While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Cecil Harper, Jr.

BURKS, JOHN C. (ca. 1835–1862). John C. Burks, lawyer and soldier, the son of Joseph H. and Winnifred B. Burks, was born in Georgia about 1835. The family moved to Clarksville, Texas, in 1846. By 1856 Burks had graduated from the law department of Cumberland University and had established a law practice in Clarksville. As the son of a prominent regional political figure, he was soon active in the Democratic party and was often called on to address political gatherings. On October 13, 1857, he married Penelope Donoho, also of Clarksville. In 1858 Burks was one of three commissioners appointed by Governor Hardin Runnels to investigate the legality of land certificates issued by county and district courts in the area of the Peters colony grant. In 1859 he announced his candidacy for the position of district attorney of the Eighth Judicial District. Shortly after his announcement he suffered a series of personal losses that prevented an active campaign. His father died in February, his seventeen-year-old wife died after childbirth in April, and his infant son died in June. He lost the four-man race. By the time of the census in the summer of 1860, Burks had apparently remarried and was living with his wife and her daughter. In June of 1861, following the outbreak of the Civil War, he helped to raise a company of volunteers, who elected him captain. The company became part of Col. William C. Young's Eleventh Texas Cavalry. When Young resigned as a result of ill health in mid-1862, Burks was promoted to colonel, and later to commander of the regiment. On December 31, 1862, he was mortally wounded while leading a charge on a Union battery at the battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Holding his hand on the wound to control the bleeding, he continued at the head of his command, urging his men forward, until he lost consciousness. In his report of the battle, Gen. Mathew D. Ector said of Burks: "a better friend, a warmer heart, a more gallant leader than he was, never drew the breath of life."

Clarksville Standard, June 18, 1853, June 28, 1856, October 31, 1857, March 27, 1858, February 19, 1859. Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Cecil Harper, Jr., "BURKS, JOHN C.," accessed July 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu36.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...