Micajah Autry (1794 – March 6, 1836) was an American merchant, poet and lawyer
who died in the Texas Revolution at the Battle of the Alamo.
Autry was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, to Theophilus and Elizabeth (Greer)
Autry. Between the ages of 17 and 18, he volunteered for military service against the
British in the War of 1812. He marched to Wilmington, North Carolina, as a member of a
volunteer militia company and later joined the United States Army at Charleston, South
Carolina. He remained in Charleston in the company of Captain Long until the Treaty of
Ghent was signed in 1815.
After the war, bad health forced Autry to quit farming and become a teacher. He moved to
Hayesboro, Tennessee, in 1823 and studied law. The next year, he married a widow,
Martha Wyche Putney Wilkinson. They had two children of their own and raised Martha's
daughter from her first marriage. In 1828 Autry was admitted to the bar in Nashville,
Tennessee. He practiced law in Jackson, between 1831 and 1835 in a partnership with
Andrew L. Martin. Autry and Martin later started an unsuccessful mercantile business in
During a subsequent business trip to New York City and Philadelphia, he heard of the
opportunities in Texas. In 1835 he left his family and slaves in the care of Samuel Smith,
his stepdaughter's husband, and set out for Texas by steamboat from Nashville. After
arriving in Memphis, he wrote to his wife on December 7, 1835: "On the steamboat Pacific,
I have met a number of acquaintances bound for Texas...I am determined to provide a
home for you...or perish."
From Natchitoches, Louisiana on December 13 he wrote: "About 20 men from Tennessee
formed our squad.... The war [in Texas] is still going on favorably to the Texans, but it is
thought that Santa Anna will make a descent with his whole force in the Spring, but there
will be soldiers enough of the real grit in Texas by that time to overrun all of Mexico.... We
have between 400 and 500 miles to foot it to the seat of government, for we cannot get horses,
but we have sworn allegiance to each other and will get along somehow."
He was in Nacogdoches, Texas, on January 13, 1836, where he enlisted in the Volunteer
Auxiliary Corps of Texas. His letter to his wife written on that date indicated that he had set
out for Washington-on-the-Brazos with David Crockett and others under the command of Capt.
William B. Harrison. He arrived in San Antonio de Bexar with this company on February 9
and joined the Alamo garrison under the command of Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis.
Autry, an expert marksman, was chosen by his company to eliminate Antonio López de Santa
Anna, who often walked across the grounds near the Mexican battle lines. He
missed. After a siege lasting 13 days, Autry was killed with the rest of the Alamo garrison after
the Mexican army stormed it on March 6, 1836.
Some interesting data are contained in the following obituary notice, published soon after his
death, in a North Carolina newspaper:
Major Micajah Autry—We have received a letter from Tennessee informing us that this gentleman
was one of the gallant volunteers who fell at the storming of the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas.
He was a native of Sampson County, in this State, but from the age of six years until the year
1823, when he was about 28 years of age, he resided in this County with his father, Mr.
Theophilus Autry. Between the ages of 17 and 18, he volunteered in Captain Lord's Company,
and marched to Wilmington, when the place was threatened by the British. He afterwards joined
the army at Charleston, and remained in the service until the peace in the Spring of 1815.
On his return in consequence of bad health, which prevented his labouring on the farm, he directed
his attention to literary pursuits, and soon qualified himself for teaching. In 1823 he moved to
Hayesboro, Tenn. Here he studied law and was admitted to the bar at Nashville in 1828 or '9. In
1831 he removed to Jackson, in the Western District of Tennessee where he practised law until
November last, when he volunteered in the cause of Texas. He met death in the glorious battle
of San Antonio, the particulars of which are too well known to need repetition. He has left a wife
and two children in Tennessee, and his aged father and other relatives in this County.
