William Jarvis Russell was born 1802 in North Carolina. In May 1832 Russell was among the citizens at Anahuac who demanded of John Davis Bradburn the release of William B. Travis and Patrick C. Jack, arrested by Mexican authorities. When their release was not forthcoming, Russell accompanied John Austin to Brazoria to secure a cannon to enforce their demands. On their return to Anahuac, Austin and Russell were stopped by the garrison at Velasco commanded by Domingo de Ugartechea, who refused to allow the gun to pass. On June 22, 1832, Russell was appointed lieutenant in command of the schooner Brazoria and ordered to bombard the Mexicans from the Brazos River. At the battle of Velasco Russell is said to have fired the first shot of the Texas Revolution, on June 26, 1832. On June 29 he and William H. Wharton received the surrender of Velasco. At Harrisburg on June 4, 1835, Russell signed a petition to the Mexican government protesting what the signers felt to be the arbitrary enforcement of the customs laws at Anahuac, and on June 23, 1835, he took an active role in the formulation of the Columbia Resolutions, which called for a meeting to adopt “measures to meet the present crisis” and pledged to support the decision of the majority on how to deal with growing troubles with Mexican officials. On September 26 Russell was elected chairman of the Committee of Safety of Matagorda County, which raised a company of volunteers for Texas defense and elected delegates to the Consultation at San Felipe de Austin. Russell joined Capt. James W. Fannin’s company of Brazoria Guards in October 1835 and took part in the capture of Goliad on October 9, 1835, and the Siege of Béxar. He was on detached duty at the time of the battle of San Jacinto and was discharged from the army in July 1836.
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