Black Bean Episode

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: December 4, 2018

The Black Bean Episode, an aftermath of the Mier Expedition, resulted from an attempted escape of the captured Texans as they were being marched from Mier to Mexico City. After an escape at Salado, Tamaulipas, on February 11, 1843, some 176 of the men were recaptured within about a week. A decree that all who participated in the break were to be executed was modified to an order to kill every tenth man. Col. Domingo Huerta was to be in charge of the decimation. The victims were chosen by lottery, each man drawing a bean from an earthen jar containing 176 beans, seventeen black beans being the tokens signifying death. Commissioned officers were ordered to draw first; then the enlisted men were called as their names appeared on the muster rolls. William A. A. (Bigfoot) Wallace, standing close to the scene of the drawing, decided that the black beans were the larger and fingered the tokens successfully to draw a white bean. Observers of the drawing later described the dignity, the firmness, the light temper, and general courage of the men who drew the beans of death. Some left messages for their families with their companions; a few had time to write letters home. The doomed men were unshackled from their companions, placed in a separate courtyard, and shot at dusk on March 25, 1843. The seventeen victims of the lottery were James Decatur Cocke, William Mosby Eastland, Patrick Mahan, James M. Ogden, James N. Torrey, Martin Carroll Wing, John L. Cash, Robert Holmes Dunham, Edward E. Este, Robert Harris, Thomas L. Jones, Christopher Roberts, William N. Rowan, James L. Shepherd, J. N. M. Thompson, James Turnbull, and Henry Walling. Shepherd survived the firing squad by pretending to be dead. The guards left him for dead in the courtyard, and he escaped in the night but was recaptured and shot. In 1848 the bodies were returned from Mexico to be buried at Monument Hill, near La Grange, Fayette County.

John Crittenden Duval, The Adventures of Big Foot Wallace, the Texas Ranger and Hunter (Macon, Georgia: Burke, 1870). Thomas J. Green, Journal of the Texian Expedition Against Mier (New York: Harper, 1845; rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). Sam W. Haynes, Soldiers of Misfortune: The Somervell and Mier Expeditions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990). Harold Schoen, comp., Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence (Austin: Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, 1938). Houston Wade, Notes and Fragments of the Mier Expedition (La Grange, Texas: La Grange Journal, 1936).

Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

Anonymous, “Black Bean Episode,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 4, 2018