William Wallace

William Wallace

William Wallace was born Lexington, Virginia, on 3rd April, 1817. He later claimed that he was a descendant of William (Braveheart) Wallace.

Wallace moved to Texas in 1836 after he heard that his brother, Samuel Wallace, and a cousin, Benjamin Wallace, had been killed by Mexicans at Goliard. He joined the Texan Army and fought at the Battle of Jan Jacinto. He also took part in the Indian Wars. He was captured by the Comanchesbut managed to escape after being held captive for several months.

In 1840 Wallace moved to Austin. Later he lived in San Antonio but continued to be a member of the Texas Rangers. It was during this time that he acquired the nickname "Big Foot". He was 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and had very big feet. In 1842 Wallace was involved in defending San Antonio against the Mexicans led by General Adrian Woll.

Wallace also took part in the expedition to Mier where he was captured on 26th December, 1842. For the next two years he was held at Perote Prison in Vera Cruz. Released on 22nd November, 1844, Wallace returned to Texas and served under John Coffee Hays during the Mexican War.

In 1850 Wallace was given command of a company of the Texas Rangers and over the next few years fought against Native Americans and Mexican bandits. He was also active in protecting Texans from war parties and soldiers from the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Wallace settled in Frio County, Texas and eventually wrote his memoirs, The Adventures of Big Foot Wallace, The Texas Ranger (1870). The book was a bestseller and it achieved him great fame in Texas.

William Wallace died on 7th January, 1899 and is buried in the State Cemetery at Austin.

Primary Sources

(1) William Wallace, The Adventures of Fig Foot Wallace, The Texas Ranger (1870)

We saw a small drove of buffalo, but our hunters did not get a shot at them and the country where we found them was so broken we could not chase them on horseback. One of our men, who had stopped behind awhile for some purpose, when he came up, reported that he had seen an Indian following on our trail; but he was a "scary" sort of fellow, and we thought his story very doubtful

We passed a singular chain of high, bald hills today. Looking at them from a distance, we almost fancied we were approaching a considerable city, so much did they resemble houses, steeples, etc. They were entirely destitute of timber.

The Leon Hiver, where we struck It, is a small rapid stream, shut in on both sides by high rocky hills. We crossed over to the northern side, and "nooned" in a grove of pecans. These trees are full of the finest nuts we had ever seen - very large, and their hulls so thin we could easily crack them with our fingers. Before we left, we gathered a wallet-fall of them, and strapped it on one of our pack mules.

In the evening, we continued our route up Armstrong's Creek, and struck camp a little after sundown near one of its head-springs. The valley along the creek is very beautiful, and the soil rich. Our hunter today killed a fat buffalo-cow on the way, and we butchered her, and packed the meat into camp. That was the first buffalo-meat I ever tasted, and I thought it better even than bear-meat. The flesh of an old bull, however, I have found out since, is coarse, tough and stringy, but the "hump" is always good, and so are the "marrow-bones" and tongue,

Just after we had encamped, one of our men named Thompson, while staking out his horse was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake. It was a small one, however, and he suffered but little from the effects of the bite. We scanned the wound with a penknife, and applied some soda to it, and the next morning he was well enough to travel. I do not think the bite of the rattlesnake is as often fatal as people generally suppose, I have seen several men and a great many animals bitten by them, and have never known death to ensue, except on one or two occasions. Still, I have no doubt there is great danger, whenever the fangs of the snake strike a large vein or artery. I believe the bite of the tarantula is much more fatal. I have seen two or three persons bitten by them in Mexico, neither of whom recovered, although many remedies were used. The Mexicans say they will kill a horse in ten minutes.