Mrs. Greer says that after moving to Tennessee her father taught school, while studying law, and
that about the year 1824 he was united in marriage to Mrs. Martha Wyche Wilkinson, whose
maiden name was Putney. This lady was the widow of Dr. Wilkinson, to whom she had borne one
child, a daughter named Amelia. For several years the home of Mr. Autry lay within a few miles
of Nashville, near which city was also the home of Andrew Jackson, “The Hermitage.” Here
several children were born, of whom only two, Mary and James L. Autry, grew to maturity. The
account of the removal of the family from Nashville to Jackson is here given in the words of his
daughter, who was old enough to remember distinctly the incidents of their overland journey.
Mother, Sister, Aunt, my baby brother, his nurse and myself travelled in the family coach, a
handsome affair drawn by two large bays. Father rode a fine grey horse, and was an agile, graceful
equestrain. The slaves were in two immense wagons, with hoops covered with cloth, not unlike in
appearance the large automobiles of the present day, and drawn by horses or mules. Although so
young I remember several incidents of the route. One was this: late one evening father dashed up
to the coach, saying to the coachman, “Drive for your life! We must reach a house some miles
distant. It is said there is a large pack of wolves but a few miles off!” And as he dashed away to
warn the wagoners we heard the distant howl of the wolves. We reached the house, however, and
were entertained hospitably. The negroes in the wagons always camped out and cooked their
own meals. In a few days more we reached our destination, the flourishing little town of Jackson.
My father had visited the country some months before, bought several acres of land in the
suburbs on a high hill level at the top for many feet and built a hewn log house of four large rooms
and a wide hall. Such residences were common throughout the South in pioneer days and were
neat and comfortable.
At Jackson Mr. Autry formed a law partnership with Andrew L. Martin, a talented attorney of
prominence. They had a large practice, but made the mistake of engaging also in mercantile
business, which proved unsuccessful. In its interest Mr. Autry made two trips to Philadelphia
and New York to purchase stocks of dry goods, and on one of these occasions heard much
talk of Texas. He determined to visit Texas and determine for himself its advantages as a place
of residence for his family, and in 1835 he set out on his long and fateful journey. Meanwhile
Amelia Wilkinson, Mrs. Autry's oldest daughter, who had been married when quite young to
Samuel Smith, a wealthy planter, offered to share her home with her mother and the two little
children until a new home should be prepared for them in Texas. Mr. Smith kindly guarded their
interests, sold their home, furniture, carriage and horses, and gave work to their slaves.
Autry's letters to his wife tell of his journey. In a letter dated Memphis, Tennessee, December
7, 1835, he says:
I have taken my passage in the steamboat Pacific and shall leave in an hour or two. . . . I have
met in the same boat a number of acquaintances from Nashville and the District, bound for
Texas, among whom are George C. Childress and his brother. Childress thinks the fighting will
be over before we get there, and speaks cheeringly of the prospects. I feel more energy than I
ever did in anything I have undertaken. I am determined to provide for you a home or perish. . . .
Fare you all well till you hear from me again, perhaps from Natchez. . . .
[In a letter written from Nachitoches, December 13, 1835, he says:]
About 20 minutes ago I landed at this place safely after considerable peril. About 20 men from
Tennessee formed our squad at Memphis, and all landed safely at the mouth of Red River.
Major Eaton and Lady were on board the Pacific, to whom I suppose I was favourably introduced
by Mr. Childress, from that however or from some other reason Gov. Eaton paid me the most
friendly and assiduous attention. . . . I have not met with a more amiable and agreeable man
than the Governor. By his persuasion a Major Arnold from Tennessee (a cousin of Gen'l Arnold)
and myself left the rest of our Company at the mouth of Red River and went down to Orleans for
the purpose of learning the true state of things in Texas as well as which would be the best
probable rout. The result was that, the war is still going on favourably to the Texans, but it is
thought that Santa Anna will make a descent with his whole forces in the Spring, but there will be
soldiers enough of the real grit in Texas by that time to overrun all Mexico.
