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Ben McCulloch was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, on November 11, 1811. His father, Major Alexander McCulloch, was a veteran of the War of 1812. He received little formal education, but travel and extensive reading more than compensated for this lack. He left school at the age of fourteen to become an expert hunter and boatman.
In 1835, when about to join a party of trappers on a trip to the Rocky Mountains, McCulloch heard of the expedition of his neighbor, David Crockett, and other friends, in aid of the revolutionaries in Texas, and determined to join them. He arrived in Texas in 1836, just in time to participate in the Battle of San Jacinto. Although he had had no prior experience with large guns, General Sam Houston gave him command of an artillery unit. (McCulloch subsequently became an expert in the use of all kinds of firearms, and was even sent to Europe by the United States to examine and report upon all the most improved weapons of war.)
After the Texas Revolution, McCulloch settled in Gonzales, where he engaged in surveying. He was elected to the First Congress of the Republic in 1839, where he served until 1843. As Captain of a company of Rangers, he took part in numerous skirmishes with Indians and Mexican raiders. After Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845, McCulloch was elected to the State Legislature, and was appointed Major-General of the state militia for the western district.
At the beginning of the Mexican War, McCulloch raised a company of Texas Rangers. His services as a scout were highly valued by General Zachary Taylor, and his company opened the fighting at Monterey. As a Major, he led his scouts on a reconnaissance at Buena Vista, and fought with bravery and distinction throughout the day. He was afterward attached to the army of General Winfield Scott, for whom his services as a scout proved invaluable in the taking of Mexico City. He resigned his staff appointment on September 6, 1847.
In 1849, McCulloch joined the Gold Rush and settled at Sacramento, where he was subsequently elected Sheriff. McCulloch returned to Texas in 1852, and was appointed U.S. Marshal the following year. In 1857 he was appointed as a commissioner to adjust difficulties with the Mormons of Utah, and, after the dispatching of federal troops to Utah, was commissioned to report on the condition of Arizona.
McCulloch was in Washington when the Civil War broke out. After concluding his business with the government he hastened back to Texas, where he was appointed to raise a temporary force to take possession of the U.S. arsenal at San Antonio. After declining the command of a Union regiment, he was commissioned Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army (May 14, 1861) and ordered to take command of Indian Territory. He took part in the Battle of Wilson's Creek (Missouri) and the Confederate attempt to surround Union troops at Bentonville (Arkansas). At the Battle of Pea Ridge (Arkansas), while riding forward to reconnoitre, McCulloch was shot and killed by a sniper's bullet -- March 7, 1862. He is buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
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This page was last updated on November 11, 2017.