(2) William Wallace, The Adventures of Fig Foot Wallace, The Texas Ranger (1870)

The canon I had entered twisted and turned about among the hills in such a way that I could not see the Indians, but I was satisfied that they were still trailing me, even after I could no longer hear their yells. For this reason, I never slackened my speed until I had penetrated several miles among the hills, when I halted for a few moments to catch my breath at a point from which I could see several hundred yards down the canon, in the direction I had come. I was just on the eve of getting up to make a start again when an Indian came in sight, traveling along the trail in a sort of "dog-trot' and at a rate which I knew would bring him to where I was in a few moments. The perseverance of this rascal in following me up so long, "stirred my gall," and I resolved to make him pay dearly for it, if I could. Near where I was resting myself, there was a large rock, just about high enough to conceal a man when kneeling down, and behind that I took my position, with the muzzle of my gun resting on its top.

The Indian came trotting along, totally unsuspicious that the "chase" had turned to bay, until he was within twenty paces of me, when I gave a low whistle, and he instantly stopped, looking cautiously around at the same time. I had a dead-rest for my rifle and I drew a bead about the centre of his breast and touched the trigger. At the crack of the gun he sprang into the air and dropped dead in his tracks. That was the first Indian I ever killed.

(3) William Wallace, The Adventures of Fig Foot Wallace, The Texas Ranger (1870)

I have met with few men anywhere that I liked better than Black Wolf. He was a man of good natural sense, and as brave as the bravest, and there was nothing cruel of bloodthirsty in his disposition, and, what is very unusual among the Indians, he was very much attached to his old mother and did everything he could to make her comfortable In her old age.

The old chief to whom I surrendered in the first instance, for some cause had taken a great liking to me, and offered me his sister for a wife, and a home in his own wigwam; but I preferred staying with Black Wolf and his old mother, for, in fact, the chief's sister was not as, attractive as some women I have seen. She was tall and raw-boned and her cheeks looked like a couple of small pack-saddles, and her finger nails were as long as a catamount's claws, and not overly clean at that, and I had no doubt she could have used them just as well "on a pinch" - at least that was my private opinion, though I did not tell the chief so.

When I had been about two months with the tribe, I learned to speak their language pretty well, and Black Wolf never tired of asking me questions about the "white people," and their big canoes, steamboats, railroads, etc., for he had heard about all these things at the trading posts he had occasionally visited. I told him that the white people were so numerous that they had many "permanent camps" in which there were forty', fifty, and a hundred thousand inhabitants, and one in which there was more than half a million.

He said he knew they were a powerful people, but he had no idea before that their number was so great, But he said what I had told him about them confirmed him in the opinion he had had for a long time, that the white people would gradually spread over the whole country, from ocean to ocean, and that the day would soon come when there would be nothing left to show that the Indians had once occupied all this vast territory, except here and there a little mound built over their graves, or a stone arrowhead, ploughed up by the white people where they had once hunted the buffalo or the grizzly bear.

(4) William Wallace, The Adventures of Fig Foot Wallace, The Texas Ranger (1870)

In the fall of 1842, the Indians were worse on the frontiers than they had ever been before, or since. You could not stake a horse out at night with any expectation of finding him the next morning, and a fellow's scalp was not safe on his head five minutes, outside of his own shanty. The people on the frontiers at last came to the conclusion that something had to be done, or else they would be compelled to fall back on the "settlements," which you know would have been reversing the natural order of things. So we collected together by agreement at my ranch, organized a company of about forty men, and the next time the Indians came down from the mountains (and we had not long to wait for them) we took the trail, determined to follow it as long as our horses would hold out.

The trail led as up toward the headwaters of the Llano, and the third day out, I noticed a great many "signal smokes" rising up a long ways off in the direction we were travelling. These "signal smokes" are very curious things anyhow. You will see them rise up in a straight column, no matter how hard the wind may fee blowing, and after reaching a great height, they will spread out at the top like an umbrella, and then, in a minute or so, puff! they are all gone in the twinkling of an eye. How she Indians make them, I never could learn, and I have often asked old frontiersmen if they could tell me, but none of them could ever give me any information on the subject. Even the white men who have been captured by the Indians, and lived with them for years, never learned how these "signal smokes" were made.