Torrey, James Nash (1821–1843)

By: Henry C. Armbruster

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

James Nash Torrey, son of Jacob N. and Laura (Kilburn) Torrey, was born in Ashford, Connecticut, on January 3, 1821, and came to Texas at the age of twenty to join his brothers John F., David K., and Thomas S. Torrey. The next year he volunteered for what later became known as the Mier expedition. When Torrey was mustered into Capt. William Ryan's company of volunteers as a private on October 17, 1842, he furnished his own horse and equipment. He was a part of Gen. Alexander Somervell's command that left San Antonio in mid-November 1842 bent on a retaliatory raid against Mexico. After they were captured, escaped, and were captured again, the Texans drew lots in what became known as the Black Bean Episode to see who would die. Torrey drew one of the black beans. Claiming that he had fought for the glory of his country and that he was willing to die for her glory, he turned to a Mexican officer and said, "After the battle of San Jacinto my family took one of your prisoner youths, raised and educated him, and this is our requital." Torrey and the other chosen prisoners were executed at dusk on March 25, 1843. During the Mexican War, Gen. Walter P. Lane returned the remains of Torrey and sixteen other executed Texans to La Grange, Fayette County, where they were interred with honor and ceremony on Monument Hill. James Torrey left no will, but in 1850 John F. Torrey received about $600 of pay due to his deceased brother for service on the Mier expedition, and in 1852 he petitioned Theodore Koester, Comal County Judge, for the government lands due James for his military service.

Henry C. Armbruster, The Torreys of Texas (Buda, Texas: Citizen Press, 1968). DeWitt Clinton Baker, comp., A Texas Scrap-Book (New York: Barnes, 1875; rpt. 1887; facsimile rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). John Henry Brown, History of Texas from 1685 to 1892 (2 vols., St. Louis: Daniell, 1893). John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Thomas J. Green, Journal of the Texian Expedition Against Mier (New York: Harper, 1845; rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). William P. Stapp, The Prisoners of Perote: A Journal (Philadelphia: Zieber, 1845). J. W. Wilbarger, Indian Depredations in Texas (Austin: Hutchings, 1889; rpt., Austin: State House, 1985). Jacob F. Wolters, Dawson's Men and the Mier Expedition (Houston: Union National Bank, 1927).
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

Henry C. Armbruster, “Torrey, James Nash,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995