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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

OF

COLONEL JOHN H. BROOCKS.

The subject of this sketch was born in the town of Jackson, county of Madison, State of Tennessee,

October 12, A. D., 1829; was the son of the late General Travis G. Broocks—a native of Virginia—and of

Mrs. Elizabeth A. Broocks, a native of Alabama, General Broocks removed with his family, to San

Augustine, Texas, in the year 1837. John H. was educated at the Wesleyan College, at San Augustine, and

at the San Augustine University. His acquaintance, however, with the practical relations of life, was formed

in the counting-room of his father, who did an extensive mercantile business in San Augustine. At the

commencement of the Mexican war, young Broocks joined, as a private soldier, the company of Captain O.

M. Wheeler, of Colonel Woods’ regiment of Texas Cavalry, and rendered efficient services in this new and

stirring field of operations until the cessation of hostilities. Returning home, Mr. Broocks entered into the

mercantile business at San Augustine, at which place he continued to reside until about the year 1852, when

the spirit of adventure and enterprise led him to migrate to California in company of his brother, the late

Captain James A. Broocks, and Captain A. D. Edwards, now of Terrell, Texas. In this virgin field, the

young Texans first essayed mining, and then worked as hired hands on a hay and small grain farm; and,

finally, as merchants, operating under the firm name of J. H. Broocks & Co., at "Shaw’s Flat," in Ptoulumne

county. While in this business, they did their own freighting with ox-teams, over execrable roads a distance

of sixty-five miles.

 

Having been quite successful in his business pursuits, Mr. Broocks returned to San Augustine, Texas,

in 1854, and was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth J. Polk. In 1855, he retired from mercantile pursuits

to his farm near San Augustine, where he has continued to reside ever since. When Texas called upon her

sons to march to battle in defence of constitutional governments, in 1861, she found not one more ready to

respond to the summons than John H. Broocks. A company was formed in San Augustine, and adjoining

counties, of which he was elected Captain. Captain Broocks at once set out at the head of his company to

join the army of General Ben EcCulloch, in Missouri. Before, or at the time of reaching the army, a

battalion was formed of four detatched companies, commanded by Captain J. H. Broocks, Captain J. W.

Whitfield of Lavaca county, Texas, Captain Murphy, of Arkansas, and Captain Brooks, of Arkansas.

Captain Whitfield was elected Major of the battalion. Subsequently, Captain Brooks’ company was

transferred to Colonel McIntosh’s Arkansas regiment, and Captain E. R. Hawkins’ Texas company joined

the battalion. Under this organization, the battalion served in the campaigns against the hostile Indians in

the winter of 1861, and at the battle of Elk Horn, in March, 1862. After the campaign in March, an

accession of eight more companies was had, and the First Texas Legion was organized with J. W. Whitfield,

Colonel; E. R. Hawkins, Lieutenant-Colonel; and—Holman, Major. Major Holman resigned soon after his

election, and Captain John H. Broocks was promoted Major. Subsequently, in 1863, Colonel Whitfield was

promoted Brigadier-General, Lieutenant-Colonel E. R. Hawkins, Colonel, and Major Broocks, Lieutenant-

Colonel. Captain J. T. Whitfield was promoted Major. We reproduce, in this connection, Colonel Broocks

statement in regard to the action at Oakland, Mississippi, as tending to elucidate, in some measure, the

account of the same in the body of the narrative.

General Price was retreating from Abbeville, followed by a large supply-train. A considerable force

of the enemy was disembarked from transports on the Mississippi river, and by rapid marches, sought to

strike the train in flank. Generals Hovey and Washburne, we believe, commanded this expedition, which

amounted to about 4,000 infantry, 500 cavalry, and 12 guns. Nothing interposed between the unprotected

train and this daring Federal column, but the Texas Brigade of about 1,500 men. Lieutenant-Colonel John S.

Griffith, of the Sixth Texas Cavalry, was in temporary command of the brigade. Colonel Griffith realized

the gravity of the situation, and appreciated the value of prompt action. Says Colonel Broocks:

"The Legion, Colonel Hawkins commanding, and three companies as an advance-guard, under my

immediate command, fought Washburne’s advance fifty-six minutes, near Oakland, Mississippi. We

charged, and captured two guns, one of which, only, we brought off the field, as the team attached to the

other were killed. Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith, commanding the brigade, was present, and in the charge,

bearing himself most gallantly, and but for an accident, we perhaps would have captured Washburne. The

Legion was driving the enemy in some confusion. The Sixth Texas had arrived, dismounted, and were ready to join in the fight. The Third Texas, Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Boggess commanding, had been dispatched to the enemy’s rear, and directed to dismount and attack. At this interesting stage, Colonel Griffith received a report (false) that we were being outflanked. Placing credence in the report, he retired his men, and firing ceased. Colonel Boggess who was just ready to attack in the rear at this time, hearing the firing no more in front, did not attack. Thus an excellently planned engagement was suffered to pass by default. But the Legions’ spirited attack had discomfited the enemy, and, undoubtedly, saved from capture the wagon-train of General Price. Had Colonel Griffith’s original plan been carried out, it is probable we would have captured the greater portion of the Federals present. Some idea may be had of the spirited nature of the engagement, from the fact that sixty-four cannon-shots were fired during the fifty-six minutes of action.

After we were called off from the charge, the enemy recovered from the confusion caused by our

unexpected charge, and their long lines of infantry, ‘double-quicking’ into position, revealed too much force for Colonel Griffith to again venture an attack." The enemy accorded the Texans equal respect, and immediately retired from the field, and returned to the protection of their iron-clads on the Mississippi river.

Owing to the ill health of the gallant Hawkins, Colonel Broocks was very often left in command of

the Legion, in which responsible station he acquitted himself always with credit, and won the love of his

men and the confidence and respect of his superiors in rank. The Confederacy bore upon its rosters the

name of no braver, or truer man to its cause, than that of Colonel John H. Broocks. Colonel Broocks has,

since the termination of the war, lived a somewhat retired life on his farm, in the midst of his many friends,

and surrounded by his interesting family. His name has been repeatedly mentioned in connection with a seat in the State Senate; and, though eminently fitted to grace the councils of State, he has persistently declined the honors which his fellow-citizens would gladly confer, contenting himself with the laborious and unremunerating position of Chairman of the Democratic Congressional District Committee. Colonel

Broocks is an educated gentleman—a man of firm will, fixed opinions, and the courage to advocate the

same at all proper times. Though it seemed that the moral obliquity of "our army in Flanders" had seized the Confederate army, yet the author can testify to the Roman simplicity and stern exercise of morality by

Colonel Broocks, at all times; and never did he hear a profane expression escape his lips. These pages,

though in an inadequate manner, testify to the heroism of Colonel Broocks; but of the many high qualities,

both of head and heart, of which he is possessed, none may know except those who are drawn into personal

contact with him. If heroic services on the battle field, augmented by capacity, probity, and patriotism,

entitle a man to civic preferment, then is Colonel John H. Broocks entitled to the highest office in the gift of the people of Texas. His friend, the author, cheerfully pays this simple tribute to his sterling worth, with the confident hope that he will yet respond to the solicitations of his fellow citizens, and give to the councils of the State the benefit of his ripe experience, and practical knowledge of men, and political and economical questions.

 

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "," <http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbr64.html