The only danger is in starvation, for the impulse to Texas both as to soldiers and moving families
exceeds anything I have ever known. I have little doubt but that the army will receive ample
supplies from Orleans both of provisions and munitions of war, as the people of Texas have formed
themselves into something like a government, which will give them credit in Orleans. I have had
many glowing descriptions of the country by those who have been there. . . . We have between
400 and 500 miles to foot it to the seat of government, for we cannot get horses, but we have
sworn allegiance to each other and will get along somehow. . . . The smallpox has recently broken
out here very bad, but I fear the Tavern bill a great deal worse. Such charges never were heard of
and we have to stay here probably several days before we can procure a conveyance for our
baggage. I supose we shall join and buy a waggon.
Write to me to this place all the letters you send by mail, perhaps the general intercourse from
here to Texas, will enable me to get them conveniently. Write me in Texas by every private
opportunity, and I will do the same. . . . I send this by Mr. Sevier who promises to put it in the
postoffice at Bolivar or Middleburg. . . .
P. S. The Company of young men that left Jackson before I did passed through here about 20
days ago. [He mentions the name of Charles Haskell as having been among these, who had all
gone on to “St Antone” the seat of war.]
Pursuing the course of Micajah Autry by means of these letters, it appears that he had not
overestimated the difficulties that would beset his path on the way to Texas. In the last letter
received by his wife he writes as follows:
Nacogdoches, Jany. 13th, 1836. My Dear Martha,
I have reached this point after many hardships and privations but thank God in most excellent
health. The very great fatigue I have suffered has in a degree stifled reflection and has been an
advantage to me. I walked from Nachitoches whence I wrote you last to this place 115 miles
through torrents of rain, mud and water. I had remained a few days in St. Augustine when Capt.
Kimble from Clarksvelle, Ten. a lawyer of whom you may recollect to have heard me speak arrived
with a small company of select men, 4 of them lawyers. I joined them and find them perfect
gentlemen. We are waiting for a company daily expected from Columbia, Ten. under Col. Hill with
whom we expect to march to head quarters (Washington) 125 miles from here, where we shall join
Houston the commander in chief and receive our destination. I may or may not receive promotion
as there are many very meritorious men seeking the same. I have become one of the most
thorough going men you ever heard of. I go the whole Hog in the cause of Texas. I expect to help
them gain their independence and also to form their civil government, for it is worth risking many
lives for. From what I have seen and learned from others there is not so fair a portion of the earth's
surface warmed by the sun.
Be of good cheer Martha I will provide you a sweet home. I shall be entitled to 640 acres of land for
my services in the army and 4444 acres upon condition of settling my family here. Whether I shall
be able to move you here next fall or not will depend upon the termination of the present contest.
Some say that Santa Ana is in the field with an immense army and near the confines of Texas,
others say since the conquest of St. Antonio by the Texians and the imprisonment of Genl. Cos
and 1100 men of which you have no doubt heard, that Santa Ana has become intimidated for fear
that the Texians will drive the war into his dominions and is now holding himself in readiness to fly
to Europe which latter report I am inclined to discredit, what is the truth of the matter no one here
knows or pretends to know.
Tell Mr. Smith not to think of remaining where he is but to be ready to come to this country at the
very moment the government shall be settled, as for a trifle he may procure a possession of land
that will make a fortune for himself, his children and his children's children of its own increase in
value and such a cotton country is not under the sun. I have just been introduced to Mr. McNiell a
nephew of Mr. S. who is now in this place and appears to be much of a gentleman. Give my most
kind affection to Amelia and Mr Smith and to my own Dear Mary and James give a thousand tender
embraces and for you my Dearest Martha may the smile of heaven keep you as happy as possible
till we meet.
