Sutton, John Schuyler (ca. 1822–1862)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

John Schuyler Sutton, Texas revolutionary, Texas Ranger, and Confederate Army officer, was born in New York and moved to Texas in 1836. The date of his birth cannot now be established, but Theophilus Noel, a private in his regiment and the unofficial historian of the old Sibley Brigade, estimated Sutton's age at about forty-five in 1862. Noel said he was "a noble looking man—dark, curly hair, dark complexion, and a clear, steady eye, indicative of the firm and manly spirit that dwelt within." Sutton served as a second lieutenant in George T. Howard's Company D of Col. Edward Burleson's First Infantry regiment until transferred on October 12, 1839, to the Frontier Regiment of the Army of the Republic of Texas, with which he took part in the battle of the Nueces in July 1839. In 1840 he was second lieutenant of Capt. James B. P. January's Company F of Burleson's regiment, which was in service on the Neches River. After promotion to first lieutenant, he served in Capt. M. B. Skerrett's Company H and in March 1841 was stationed in Austin. Sutton was captain of "Company A," one of six paramilitary organizations which accompanied the Texan Santa Fe expedition of 1841. He was captured and incarcerated at Perote Prison, released on June 14, 1842, and returned to San Antonio in time to join Alexander Somervell's expedition to the Rio Grande; Sutton returned to Texas with Somervell, thus avoiding the Mier expedition. From at least May 1, 1843, through April 30, 1845, Sutton was armorer of the San Antonio Arsenal, charged with securing and keeping in repair arms at that post. From the time he left that job until September 13, 1845, he commanded a volunteer artillery company in San Antonio. During the Mexican War he served first as a private in Benjamin McCulloch's Company A of Col. John C. Hays's First Regiment, Texas Mounted Rifles, which took part in the storming of Monterrey. Sutton was mustered out on September 30, 1846, and later reenlisted in Capt. G. M. Armstrong's Company G of Hays's regiment for Gen. Winfield Scott's Mexico City campaign. He enlisted as a private on May 10, 1847, and was promoted to second corporal on January 12, 1848, when his older brother, Cpl. Jesse Sutton, was granted a disability discharge. A third brother, eighteen-year-old Charles F. Sutton, died in Mexico City in February 1848.

In 1850 Sutton followed Hays to the California gold fields. He subsequently returned to Texas and settled in Jackson County, briefly commanded a company of Texas Rangers, and thereafter, according to Noel, "sought a few years of quite and pleasure in the bays of Lavaca, Matagorda, Espiritu Santo, Aransas and Corpus Christi," where he "was enjoying the liberty for which he had braved death" when the Civil War broke out. On October 9, 1861, "although of a retiring and modest disposition," Sutton "soon gained the confidence and esteem of his companions," according to Noel, and was appointed lieutenant colonel of Col. William Steele's Seventh Texas Cavalry of Henry H. Sibley's brigade. On December 1, 1861, he led a battalion of the regiment out of San Antonio and toward New Mexico. After rendezvousing with the rest of Sibley's command, Sutton played a conspicuous role in the Confederate attack on Fort Craig, New Mexico, where he rallied his men with the cry, "Texans, think of your rights and remember the honor of Texas." On February 21, 1862, Sutton was mortally wounded—his leg shattered by grapeshot—while leading a mounted charge on a federal battery at the battle of Valverde. Although shot from his horse, he raised himself on one elbow and motioned his men forward, refusing aid until the enemy guns were taken. When a surgeon informed him that his life could be saved only if his leg were amputated, he replied that he did "not intend to hobble around the balance of his days on one leg, and that when his leg went he would go with it." He died the following day, on February 22, 1862, and was buried without ceremony on the battlefield. He was succeeded in command by Powhatan Jordan. Sutton County was named in his honor.

Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935). Theophilus Noel, Campaign from Santa Fe to the Mississippi (Shreveport, Louisiana, 1865; rpt., Houston: Stagecoach Press, 1961). Charles D. Spurlin, comp., Texas Veterans in the Mexican War: Muster Rolls of Texas Military Units (Victoria, Texas, 1984).

Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Sutton, John Schuyler,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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