Captain John Bird

Captain John Bird

Texas Rangers, Texas

End of Watch Sunday, May 26, 1839

John Bird

Continuing Indian raids caused settlers on the upper Brazos, Trinity and Colorado rivers to petition the Congress of the Republic of Texas for help. On Sunday, May 26, 1839, Captain John Bird and Private Nathaniel Brookshire encountered three Indians skinning a buffalo and routed them, capturing one of their horses laden with meat. Around 9:00 a.m., a small party of Indians busily chasing a herd of buffalo and sighted the rangers at the supposedly abandoned Fort Smith.

At 1:00 p.m., Captain Bird and 35 rangers tried to catch up with the Indians who remained just outside of rifle range. The rangers charged, but to no avail, and decided to retreat. At that point the rangers were surrounded by 40 Indians. The rangers dismounted and walked their horses into the ravine (later named Bird's Creek). Private H. M. C. Hall persisted in remaining on horseback, and he was mortally wounded while dismounting on the bank.

Smoke signals were sent and 200 Indians arrived from the Comanche, Caddo and Kickapoo tribes. The Indians charged several times, but were repulsed by the rangers’ accurate fire. In the battle, Private Thomas Gay fell dead in the ditch from a rifle ball; Private Jesse E. Nash was shot and killed by an arrow; First Sergeant William H. Weaver was killed by a rifle ball to the head; and Second Lieutenant William R. Allen and Private George W. Hensel were severely wounded.

As the Indian fell back a second time, Captain Bird jumped up on the bank to encourage his men and was shot through the heart by an arrow launched by an Indian at the extraordinary distance of 200 yards. Just at dark Comanche War Chief Buffalo Hump and 12 warriors charged the rangers. The war chief was killed and the Indians withdrew. The rangers reported to have killed about 30-40 Indians and wounded about as many. The rangers secreted the bodies of Bird, Weaver, Gay and Nash in the ravine and carted off the three wounded rangers – Allen, Hensel and Hall. They reached Fort Smith about 2:00 a.m. on Monday, May 27. Private Hall died soon after reaching the fort. Several days later the rangers returned to collect the bodies. They were buried in one large crude coffin side-by-side on the banks of the Little River near Fort Smith.

The battle became known to Texans as “Bird’s Victory.” Very little is known about the 5 rangers except Bird. Bird was born in 1795 in Tennessee and was married with 4 children when he arrived in Texas in 1830. He had fought with Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812, against the Comanche in 1832 and the Mexicans during the Texas Revolution in 1836. Weaver was born in Mississippi and was about 21 years of age.

In 1936, two Texas Centennial markers were placed in Temple, Bell County, in honor of Captain John Bird, First Sergeant William H. Weaver, and Privates H. M. C. Hall, Thomas Gay and Jesse E. Nash.


  • Age 44
  • Tour 1 month
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Weapon Edged weapon; Bow and arrow
  • Offender Not available

Most Recent Reflection

View all 18 Reflections

I have been doing research on the Bird/Byrd family for a few years and i know as you do the spelling goes back and forth from Bird to Byrd. I have traced the name back to a Carlton Hugo Le Bird (1010-20/1067) Normandy,France. He came to England with William "The Conqueor" FitzRobert. He fought in "The Battle Of Hastings".He married Werbuger. Captain John Bird was my 3rd grandfather as follows:
Captain John Bird (1795-1839)
Sarah Elizabeth "Sallie" Denton (1800-1873)

William Parrish Bird (1819-1899)
Callie Roxanna Powell (1830-1895)

Jasper Newton Haney (1837-1926)
Sarah "Sallie" Bird (1857-1901)

William Newton Sanders Sr. (1865-!933)
Zodie Frances Haney (1899-1995)

Virgle LeRoy Downum (1910-1996)
Ollie Marcia Sanders (1921-2000)
My Father and Mother

My name is LeRoy Allan Downum . My grandmother Sallie Haney (Bird) died a year after giving birth to my grandmother Zodie Frances Sanders (Haney).My grandfather Jasper Haney buried his wife behind their home.

LeRoy A.Downum
GGG grandson
February 17,2018

SSgt LeRoy A.Downum III USAF 1961-1968
3rd Grandfather

February 17, 2018

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