Walter Paye Lane's Grave

Marshall, Texas



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19th Century Shining Star:

Ranger Walter Paye Lane

by Stephen L. Moore

In his broad Texas military service from private soldier to Confederate brigadier general, Walter Lane was hell on horses. In a colorful combat career spanning nearly three decades, this early Texas Ranger had at least ten mounts shot out from under him while charging across battlefields.

Born in Ireland on February 18, 1817, Walter Paye Lane came to Texas during the revolution of 1836 and quickly carved his name deeply into Lone Star State history. He joined a volunteer company in March, obtaining "a fine horse, double-barreled gun, and a brace of pistols." Sent ahead with dispatches, Lane joined General Sam Houston's Texas Army at the Brazos River.

By April 16, young Walter Lane had joined Captain Henry Karnes' Texas cavalry company. Four days later, he and famed Texian scout "Deaf" Smith reconnoitered General Santa Anna's Mexican campground, counting tents and estimating troop strength until taken under fire.

That afternoon of April 20, Lane was among sixty-eight cavalrymen who volunteered under Colonel Sidney Sherman to engage the Mexican troops. Lane's military claims show that, during this action, he was "wounded by a Mexican soldier by being knocked off his horse by a lance at the battle of San Jacinto." Lane was rescued by his fellow cavalrymen. Now horseless, he fought in the main historic San Jacinto battle on April 21 as an infantryman of Captain William Patton's company.

Within three days of the great Texian victory, Lane secured a new horse and was promoted to second lieutenant of Captain Karnes' cavalry. He served through July 16, 1836. Lane lost his second horse during an Indian battle on October 8, 1838, known as the Surveyor's Fight (in present Navarro County).

Several days after departing Old Franklin with a twenty-five-man surveying party, Lane noted that a number of Indians were keeping a close watch on their work: "One of them stuck to me like a leech, and succeeded in begging a piece of tobacco from me." After taking some of Lane's tobacco, this Indian walked back to a ravine some fifty yards away. Suddenly, about forty Indians arose and fired into the Texian surveying party, killing some of their horses and wounding several men.

Along the banks of Battle Creek, a desperate fight prevailed throughout this day. The surveyors fought valiantly over the next twelve hours, but by midnight, only ten Texans were alive and five of them were wounded. Only two or three horses remained. The most severely wounded men were loaded on the horses, and the men tried to race under the moonlight for the safety of some nearby timber. The remaining horses and three Texans were killed during the escape attempt.

Four of the surviving Texans were wounded, including Walter Lane. "I was shot through the calf of the leg, splintering the bone and severing the 'leaders' that connected with my toes." Lane and several of his comrades hid in the thicket while the Indians searched for them. "They passed us by, so closely that I could have put my hands on any of their heads."

Lane returned to San Augustine to recover from his near-fatal first Indian fight. In July 1839, he joined Captain William Kimbro's company for the Cherokee War of East Texas, narrowly missing the major battle with Chief Bowles that occurred west of present Tyler.

Lane worked as a merchant in San Augustine for several years. In 1843, he sold out of his mercantile business and went to San Antonio. There is where he first met up with some of Captain Jack Hays' Texas Rangers. He made several unofficial scouts with them over the next two years until the Mexican War broke out.

In June 1846, the First Regiment of Texas Mounted Riflemen was formed under Colonel Jack Hays. His old Ranger company (now Hays' Company B) came under the command of Captain Christopher B. "Kit" Acklin and First Lieutenant Walter P. Lane. Acklin's company was mustered in on June 6, consisting of seventy-three men who had been recruited primarily from Point Isabel near the Rio Grande. When Captain Acklin stepped aside temporarily, Lieutenant Lane briefly commanded this unit from August 1 - September 12, 1846.

During the Mexican War, five more of Lane’s horses were killed while he was charging into various battles. During the Battle of Monterrey on September 22, he commanded a detachment of men in the storming of Bishop's Palace. Colonel Hays' regiment was discharged after six months' service and returned to Texas.

Lane next joined Major Michael Chevallie's battalion of Texas Mounted Volunteers in February 1847. Of the original three companies, Captain Walter Lane of Company A was senior unit commander. He remained in federal service through June 30, 1848, and was promoted to major of this battalion on September 27, 1847.

