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BANTA, WILLIAM (1827–?). William Banta, Indian fighter, Civil War soldier, and autobiographer, was born in Warrick County, Indiana, on June 23, 1827, the son of Isaac and Elizabeth (Barker) Banta. The family immigrated to Texas in 1839 and settled briefly at Clarksville in Red River County. The following year they moved to Lamar County; they finally settled on Bullard Creek, not far from Bonham in Fannin County, where Isaac Banta was the county's first justice of the peace. In 1843 he sold his headright and moved to South Sulphur, where he assisted in organizing Hunt County. William Banta moved to Austin in 1849, then to Burnet, where he married Lucinda Hairston on March 4, 1850. They had fourteen children.

Banta organized and commanded the first company of minutemen in Burnet County and participated in nearly every engagement against Indians in the region throughout the 1850s. He saw service on the Texas frontier during the Civil War as lieutenant, then captain, of Company A of the Frontier Regiment. In the spring of 1864 he was stationed at Camp Davis in Gillespie County, where he attempted to enforce the law when a series of murders, robberies, and outrages perpetrated by bushwhackers, state troops of the Third Frontier District, and men of the Frontier Regiment, excited the populace of Gillespie and Kendall counties into a frenzy. Banta's participation in the arrest and execution of an outlaw in Gillespie County led to his arrest. He and six other men were incarcerated in Fredericksburg. Maj. James Hunter, commander of state troops of the Third Frontier District, wrote to Governor Pendleton Murrah and requested that he be allowed to send the men to prison in Austin or San Antonio. Shortly afterward, an armed group of more than 200 men rode into Fredericksburg and overcame the twelve-man guard stationed at the jail. They pushed their way into the stone jail and opened fire upon the prisoners, who were located in two small rooms separated by a hallway. They killed one of the prisoners instantly and critically wounded four others, two of whom died the next day. Banta survived the episode but was badly wounded in both legs. With J. W. Caldwell he wrote an account of his life in Texas, Twenty-Seven Years on the Texas Frontier, published in 1893.


Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day, eds., Texas Indian Papers (4 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1959–61; rpt., 5 vols., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966).

David Paul Smith


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

David Paul Smith, "BANTA, WILLIAM," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 26, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.