M. Autry. Tell Brothers J. &S. I have not time to write to them at present as Mr. Madding and
Sevier by whom I send this can not wait. Tell Brother Jack to think of nothing but coming here
with us; that if he knew as much about this country as I already do he would not be kept from
it. Tell him to study law as this will be the greatest country for that profession as soon as we
have a government that ever was known. M. A. P. S. We stand guard of nights and night before
last was mine to stand two hours during which the moon rose in all her mildness but splendor
and majesty. With what pleasure did I contemplate that lovely orb chiefly because I recollected
how often you and I had taken pleasure in standing in the door and contemplating her together.
Indeed I imagined that you might be looking at her at the same time. Farewell Dear Martha.
M. A. P. S. Col. Crockett has just joined our company.
The following copy of a muster roll shows some of the companions with whom Autry left
Know all men by these presents: That I have this day voluntarily enlisted myself in the Volunteer
Auxiliary Corps, for and during the term of six months.
And I do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to the provisional Government of Texas,
or any future Government that may be hereafter declared, and that I will serve her honestly and
faithfully against all her enemies whatsoever and observe and obey the orders of the Governor of
Texas, the orders and decrees of the present and future authorities and the orders of the officers
appointed over me according to the rules and regulations for the government of the Armies of
Texas. “So help me God.”
Nacogdoches, January 14th 1836.
Names. Age. Remarks.
H. S. Kimble 31 Tennessee.
M. Authey [Autry] 106 43 Tennessee.
J. P. Bailey 24 Kentucky.
Daniel W. Cloud 21 Kentucky.
W. J. Lewis 28 Pennsylvania.
Wm. H. Furtleroy 22 Kentucky.
B. M. Thomas 18 Tennessee.
R. L. Stockton 18 Virginia.
Robert Bowen 24 Tennessee.
J. E. Massie 24 Tennessee.
Wm. McDowelly 40 Tennessee.
John P. Raynolds 29 Tennessee.
Joseph Bayliss 28 Tennessee.
The above sworn to and subscribed before me, this 14th January, 1836.
John Forbes 1st Judge of the Municipality of Nacogdoches.
From a letter written from Bexar on February 11, 1836, by G. B. Jameson we learn that
the Texans had on that date at Bexar one hundred and fifty men, and that Colonels
Crockett and Travis were there, and that Colonel Bowie was in command of the volunteers.
It is probable that Autry and his companions arrived at about the same time as Crockett,
and that within the space of about twenty-five days they had traversed that wide area of
almost uninhabited territory which separated Nacogdoches from their destination.
The copy of this muster roll contains the last mention of the devoted band until the names
of all but three of them were inscribed on the imperishable roll of history as heroes of the
Alamo. The interval between January 14 and March 6, 1836, was full of tragedy for them.
The long, tortuous, muddy, often almost impassable trail, called at the time the “old San
Antonio road,” no doubt received its heavy toll of death, and the graves of many brave men
lie unknown and unmarked along its length. Probably the three who did not have the privilege
of dying with their comrades in the Alamo, laid down their lives by the roadside, and their
sacrifice will remain unrecorded and unsung.
There is in Micajah Autry's family a brief note written by Nat G. Smith to Mrs. Amelia W.
Smith, in response to her anxious inquiries as to the fate of her stepfather. It bears no date,
but was probably written in April or May of 1836. It reads as follows:
In reply to your inquiries, I went to the Tavern as soon as I understood the stage had arrived
with passengers from Texas, and found Col. Thomas K. Hill of Columbia, surrounded by a
crowd, all asking after friends etc. I passed through to him and got an introduction and asked
him if he knew Maj. Autry personally; he replied he did not. I asked him if he thought he was
certainly killed; he said he had no doubt of it. Mr. Henderson, who accompanied Col. Hill, said,
there was no doubt of Maj. Autry's death, he also stated that young Mr. Haskell was certainly
killed with Fanning, and that his brother young Mr. Henderson and Mr. Jones would both be at
home in a few days (there were two young Hendersons). My informant stated they had
conversed with a Mrs. Travis and the servants, 107 and it all was confirmed. None of them
surrendered thev fought to the last.
