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Stapp, William Preston (1812–1861)

Thomas W. Cutrer Biography Entry

William Preston Stapp, soldier, Perote prisoner, and author, was born in Kentucky on April 12, 1812, the eldest son of the ten children of Nancy (Shannon) and Elijah Stapp. While he was still a youth his family moved to Missouri, and in 1826 Elijah Stapp visited Texas with a letter of introduction to Stephen F. Austin from Green DeWitt. On February 20, 1830, the family settled in DeWitt's colony in what is now Victoria County. William Stapp received a portion of his land allotment in 1831 and the remainder in 1838. By 1841 he and his brother Oliver H. had title to 1,107 acres of land in Gonzales County. In 1831 he participated in an Indian campaign. From October 3 through November 23, 1835, he served in Capt. John Alley's company of Lavaca volunteers, but was allowed to return home due to "the impaired state of his health." On March 1, 1836, he returned to the service as a second lieutenant in Jacob Eberly's company, stationed on Galveston Island. Stapp was discharged on May 29 and made his home in Jackson County, where he took some interest in county affairs. In the spring of 1842 he enrolled as a private in Capt. Alexander Stevenson's company of Missouri Invincibles for a planned invasion of Mexico, and later that year he joined Capt. Isaac N. Mitchell's company under Alexander Somervell When Mitchell and twenty-four of his men left the army in December, Stapp joined the company of Capt. Charles K. Reese. He participated in the Mier expedition and was imprisoned at Perote. He was released on May 16, 1844, at the instigation of his uncle, Gen. Milton Stapp of Madison, Indiana. He remained for a time in Mexico recovering his health and enjoying his leisure and the pleasures of Mexico City. Before returning to the United States, Stapp paid a farewell visit to his comrades still in prison on July 5 and then, on July 12, 1844, sailed from Veracruz on the Woodbury, bound for New Orleans.

Immediately after his return Stapp began writing a book, The Prisoners of Perote; A Firsthand Account of the Mier Expedition, which was published in 1845 by G. B. Zieber and Company in Philadelphia. Probably this book did not have a wide circulation, for few copies have survived. In 1887–88 the La Grange Journal reprinted Stapp's story in its columns. In 1933 the Journal republished the book in a facsimile edition taken from its files. The book harshly denounces Antonio López de Santa Anna. Although Joe B. Frantz observed that the book was neither "fair" nor "dispassionate," Wayne Gard found its denunciations only "understandable expressions of outrage." Stapp was well educated; the book abounds in classical references as well as literary and musical allusions. It was the first book to appear on the Mier expedition and remains one of the best. Stapp died on December 22, 1861.

James M. Day, Black Beans and Goose Quills: Literature of the Texas Mier Expedition (Waco: Texian Press, 1970). Joseph Milton Nance, Attack and Counterattack: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1842 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964). Texas State Gazette, December 28, 1861. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Memoirs, Diaries, Letters, and Travel

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Stapp, William Preston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 22, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.