The Forgotten Hero: Ben Milam

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Tony Maples Photography


The Forgotten Hero Ben Milam

Image: haysmel000.wikispaces.com, Martin Perfecto de Cos.

The Mexican troops in Bejar would fight. There was no doubt about that. Under Martin Perfecto de Cos they’d fight well and be skillfully deployed and maneuvered. Individually they might be no better shots than the average Indian–the average Mexican musketeer, shooting at a mark, was lucky to hit in the same county as the target. Disciplined fire was another story. In ranks of 100 or more, firing volleys on command, they’d put a curtain of large chunks of lead in the air and some of it would definitely get on somebody.

The Forgotten Hero Ben Milam
Photo: MVTCo Long Land Brown Bess Musket

“Catching the blue plum”–an euphemism for getting hit by a .75 caliber ball from the Napoleonic War surplus English-made Brown Bess muskets most Mexican infantry carried–meant a lifetime of debility if not a very painful death. Somebody had to lead the Texicans into Bejar. The odds were that somebody would die very quickly. Nobody wanted the job, not even the redoubtable Jim Bowie.

One man stepped forward–and, according to the story of one who was there, he drew a line in the dirt with a stick he had in his hand and said “Who’ll follow old Ben Milam into Bejár?”

Benjamin Rush Milam was a native of Kentucky, born about 1789. He was one of the earliest US immigrants into Texas, and one of the few who wasn’t a ‘Muldoon Catholic.’ Before immigrating to Texas, Ben converted to Catholicism and was baptized a Roman Catholic in Kentucky, where records of his conversion and baptism are preserved yet. For the record, there are a great many Catholics in Kentucky, and at least three proto-cathedrals grace surprisingly small rural towns there. How deeply he felt his conversion may be open to question. He may not have been a Muldoon Catholic in fact, but he seems to have been one at heart.