November 11, 1811 - March 7, 1862
November 11, 1811–March 7, 1862
Born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, one of twelve children, the McCulloch family moved to Dyer County, Tennessee in 1830, just a few miles from the Mississippi River. Ben traveled up and down the river, working various jobs, meeting new people, and expanding his horizons. David Crockett became a close friend and the two decided to aid the Texan cause in fighting for independence from the Republic of Mexico in 1836.
Reaching the Brazos River in eastern Texas, McCulloch contracted measles and Crockett pushed on to help relief Texas defenders at the Alamo Mission at San Antonio de Bexar. By the time McCulloch recovered, the Alamo had fallen, and Crockett along with the rest of the defenders had died. Joining Sam Houston's Texan army in early April, McCulloch commanded one of the "Twin Sisters," two cannons that had been donated by the citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio for the Texas cause. Following the defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, McCulloch moved to Gonzales, Texas and opened a land surveying office.
In August of 1840, a large Comanche raiding party swept through central Texas, taking the town of Linnville on the Texas coast. McCulloch joined one of many militia companies that had assembled at Plum Creek, where they defeated and disbursed the war party.
In the early months of 1842, McCulloch served as a scout following two punitive raids by Mexican armies which briefly occupied and ransacked San Antonio. In a retaliatory action, a Texas army led by General Alexander Somervell marched to the Rio Grande. Tired and disillusioned the party split up; McCulloch chose to return to Texas with Somervell, while the remainder followed Colonel William Fisher across the Rio Grande, surrendered to the Mexican Army at Mier, and were imprisoned for the next two years.
McCulloch spent the following two years riding with Captain John "Jack "Coffee Hays and the newly formed Texas Rangers, protecting the Texas frontier from Mexican and Indian raids. Elected to the first Texas State Legislature following annexation into the United States, McCulloch resigned on May 13, 1846, when the United States Congress declared war on Mexico.
McCulloch returned to Gonzales and raised a company of rangers to act as scouts and spies for General Zachary Taylor's Army of Occupation. Needing information on the best route to take from Matamoras to Monterrey, Mexico, Taylor sent McCulloch and his company. On his mission through northern Mexico, McCulloch circled around villages and towns entering from the southern direction; confused natives often gave McCulloch valuable information on enemy positions and strength. As the rangers approached Linnares, Taylor's planned route, they discovered that maps captured during the Battle of Resaca de la Palma on May 9th showed inaccuracies about watering places and McCulloch found a better way through the towns of China and Mier.
Arriving at the well-fortified town of Monterrey, Mexico on September 19th, 1846, the Rangers moved to the western side of the town to fight under the command of General William A. Worth. In two days of severe fighting; the Rangers repulsed a lancer attack led by Colonel Juan Nájera at the Hacienda de San Jeronimo, successfully scaled Federation Hill at night and captured Fort Salada, fought their way up Independence Hill, and secured the heavily guarded Bishop's Palace, thus giving U.S. troops a hands on education in house – to – house fighting in Monterrey. General Pedro de Ampudia surrendered the city on the 23rd of September on the guarantee of a sixty day truce, and the Rangers returned home.
On February 4th, 1847, Ben McCulloch, now a major, returned to Saltillo and resumed scouting duties for General Taylor. Taylor acknowledged that Mexico City could not be accessed through northern Mexico, but determined to penetrate as far as possible to aid General Winfield Scott‘s drive from Vera Cruz. Late in February, Taylor ordered McCulloch to investigate rumors of a large buildup of Mexican troops at Encarnación. McCulloch and his men scouted the camp from a distance estimating troop strength. Not satisfied, McCulloch and another ranger entered the camp, spending the night moving around the camp and verifying the numbers. From McCulloch's account, Taylor assessed that Santa Anna could not advance further north and moved to block the Mexican Army at the pass of Buena Vista. Following the U.S. victory on February 21, 1847, McCulloch resigned his commission and returned to Texas.
In 1849, McCulloch moved to California and served as Sheriff of Sacramento until 1853, when he returned to Texas and became Federal Marshal of the Eastern District headquartered at Galveston. In 1853, President James Buchanan appointed McCulloch to negotiate for the United States with Brigham Young ending the Mormon War in Utah.
In 1861, the Texas Committee on Public Safety appointed McCulloch a colonel in the Texas Confederate Army. The colonel proceeded to San Antonio and persuaded Union commander General David E. Twiggs to surrender the federal arsenal located there. Commissioned a brigadier general on May 11, 1861, McCulloch supervised the Indian Territory for the Confederacy and defeated Union forces at the Battle of Wilson's Creek near Springfield, Missouri. While scouting positions during the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, a Union sniper killed Ben McCulloch on March 7, 1862. Benjamin McCulloch is buried in the Texas State Cemetery located in Austin, Texas.
Cutrer, Thomas W.. Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
McCulloch, Benjamin. "Memoirs", Missouri Historical Review, 1932.
Proctor, Ben. Rangers of Texas. Waco, Texas: Texian Press, 1969.
Reid, Samuel C.. The Scouting Expeditions of McCulloch's Texas Rangers. Philadelphia, 1847.