General John Wool often used Major Lane's Rangers as scouts who patrolled in advance of the United States troops. Lane led his rangers on a major raid against Mexican guerrillas who were attacking American supply wagons. At Cerralvo, he and his men captured guerrilla chief Juan Flores, who was given a speedy trial and executed.

Major Lane and U.S. General Zachary Taylor did not see eye to eye on how to handle certain situations. When one of Lane's Rangers killed a fleeing Mexican horseman near the town of Madelina, Taylor placed Major Lane under arrest. One of the U.S. regulars who had accompanied Lane on this mission finally confirmed to General Taylor that Lane's Rangers had acted properly. "Old 'Rough and Ready' sent for me," recalled Lane, "relieved me from arrest, and made a grumbling kind of apology that he had been too hasty." According to Lane, General Taylor did not care much for the Texas Rangers or any Texas volunteers, remarking: "On the day of battle, I am glad to have Texas soldiers with me, for they are brave and gallant; but I never want to see them before or afterwards, for they are too hard to control."

While scouting near La Encantada, Lane and about sixty of his Texans encountered some one hundred and twenty Comanches who had stolen hundreds of Mexican horses and mules. Lane's battalion pursued the Indians for more than three hours, gradually overtaking them. The Comanche leader, sporting a red and white scarf tied around his neck and arm, finally turned his Indians into battle line to fight Lane's men. During the ensuing fight, Major Lane killed one Comanche who was about to finish off a wounded Ranger. "Being at full speed, I shot the Indian through the breast, and, running my horse against him, knocked him a distance of ten feet." At least thirty Comanches were killed in this fight, and a number more were wounded. Lane lost four Rangers killed and fourteen wounded.

During the return from one scouting mission in Mexico, Major Lane took his men to the prison at Salado where the Texan Mier Expedition prisoners had been executed five years before. His Rangers retrieved the bones of those unfortunate Texans who had drawn the fatal black beans from a jar of colored beans. Lane had their bones transported back to La Grange in Texas for a proper burial.

After the Mexican War, Lane returned to Virginia for several months to visit relatives. He went west in 1849 to try his luck in the California gold mines. "I mined there four years, with varied success, sometimes having thousands and again flat broke," he wrote.

When the Civil War broke out, Lane was a merchant working a store in Marshall, Texas. He joined Colonel Elkanah Greer's Third Texas Cavalry and was elected its lieutenant colonel. At the battle of Oak Hill (also known as Wilson's Creek) in Missouri on August 10, 1861, Lieutenant Colonel Lane lost his eighth horse during a charge on one of the Union Army's batteries.

Lane's next big fight was known as Chustenalah and was waged against the Pin Indians in the winter of 1861-1862. During this time, Lane had yet another horse killed out from under him. On March 7, 1862, General Ben McCullough was killed in the battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas. Lieutenant Colonel Lane lost his tenth horse during this engagement.

During his regiment's reorganization in May 1862, Lane declined an election to become colonel of the Third Texas Cavalry. He continued to lead the regiment for another month. His men were cited by General P. G. T. Beauregard for their valor at the Battle of Franklin, Mississippi.

Walter Lane returned to Texas to organize the First Texas Partisan Rangers, which went on to fight in Louisiana during 1863 and 1864. He was seriously wounded by three shots at the Battle of Mansfield on April 8, 1864, his last major combat of the Civil War. After recovery, he rejoined his regiment at Hempstead, Texas, and rose to the rank of brigadier general before the war's end.

After the war, Lane resumed his mercantile business in Marshall, Texas. He also served as a deputy federal marshal and helped found the Texas Veterans Foundation.

Following his death on January 28, 1892, General Lane's was the first military funeral held in Marshall. Governor James Hogg ordered the flag lowered to half-mast on the Texas Capitol in his honor. In 1893, Lane's fellow Marshall citizens erected a ten-foot stone-and-marble grave marker at his burial site. Moved to serve, destined to lead, and hell on horses, Walter Paye Lane was a true Texas patriot.

