William Tennant Austin, soldier and civil servant of the Republic of Texas, was born on January 30, 1809, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Susan (Rogers) and John Punderson Austin.
On December 12, 1830 Stephen F. Austin had located land on Buffalo Bayou for William, who had established a mercantile trade before the end of the month. In 1832 William was wounded in the battle of Velasco, and in 1833 his wife, child, and brother all died in a cholera epidemic. Later that year the Brazos River flooded and washed away his store.
At Harrisburg on June 4, 1835, William Austin, along with William B. Travis, signed a document protesting the Mexican enforcement of customs duties and other restrictions at Anahuac and pledged himself to overthrow Mexican authority there. As an early member of the so called war party, he joined William H. Wharton and several other citizens of the Columbia District on July 25, 1835, in calling for a general convention of all Texans. On August 15 he was appointed secretary of a meeting at Columbia, at the mouth of the Brazos, which established a committee of safety for the district and on August 20 called for a General Consultation. When Mexican general Martín Perfecto de Cos and 400 soldiers landed at Copano to suppress resistance to Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Centralist government, Austin and Branch T. Archer called for volunteers to resist him with force. On October 2, 1835, Austin and nine other volunteers, including James W. Fannin, Jr., George Sutherland, and Archer, left Columbia to reinforce the Texan insurrectionists at Gonzales, thus becoming part of the nucleus of the army with which Gen. Stephen F. Austin and Col. Edward Burleson besieged Bexar that fall and winter. On October 12 General Austin commissioned William Austin a colonel and appointed him as one of his two aides-de-camp, the other being Peter W. Grayson. When Stephen Austin left the army to become the spokesman for the Texan cause in Washington, D.C., William Austin continued his duties as aide to the new commander, Edward Burleson. In their official reports on the storming of Bexar, both Burleson and adjutant general Francis W. Johnson commended Austin; Burleson observed to Governor Henry Smith that Austin’s “conduct on this and every other occasion, merits my warmest praise.” On March 14, 1836, Sam Houston appointed Austin his aide-de-camp with the rank of major and ordered him to Columbia to requisition artillery and horses for the army.
After the war Austin, who had married Elizabeth Bertrand on January 25, 1836, returned to his Brazoria County plantation. There in 1837 he was elected clerk of the Brazoria county court and, on January 21, 1838, was appointed collector of revenue for the port of Velasco. In 1840 he was a resident of Brazoria County, but by 1848 he had moved to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where he was once again a merchant. In 1854 he was in Galveston as a commission merchant and cotton factor. During the Civil War Austin served as Confederate marshal for East Texas and was appointed a brigadier general of state troops. He was a Democrat, a Mason, and an Episcopalian. He died at Galveston on February 25, 1874.
Handbook of Texas Online, “AUSTIN, WILLIAM TENNANT“
Death of Col. Wm. T. Austin.
The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas), Thursday, Feb. 26, 1874, Page 1
ONE OF THE VETERANS OF THE TEXAS REVOLUTION.
Colonel William Tennant Austin, another of the veterans of the Texas Revolution, died at his residence in this city yesterday morning.
Colonel Austin was born in the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the thirtieth of January, 1809. His father, John P. Austin, was a man of prominence in his day, having graduated at Yale College with high honors.
After the war of 1812, the family located at Norwich, Connecticut, from which place William F. Austin (sic) emigrated to Texas in 1828 with a family consisting of a wife and one child, and became a member of Stephen F. Austin’s colony. He was successfully engaged in mercantile business until about the year 1833, when the overflow of the Brazos destroyed his goods and improvements.
In 1834 he joined the volunteer army of Texas and was attached to the military family of General Stephen F. Austin, Commander-in-Chief, as aid-de-camp. At the battle of San Antonio de Bexar, December, 1835, he served as aid-de-camp on the staff of General Edward Burleson, and on the fourteenth of March, 1836, was complimented by General Saml Houston by being assigned to duty as aid-de-camp, a position which was resigned during the following May. Nothing of special importance in the shape of military operations occurring in Texas after that time, Col. Austin located with his family in Brazoria County, on a plantation, and made continual practice of joining Indian expeditions and scouting parties on our frontiers, so long as that sort of service was necessary.
As a staff officer, Col. Austin ranked high, as may be inferred by his assignment to duty with the most distinguished of the Texan leaders. At San Antonio Bexar, at San Jacinto, and on other important battle-fields, he conducted himself with such gallantry as to challenge the admiration of his comrades, and elicit honorable mention from his superior officers. Although Col. Austin has never figured prominently upon the political stage, he has always taken a lively interest in public affairs, and his name has frequently been mentioned in connection with official positions. At the time of his death he was President of one of the Democratic ward clubs, and, notwithstanding his age, was a prompt attendant at the meetings of the same.
Upon the organization of the Agricultural and Industrial Association, of this city, he was elected Secretary, the duties of which office he continued to discharge up to the commencement of his fatal illness. The funeral of the deceased will take place from Masonic Hall this afternoon at three o’clock. All members of the fraternity, and friends, are invited to attend.