Yours &c Nat G. Smith.
The absence of a regular mail service from Texas to the United States made the arrival of
passengers in the stage an event of the utmost importance. Letters were usually transmitted by
the favor of passengers, and news from Texas was eagerly awaited at every town through
which they passed. Rumor had preceded any authentic statements as to the result of the
battles in which the brave volunteers had been engaged, and their friends looked forward
hopefully to a possible contradiction of the terrible news so widely spread.
Mrs. Mary Autry Greer in writing her recollections of her father, and of the relatives with
whom her mother and children were living says:
We lived with them till the awful news of father's death came to us one lovely April morning,
when snowy white dogwood blossoms and the red bud trees spotted the tender green of
the forest that surrounded the house. My little playmate and I were striving to gather the lovely
white and pink flowers by throwing up sticks for them, when a voice near us said to me: “You
must come to the house. Your father has been killed, and your mother half dead with the news.
” Breathless I ran, and was greeted with choking sobs as she tried to tell me the tragic news.
Father's last letter, (we have it still,) was from Nacogdoches. His companion en route was the
celebrated Tennessee orator, Davy Crockett, who proved in deeds his famous motto: “Be sure
you are right, then go ahead!” They fell near each other in the sublime holocaust of the Alamo.
Neither of them, I think, anticipated war, but instantly volunteered, and were sent by the
overland road to the defence of the Alamo. We all know this incomparable, splendid deed of
heroism. Little knew the bloody Santa Anna that as the smoke cleared and the ashes of the
martyrs were blown hither and thither the radiant Lone Star arose to its place in the blue sky,
and consecrated their memories forever. A few weeks later the splendid victory of San Jacinto
was won by Houston, and his brave handful of soldiers. My father knew Houston well and
voted for him when he ran for Governor of Tennessee.
My father was of a joyous nature and among my earliest recollections is his singing, in a rich
mellow voice, as he ran down the piazza steps, “Hurrah! Hurrah! For the Good Old North State
Forever!” a song written by Governor Gaston of North Carolina.
Father had a fine ear for music, played well on the violin, and sketched striking pictures. I
think he had taste and aptitude for art, but neither studied nor prosecuted it. He also wrote
poetry, but I have only one of his little poems.
He was a man in word and deed, in action as well as profession. “Peace to his memory,” says
his one surviving child, and I believe that the millions that now claim Texas, beautiful Texas, as
home will answer, Amen!
Micajah Autry left one son, James L. Autry, who became a colonel in the Confederate army,
and was killed in his first battle, that of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was survived by a baby
boy, now Judge James L. Autry, general attorney of the Texas Company, of Houston, Texas.
Mary, the only surviving child of Micajah Autry, now in her eighty-fifth year, was married to
James Madison Greer on December 22, 1841, and had four sons, all of whom are living, and all
of whom are lawyers. Their names and places of residence are as follows: James Micajah Greer,
of Memphis, Tennessee; Hal Wyche Greer, Robert Autry Greer, and D. Edward Greer, of
Beaumont, Texas. With them their mother makes her home. Writing on August 15, 1910, she
says: “God has been good to me in that none of my descendants have died, even to the fourth
generation, and all are apparently in good health up to this date.”
Besides enjoying the distinction of being the daughter of an Alamo hero, probably the only
woman now living who is so distinguished, she possesses talent of a high order. As a writer of
history and verse, especially verse inspired by patriotic feeling, she is well known, and has
attained prominence of a character that will endure. On one of the closing pages (924) of the
Second Volume of the Life of Jefferson Davis, “A Memoir, written by his wife,” are to be found
some of the finest lines which the grandeur of his character, and the depth of his misfortunes
called forth. They were written by Mrs. Mary A. Greer, then living in Mississippi, and are a
graceful summing up of the causes of his failure. They also show in admirable form the grasp
of mind which characterizes the writer who was born and trained to love and admire heroic virtues.
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