Bio & Incident Details
Tour: 10 months, 2 weeks
Badge # Not available
Incident Date: 6/12/1875
Suspect: killed by fellow rangers
On Saturday, June 12, 1875, Captain L. H. McNelly requested 22 volunteers to intercept a band of Mexican bandits at Palo Alto Prairie, a few miles from Brownsville in Cameron County. D. R. Smith and his son, Berry, were the oldest and youngest rangers in the company. D. R. requested that his son be allowed to stay in camp with him. He told Captain McNelly that Berry was an only child and if he were killed his mother would grieve to death. Berry protested and told the Captain that every boy’s mother in the company would grieve if they were killed.
The rangers battled the bandits in hand-to-hand combat across the prairie. The rangers killed 16 bandits and no rangers were wounded. As they were re-grouping they saw Ranger Spencer J. Adams near a Spanish pond in a field of grass 6-8 feet high. Adams advised the Captain that he and Berry Smith spotted a bandit, who was shot in the fight, crawl off into the grass. Berry Smith volunteered to dismount and go into the grass after him. Adams stayed on his horse to see over the grass and prevent an escape. Adams said the bandit shot Smith and killed him. The rangers surrounded the pond and shot into the grass, killing the bandit.
The bodies of the bandits were taken to Brownsville, and stacked on the town square. At 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 13, 1875, McNelly had Smith’s body taken to the city cemetery under military and ranger escort and afforded a full military funeral. Sadly, no marker exists to recognize the heroics of Ranger Smith. He was an only child and was survived by his father and mother.
Smith enlisted with his father in the Washington County Volunteer Militia in Austin, Travis County, on July 25, 1874, and served 10 months and 18 days. Smith was called “Sonny” and “Berry.” Captain McNelly reported his name as Benjamin. His age was reported as 16, 17, and 18 years of age at his death. The City of Brownsville Record of Interments reports his age as 17. Smith is the youngest Texas Ranger killed in the line of duty, and the youngest recorded line of duty death in State of Texas.