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BAKER, MOSELEY

BAKER, MOSELEY (1802–1848). Moseley (Mosley) Baker, pioneer legislator and soldier, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on September 20, 1802, the son of Horace and Rebecca (Moseley) Baker. His family soon thereafter moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. Finding journalism more to his liking, however, Baker founded and edited the Montgomery Advertiser. In 1829 he was elected to the state legislature from Montgomery County and served as speaker of the House. According to some accounts, three years later he moved to Texas. These reports have him living in San Felipe as early as 1833. According to a claim by John J. Linn, Baker was forced to flee Alabama for the forgery of a $5,000 check. Although he subsequently repaid the bad debt, Baker was then a fugitive from justice. He and his wife, Eliza (Ward), and their daughter certainly moved to Liberty, Texas, in March 1835. On October 9 Baker secured a league and a labor of land in Lorenzo de Zavala's colony on the east shore of Galveston Bay.

As a leading advocate of Texas independence from Mexico, Baker claimed to have made the first speech in favor of disunion. He was one of nine men whom Col. Domingo de Ugartechea ordered arrested at San Felipe in July 1835. The following month Baker accompanied Francis W. Johnson into East Texas to recruit men for the revolutionary army. As a member of the Consultation of 1835 Baker delivered a speech calling for the dissolution of that body. This proposal was met by a stern response from Sam Houston who, "drawing his majestic figure up to his full height," declared "I had rather be a slave, and grovel in the dust all my life, than a convicted felon!"

Baker was one of the military leaders of the Texas Revolution. He served as a private at the battle of Gonzales, at the Grass Fight, and at engagements connected with the siege of Bexarqqv in December 1835. On March 1, 1836, he was elected captain of Company D, First Regiment of Texan Volunteers, the largest company in Sam Houston's army. John P. Borden served as his first lieutenant. On Houston's retreat into East Texas after the disasters at the Alamo and Goliad, Baker refused to abandon the line of the Brazos River. For several days his company, on detached duty, guarded the ford at San Felipe, where most of his men resided, thus preventing Santa Anna's army from turning Houston's left flank and forcing his retreat toward the San Jacinto River. On March 29, 1836, when Houston abandoned his position at Groce's Retreat, Baker burned San Felipe to prevent its capture by the enemy. He contended that the destruction of the town was a result of Houston's orders; Houston said otherwise. Baker rejoined the main army on April 14, 1836, and commanded Company D of Col. Edward Burleson's First Regiment of Texas Volunteers at the battle of San Jacinto, where he was slightly wounded.

After San Jacinto Baker helped to incorporate the Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company and was elected as a representative from Austin County to the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. During his term, which ran from October 3, 1836, to June 13, 1837, he drew up charges of impeachment, stemming from his earlier disagreements with Sam Houston, against the chief executive. Although the proceedings against Houston failed, Baker was elected to the Third Congress from Galveston County, to which he had moved in 1837, and served from November 5, 1838, to January 24, 1839. He then moved to a league of land near Goose Creek in Harris County, where he established a plantation that he called Evergreen. In the election for the Sixth Congress in 1841 Baker was defeated by Archibald Wynns by a single vote. In 1839 the Congress appointed him a brigadier general in the militia of the republic for a campaign against the Indians on the Brazos. In 1842 he was reappointed brigadier general and raised a company in response to Gen. Adrián Woll's seizure of San Antonio. He paraded his company on the Harris County courthouse square on September 28, and "made a very eloquent and appropriate reply" to the presentation of his company flag. Taken ill with a fever, however, he was unable to accompany his men on the subsequent Somervell expedition, and passed the command over to Gardiner Smith.

Still feuding with Houston in 1844, Baker wrote an open letter to the governor, stating his objections to his policies and actions and characterizing Houston as "the greatest curse that Providence in its wrath could have sent upon the country." According to Linn, Baker "afterwards became a religionist, and after the death of his wife took to preaching." As a Methodist, he published a newspaper in Houston called the True Evangelist, which expounded somewhat heterodox religious views. Even when the denomination enjoined him to silence he continued publication. On November 4, 1848, Baker died in Houston of yellow fever. He was first buried in what became known as the Jefferson Davis Cemetery in that city, but his body was later removed to the Episcopal Cemetery. On September 17, 1929, his remains and those of his wife were reinterred in the State Cemetery in Austin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Moseley Baker Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (New York: Sadlier, 1883; 2d ed., Austin: Steck, 1935; rpt., Austin: State House, 1986). Joseph Milton Nance, Attack and Counterattack: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1842 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

Thomas W. Cutrer

Citation

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, "BAKER, MOSELEY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fba37), accessed July 13, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.