qjn02), accessed September 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.