The Annals of Elder Horn   [back to issue]

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  • by Tom Keener  
     
    Second in a five part series on primary sources of Collin County history.  
     
    On July 5, 1862, Robert Horn was sworn into the service of the Confederate States of America and assigned to Martin’s Regimen of the Fifth Texas Porters and Rangers. Initially, he was stationed at a camp near Shirley Springs, ten miles north of McKinney. There, Horn declared, "the greatest enemies were ticks and copperhead snakes." In the fall, they were ordered to Indian Territory (Colbert, Oklahoma) and then to Ft. Smith, Arkansas. In the winter of 1862 until the spring of 1863, they retreated to Bokchito (Horn wrote Boxhito) in the Choctaw reservation. Catfish were plentiful. When hogs were killed, their hide was used as bait for the catfish. Wild fruit such as blackberries were also available.  
     
    Horn wrote about how poorly his fellow soldiers were armed. He described his weapon, a muzzle-loading rifle, which he used to shoot squirrels when he was back home. Some had double barrel shotguns while others had muskets or Sharps rifles. This indicates that soldiers had to provide their own arms.  
     
    In the winter of 1863, food was scarce. Soldiers and their horses and mules starved. Horn obtained permission to travel to a Native American settlement. Horn indicated that Native Americans who sided with the North were coined with the title "Pins." At the Choctaw village, he encountered an "African" who had a Native American wife. For no apparent reason but for kindness, they prepared a warm meal and offered him a place to sleep—a chance to escape the harsh winter. After several days, he departed.  
     
    At reasonable rates, the family sold him corn, hay and hens. Their acts of kindness dispelled any myth that Native Americans were ruthless savages. They not only saved his life but also those of his comrades and their animals.  
     
    In 1864, Horn was under the command of General Gano who served as a colonel under John Hunt Morgan. Brigadier General Morgan was made infamous by his 1863 "Morgan’s Raids" that resulted in heavy confederate losses. General Gano learned that a Kansas regiment of the Federal army was encamped at Ft. Smith. After marching all night, they reached their destination at daylight and a skirmish ensued. The Confederates captured sorely needed supplies, but Horn received a musket ball in the abdomen. He thought he was dying and asked that a fellow soldier assist him so he would not die by himself.  
     
    Abi Stelzer of Celina, Henry Wilson of Pear Ridge, Arkansas, Jess Douglas and Captain Haynes escorted him to safety and rendered aid. The musket ball had torn though his cartridge box, shirt and drawers and had pierced the skin but did not enter his body. Horn exclaimed, "Thank the Lord, boys, it didn’t go in." Although laid up and bruised for several days, he returned to duty. Years later, a scar was the only visible reminder of his rendezvous with death.  
     
    As the war came to a close, desertion became a challenge and Horn was assigned the responsibility of locating deserters. He did not relish this responsibility. Horn lamented, "This was hard business—to take a man away from his home while his wife and children begged and screamed for his release."  
     
    On May 15, 1865, Horn’s unit was disbanded. Horn returned to Collin County but later pursued an education in Lexington, Kentucky. He described the arduous journey to Kentucky, which involved fording rivers and enduring risky ferry rides. To help finance his education, he drove ponies from Texas to Kentucky. He eventually returned to Collin County where he farmed, taught and preached for the Disciples of Christ. He enjoyed the challenge of theological debates with representatives of other denominations. Of special note, Elder Horn preached at "colored" churches and, contrary to standard attitudes for that period, appeared not to mind associating with blacks. He died on March 7, 1936, at the age of 92.  
     
    Because Elder Horn was educated, he was able to capture and express on paper significant issues during important periods of Texas history.  
     
    The Annals of Elder Horn is a must for serious collectors of pioneer and Civil War history.  
     
    Students of history are greatly indebted to him.  
     
    If you have information regarding Elder Horn, please email me at tkeener@cityofallen.org or call me at 214-509-4911.

     
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