Exploits of Ellis P. Bean


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The History of Texas: Ellis P. Bean

(Previous Section: Mexican Independence Movement)

(For Earlier Exploits of Bean, See White Settlement of Texas)

Colonel BeanIt will be remembered that we left Ellis P. Bean and his companions in prison at Chihuahua in 1803. They remained there in confinement five years, a part of the time in irons. Bean obtained leave to go to New Mexico; but on the way was again arrested and brought back, and, with his companions, was ironed and confined. Some days afterward they were notified that it was the order of the king of Spain that every fifth man of them should be shot. As there were but nine of them, the order was so construed that only one should suffer. Accordingly, a drum, a tumbler, and dice, were brought into the prison. They were to commence at the oldest, and the dice being put in the tumbler, each one had a throw. The lowest was to suffer. Bean, being the youngest, threw last. When it came to his turn he threw five, the lowest throw being four. The unfortunate victim was executed. The next day, Bean and four of his companions, in heavy irons, were started off to Mexico. The other three were set at liberty. Arriving at Salamanca, some two hundred miles from the capitol, the former made a halt. Among the crowd of Mexicans gazing at them appeared a beautiful woman, who quietly approached Bean and asked him privately if he did not wish to make his escape, saying she would set him free. She then suddenly left him. Senora Maria Baldonada—for such was her name—was the young wife of a rich old husband. She came the second time to see Bean, and urged him to place himself under her direction. Before she left him, she made him agree to come and see her at her house. Accordingly, the next morning, Bean obtained permission to go with one of the guard into the town. Having learned the residence of his fair visitor, he procured accommodations at a drinking-house near by for his sentinel, and went in. The lady informed Bean that her husband, whom she did not love, was at his silver-mine, and would be absent two weeks. In that time she represented that they could safely make their escape; that she would furnish money and horses, and fly with him to the United States, and live with him there. She had become fascinated with him, and trusted in his honor that he would not afterward abandon her for another woman. She said also that she had married her old husband against her will, in order not to displease her parents. Bean, although greatly smitten, and grateful for these marks of affection, expected his liberty when he should reach Mexico; and, not wishing to leave his companions, he declined the offer. He told her, however, that when he should be set free, he would return without delay to see her. At parting she gave him a package, with a request that he would not open it until he reached the end of that day's journey. So be bade her adieu. Bean, with his companions, were hurried off; and, as the lady had requested, he opened the package that night. He found in it a gold ring, some money, and a letter from her full of the most touching sentiments.

The captives were marched to Mexico, and thence to Acapulco on the Pacific, where they were imprisoned. Bean was locked up in a separate cell; his four companions were placed in another. Here he was denied all intercourse with his fellow-prisoners; and, excepting the person who brought him his daily allowance of water, beef, and bread, and an occasional glimpse of the sentinel as he passed the grate of his cell-door, he saw no human being. The tedious hours of confinement were relieved in some degree by taming and feeding with flies a white lizard which he found in his prison.

One day he learned from a sentinel that one of his companions had become sick, and had been sent to the hospital. It occurred to him that he too would find relief in getting ill and going there. So he gave notice that he was sick. The physician came, and, Bean having prepared his pulse by striking his elbows against the floor, was declared a patient, and sent to the hospital. Here, in addition to his irons, his legs were put in the stocks. His allowance of food was also greatly reduced, his meat for a day consisting of a chicken's head. On one occasion he inquired of the priest who ministered to him, why he could not get something else than the head and neck of a chicken. The reply was, that he might eat that, or go to the devil! This so excited Bean, that he threw his plate at the shorn head of the friar, and cut it badly. For this offence, Bean had his head put in the stocks for fifteen days. This confinement brought on a real fever, from which he suffered so much, that, on recovering, he was glad to be marched back to his cell.

Bean was returned to prison by a guard of two soldiers; and, on the way, it occurred to him that he would try to make his escape. So, still having on hand some of the money given him by the Senora Baldonada, he invited the guard into a drinking-house, and, after they had drank, he called for more liquor, and requested one of them to step with him into the garden in the rear of the house. When they had got to the farther side of the garden, Bean called the soldier to admire a little flower. As the latter stooped down to look at it, Bean seized him by the throat, and told him to surrender his sword, or he would take his life. The sword was given up; and Bean told him that he was going off, and asked him to go with him, but the soldier was unwilling. Bean gave him a dollar, and directed him to go to the town, get the worth, of it in bread, and bring it to him at the graveyard on the outskirts of the town. Bean then left him, and, before the latter could give notice to the officer at the fort, was in the woods, where he filed off his irons with the steel he used in striking fire. He concealed himself till night, when he returned into the town to lay in a stock of provisions. Here he found an English sailor, through whose means he got on board a vessel, and was secreted in a water-cask. Just before the ship sailed, he was betrayed by the cook (a Portuguese), retaken, and placed again in his cell, where be remained eighteen months longer in solitary confinement.

Hearing an officer speaking one day of having some rock blasted, Bean informed him that he was a proficient in that business. This information caused them to put him at it. In a few days after he had been engaged in blasting rocks, he succeeded again in making his escape. He traveled at night, concealing himself in the daytime; and for several days beat along the coast northward, when he was retaken, and brought before the governor of the castle of Acapulco. After fearful threats on the part of that functionary, in reply to which Bean told him to do his worst, he was chained to a large mulatto criminal, the latter being promised an abatement of a year of his term of punishment if he would take care of his yoke-fellow. He was also authorized to whip Bean if he became insubordinate. They had not been long together, before Bean gave the mulatto such a beating, that he prayed for a separation. It was granted, and Bean was sent back to his cell, to keep company with the white lizard; it seemed to be the only live thing that had any sympathy for him, and this feeling was fully reciprocated.

Bean was "a hard case;" and the governor of the castle of Acapulco wrote to the viceroy that he could not be answerable for him. The latter, in reply, sent an order for his removal to the king's possessions in Manilla. While awaiting a vessel, the revolution broke out. The prisons of New Spain had been emptied for recruits. Bean was the only one left at Acapulco, The Spanish authorities knew his worth, but doubted his faith. One day an officer questioned him on this point. Bean told him he would gladly serve the king if permitted. His irons were knocked off, a gun and sword placed in his hands, and he became a soldier. At that time the republican forces were some three hundred miles distant.

Bean performed his duties very well for a couple of weeks, when, a favorable opportunity offering, he went over to Morelos, carrying with him a considerable number of the royalists. He continued with Morelos, growing daily in his confidence, and displaying great courage; he was infinite in his resources, providing provisions and ammunition for the troops, and in leading forlorn hopes.

Bean Captures Acapulco

When Morelos proceeded with the main division of his army to occupy Quautla Amilpas, he left Bean (then holding the rank of colonel) in command of the forces besieging Acapulco. Morelos was driven from Quautla with considerable loss, but was more fortunate in other places. About the close of the year 1812, Colonel Bean took the town of Acapulco, with the garrison, and the governor of the castle who had treated him with so much cruelty. At this time the whole of New Spain was engaged in deadly strife. An indiscriminate slaughter seemed to follow every victory. Whole towns were razed to their foundations, and entire provinces were made desolate ! The long pent-up wrath of four millions of Indians, and the fierce barbarity of the usurping Spaniards, were turned loose upon a country romantic and lovely by nature, but wasted and ruined by a cruel oppression.

[Next Section of Texas History: Battle of La Bahia]




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