Many have asked why the Orange Camp 1745 is named for W.P. Lane when there is another camp in Longview named after him, and Lane's ties are to Marshall.  The answer is with the charter members of Orange Camp 1745; they voted to name the camp to honor Lane.  The details might be lost, but we suspect that many of the veterans who lived in Orange after the war had either served with Lane or knew of him, and respected Lane so much that they chose him as the Camp's namesake. 
   The current members of Camp 1745 are proud to continue honoring W.P. Lane.

A History of Orange

***  Walter P. Lane's description of the Battle of San Jacinto:

***  TSHA Handbook of Texas Online article about Gen. Lane:

***  An old newspaper clipping:

***  Randy's Texas page:


Battle of Pea Ridge
or Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas
MARCH 6 - 8, 1862

No. 40.

Report of Lieut. Col. Walter P. Lane, Third Texas Cavalry.

Camp Wigfall, March 18, 1862.

COLONEL: Amid the confusion and active operation in the reorganization of the army I have been so much occupied as to preclude an  earlier report of the action of the South Kansas- Texas Regiment after you were called from its command by the much-lamented death of our gallant Generals McCulloch and McIntosh. The only object I now have in view is to furnish a necessary page to the history of the battles of the 6th, 7th, and 8th instant.

After the command had devolved upon you, on Friday evening, and when it was supposed that the enemy would attempt to force its way through our lines to the Telegraph road, which would have thrown them in the rear of General Price's division of the army, I drew my regiment up immediately north of the center of the enemy's column, and anxiously held that position until near sunset, when the order was given to move northward to a suitable point for camping.

Although my men were almost exhausted by the fatigue, loss of sleepy and hunger, consequent upon the three days' and nights' forced march and the wearing and action of the day, they retired from the field with reluctance. Having encamped upon the side of a mountain near the enemy's line---indeed, in plain view of their camp-fires--we were constantly in hearing of the rumbling of the enemy's artillery as it passed from the battle-field of the 7th--where the brave Texan ranger, McCulloch, gave himself up as a sacrifice to his country's good--to join the forces opposed to General Price, and remained in sleepless vigilance until 1 a.m., at which time, by your order, we took up the line of march for General Price's encampment.

About an hour before daylight Saturday morning we reached the right of Price's column on Sugar Creek, and there, for the first time in forty-eight hours, my soldiers were permitted to snatch a few moments of troubled sleep, only to be aroused by the deep-toned thunder of forty cannons soon after sunrise.

The soldiers of my command impatiently awaited orders to move forward, and the alacrity with which they obeyed the first summons indicated the patriotic purpose of each one to discharge fully his duty in driving back the deluded bigots who had invaded our soil. Silently and with stern resolve did they form for battle, and many a brave heart chafed with anxious zeal during the heavy firing which occurred near the Elkhorn Tavern.

When the order was given to fall back not one of those composing my command supposed for a moment that a retreat was contemplated, nor were they undeceived until the order came from General Van Dorn for the South Kansas-Texas Regiment to cover the retreat of the army. It was the impression of' the general that the enemy's cavalry would attempt an attack upon our rear, on the broad mountain-flat over which we were then passing. So soon as I received the orders I formed my command in battle line upon the right and left of the road, in hearing of the enemy's shouts, and thus held the position taken until the rear of the army passed. As regiment after regiment passed slowly by no indication of alarm or knowledge of defeat could be discerned.

It is due to the gallant soldiers composing that squadron that I should state that two companies of Colonel Cooper's regiment, commanded by Captain Welch and aided by Adjutant Lee, promptly formed with my command and remained with me during the day. I must also mention the conduct of Captain MacDonald, of the Missouri Army, and his gallant artillery corps, who remained with me during the entire day. The defeat of our army was barren of results to the enemy, as they were too badly crippled to pursue us a mile.

Upon the evening of the third day I was ordered across to Huntsville, to protect a portion of our artillery and a large train of wagons captured from the enemy. This duty, in conjunction with Colonel Gates' regiment, Missouri troops, was performed safely, although my men and horses were nearly exhausted. To the officers and men of my command I feel profoundly grateful for the gallant discharge of every duty devolved upon them, and commend them individually and collectively to the Government.

I have the honor to remain, yours, most respectfully,

     W. P. LANE,
     Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Regiment.


    Col. E. GREER,
    Commanding South Kansas-Texas Regiment.