Duval, Burr H. (1809–1836)

By: Craig H. Roell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 7, 2016

Burr H. Duval, commander of the Kentucky Mustangs under James W. Fannin, Jr., at Goliad, was born in Nelson County, Kentucky, in 1809, the son of Nancy (Hynes) and William Pope Duval. He was educated at St. Joseph's College in Bardstown, Kentucky, and was one of three brothers who aided the Texas struggle for independence from Mexico. He was elected captain of the company of Kentucky Riflemen that formed at Bardstown in November 1835. The group, which included Duval's brother, John Crittenden Duval, marched to Louisville, traveled by steamer to New Orleans, and on December 28, 1835, landed at Quintana, Texas, Velasco's rival town at the mouth of the Brazos River. The company reported to the provisional government two days later, when Duval requested that they be mustered as mounted rangers. The men served briefly, as John C. Duval recorded, as "a kind of marine corps" aboard the Texan vessel Invincible while it searched in vain for the Mexican privateer Bravo before returning to Quintana. About the middle of January 1836 the company sailed to Copano, then a principal Texas port on Aransas Bay, and marched to Refugio and then to Goliad, where the men became part of Fannin's Provisional Regiment of Volunteers. Fannin merged Duval's Kentucky Riflemen with Benjamin L. Lawrence's Tennessee volunteers and put Duval in command of the new company called the Kentucky Mustangs. This unit, along with Ira Westover's regulars, David N. Burke's Mobile Grays, Samuel Overton Pettus's San Antonio Greys, Benjamin F. Bradford's Alabama Greys, Amon B. King's Kentucky Volunteers, and Jack Shackelford's Red Rovers, formed the LaFayette Battalion, commanded by Benjamin C. Wallace.

In a letter to his father dated March 9, 1836, Duval wrote that, unlike himself, Fannin "is unpopular" and that only "the certainty of hard fighting, and that shortly, could have kept us together so long." He also wrote of his comrades that "no man ever thinks of retreat, or surrender, they must be exterminated to be whipped." During Fannin's attempted withdrawal from Goliad to Victoria on March 19 Duval joined Shackelford and Westover in protesting their commander's decision to rest the men and oxen on the open prairie before reaching the safety of the trees along Coleto Creek. In the ensuing battle of Coleto Duval's Mustangs were deployed along the rear of Fannin's square, which engaged the Mexican cavalry in close and bitter fighting. Duval was among the many wounded, but the square remained unbroken. After Fannin surrendered to José de Urrea, Duval was murdered with the rest of Fannin's command in the Goliad Massacre, on March 27, 1836. His heirs received 3,840 acres of Texas land for his service and sacrifice. Duval County, established in 1858, was named for Burr H., John C., and Thomas H. Duval.

William Corner, "John Crittenden Duval: The Last Survivor of the Goliad Massacre," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (July 1897). Harbert Davenport, "Men of Goliad," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (July 1939). John Crittenden Duval, Early Times in Texas, or the Adventures of Jack Dobell (Austin: Gammel, 1892; new ed., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986). Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). Kathryn Stoner O'Connor, The Presidio La Bahía del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, 1721 to 1846 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1966).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Craig H. Roell, “Duval, Burr H.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/duval-burr-h.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 7, 2016