Josephus Somerville Irvine was born 1819 in Tennessee. In the fall of 1835 Irvine enlisted in Capt. Henry W. Augustine’s company and participated in the Siege of Béxar. He again volunteered for the Texas army in March 1836 and served in a company from Sabine County under Capt. Benjamin Franklin Bryant. With Col. Sidney Sherman’s Second Regiment he fought in the battle of San Jacinto; it is possible that he was the youngest Texas soldier in that battle. Irvine was discharged about May 1 but enlisted a third time on July 4, 1836, and served for three months in Capt. William Scurlock’s company from San Augustine. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Irvine raised and was captain of a company that became Company C of James B. Likens’s battalion of Texas Volunteers. After a reorganization of the battalion, it was designated the Eleventh or Spaight’s Battalion of Texas Volunteers, and Irvine was elected major. He led his troops in the battle of Fordoche or Stirling’s Plantation in southern Louisiana on September 29, 1863, where his son, James Patton Irvine, was killed. Ill with yellow fever, Irvine resigned his commission in December 1864. He died May 17, 1876, and was buried at Wilson’s Chapel, Newton County. A state marker was erected on his grave in 1963.
He is quoted in the 1872 Texas Almanac as writing:
Editors Texas Almanac: At your request I propose giving you a short sketch of my life, as connected with the Texas war of independence.
I was born on the 25th of August, 1819, in Lawrence county, Tennessee, where I lived until I was eleven years old. In 1830 my father left Tennessee for the purpose of finding a home in what was then called the Province of Texas.
On our way from Tennessee to Texas, at Alexandria, Louisiana, my father died with yellow fever, leaving my mother with five children, (all boys,) strangers in a strange land, without a dollar of money in the world; but by picking out cotton for a planter, near Alexandria, we obtained money enough to bring us to Texas.
If my memory is not at fault, it was on the eleventh day of November, 1830, we first placed our feet upon Texas soil. My mother purchased a tract of land in what is now Sabine county, near where the town of Milam is situated, where she resided until 1834. She then moved to Ayish District, now San Augustine county, where we were living when the memorable struggle for independence began.
In the fall of 1835, a call was made for volunteers. My brother-in-law, James Perkins, and my oldest brother, R. B. Irvine, both now dead, volunteered. The writer of this, then in his seventeenth year, expressed a desire to “go to the war.” His mother consented; he volunteered; joined a company from San Augustine, commanded by Capt. H. W. Augustin, subsequently by Capt. George English, joined the army under the command of Gen. Stephen F. Austin, at Mission Concepcion, near the town of San Antonio, and for the first time in life became a soldier. I returned home during the winter, and remained at my mother’s until March, 1836, about which time the news reached the Red Lands that Santa Anna, with his murderous legions, were on the march for Texas. An urgent call was made for volunteers. My brother James T. P. Irvine and myself, enlisted in a company from Sabine county, commanded by Capt. Benjamin Bryant. In March, 1836, our company started for the seat of war; found and joined the Texas army under the command of Gen. Sam Houston at Groce’s ferry, on the Brazos river; was with the army in its forced march from Groce’s to San Jacinto, where we came up with, saw, and conquered Santa Anna. I was in the division or regiment commanded by the brave, intrepid Col. Sherman.
After the battle of San Jacinto, I was discharged and returned to my mother’s home, where I remained until July, 1836, when the startling news again reached us in Eastern Texas, that the Mexicans, in overwhelming force, were on the march again to invade our peaceful homes, and stain again the soil of our beloved Texas with the blood of her noble sons. A call was made for volunteers; myself and my next younger brother (William D. Irvine) volunteered, joined a company raised in San Augustine county, commanded by Capt. Wm. Scurlock. We joined the Texas army, under the command of Gen. Thos. J. Rusk, on the Coleto, a few miles west of the town of Victoria. No Mexicans came; therefore, we had no fighting to do; served our three months, were discharged and returned to our homes. Thus ended my services as soldier in the armies of Texas, during her struggle for independence.
Permit me here to relate an anecdote, in order to show the spirit that actuated the people, particularly the women of Texas, during the dark and gloomy days of 1836.
Some ladies from San Augustine, visiting at my mother’s house, one of them said to her: “I don’t see, Mrs. Irvine, how you can consent to let your boys go to the army so much; you have five boys and four of them are gone nearly all the time to the army.” The old lady replied: “I have but one thing to regret.” “What is that?” asked the lady. “It is,” replied my mother, “that instead of four boys, I am sorry that I have not forty sons to send to the army to fight for my country.”
J. S. IRVINE.