McCulloch, Henry Eustace (1816–1895)

By: Harold J. Weiss, Jr.

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: November 20, 2014

Henry Eustace McCulloch, early pioneer, Texas Ranger, and Confederate officer, son of Alexander and Frances (LeNoir) McCulloch, was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, on December 6, 1816. Although he played an important role in military affairs in early Texas, he received fewer accolades than his more famous cohorts John S. (Rip) Ford, John C. (Jack) Hays, and his older brother, Benjamin McCulloch. In the 1830s Ben and Henry McCullochs carried on several economic enterprises. They traveled the Mississippi River on log rafts to various markets, and by the end of the decade they had moved to Gonzales to survey and locate lands. In 1839, in the political struggles at Gonzales, Henry McCulloch shot and killed Reuben Ross, after the latter, intoxicated and obnoxious, drew his pistols. The angular-featured, gentle-looking McCulloch joined the Texas Rangers in the heyday of their role as citizen soldiers against Indians and Mexican troops. In the battle of Plum Creek in 1840 against the Comanches, he scouted, fought with distinction, and was wounded. In addition, he served as a lieutenant in Hays's rangers in their military operations against the Comanches and Mexican nationals. In 1842 in the attack on San Antonio and retreat by Mexican troops, McCulloch scouted, infiltrated enemy lines seeking information, and participated in the battle of Salado Creek.

For the next two decades he mixed his military career with other ventures. In 1843 he was elected sheriff of Gonzales and began a merchandising career there. The following year he moved his business to Seguin. During the Mexican War and afterward, he served as a captain of a volunteer company guarding the Indian frontier. He became especially adept at organizing regular ranger patrols in intervals from different camps to cover a designated area. In the early 1850s McCulloch served in the state legislature (both houses) from Guadalupe County, and at the end of the decade he accepted an appointment as United States marshal for the Eastern District of Texas. He served as a high-ranking Confederate officer during the Civil War. As Texas left the Union, he assumed command of the posts on the northwestern frontier from Camp Colorado to the Red River and used Texas secessionist troops to accept the surrender of federal forces. Given the rank of colonel by the Confederate Congress, McCulloch organized the First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen, in 1861. This body of troops slowed down penetration of the western frontier by Indians through a system of patrols and small-scale engagements. After promotion to brigadier general, McCulloch commanded the Northern Sub-District of Texas from 1863 to the end of the war. In this role he faced the threats of Indian raids and the movement of Union forces. He also had to deal with the activities of draft dodgers, deserters, and bushwhackers. At one time he tried unsuccessfully to arrest William Quantrill for robbery and murder. With the war ended, McCulloch went home to Seguin with an armed escort for protection against deserters, who swore to take his life.

After the Civil War he remained in the limelight. In 1874 he assisted the newly elected governor, Richard Coke, in removing Edmund J. Davis from the executive offices. Early in 1876, as a reward for his years of service, McCulloch was given the superintendency of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum (later the Texas School for the Deaf). Here his lax and inept administration brought about a legislative investigation that made him resign his position in 1879. He was married to Jane Isabella Ashby in 1840. He died on March 12, 1895, in Seguin, and was buried in San Geronimo Cemetery.

Donaly E. Brice, The Great Comanche Raid (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Thomas W. Cutrer, Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993). James K. Greer, Colonel Jack Hayes: Texas Frontier Leader and California Builder (New York: Dutton, 1952; rev. ed., Waco: Morrison, 1974). William J. Hughes, Rebellious Ranger: Rip Ford and the Old Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964). David Paul Smith, Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas' Rangers and Rebels (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992). Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982).

  • Fifth Legislature (1853-1854)
  • Seventh Legislature (1857-1858)
  • House
  • Senate
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Harold J. Weiss, Jr., “McCulloch, Henry Eustace,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 20, 2014

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