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Thomas W. Cutrer

CHRISTY, WILLIAM H. (1791–1865). William H. Christy, soldier, lawyer, merchant, and friend of the Texas Revolution, was born on December 6, 1791, in Georgetown, Kentucky, the son of George and Mary (Cave) Christy. At the age of fourteen his parents died, leaving him in possession of a large estate. Christy was studying law at the time of the outbreak of the War of 1812. He left his books and joined the staff of Gen. William Henry Harrison and was later assigned as quartermaster and storekeeper at Fort Meigs, at the falls of the Maumee River in Ohio. On May 5, 1813, he distinguished himself in a fight with Tecumseh's Indians. Although twice wounded in an ambush, Christy escaped the melee to return with reinforcements and save the lives of many of his companions. Thereafter he was known as "the hero of Fort Meigs" and on March 9, 1814, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the First United States Infantry. He served under Andrew Jackson at the battle of New Orleans, and at the end of the war he resigned from the army, on October 1, 1816, to settle in Louisiana. He became a successful tobacco merchant in New Orleans but lost his savings to a dishonest partner in 1818 and once again took up the study of the law. On June 10 of that year he married Katherine P. Cenas of Philadelphia; the couple had two sons and a daughter.

Christy was most likely the "Colonel Christy of New Orleans" who became involved in the Long expedition sometime in late 1819 or 1820. Together with John Austin and Benjamin Rush Milam, he was helping José Félix Trespalacios equip an expedition to assist the Mexican independence movement when these four men decided to join forces with James Long. The five sailed together with a group of men to Bolivar Point, near Galveston. Christy, Milam, and Trespalacios were then to sail on to Mexico, land somewhere near Tampico, and raise an army that would march north, while Long marched south from La Bahía. The history of Christy's group after their landing in Mexico is uncertain, but they were in Mexico City in October 1821 when Long and Austin arrived. After Long was killed there by a Mexican guard several months later, Christy, Milam, and Austin planned retaliation against Trespalacios, whom they held responsible for Long's death. Their plan was discovered, however, and they were imprisoned in Mexico City until about November 1821. Their release was obtained by Joel R. Poinsett, newly appointed United States envoy to Chile, who was passing through Mexico City. Christy, Milam, and Austin then sailed for the United States; they landed in Norfolk, Virginia, in December 1822.

Christy was admitted to the bar and from 1823 until 1833 served as a member of the New Orleans board of aldermen. In 1826 he completed a digest of the decisions of the Louisiana Supreme Court. By September 1835 he was chairman and treasurer of a New Orleans committee to aid Texas. He was reportedly sought out by numerous individuals interested in going there, many of whom he helped equip. On October 13, 1835, he chaired a meeting that raised money for the Texas cause. Adolphus Sterne made a plea at this meeting for volunteers, and the men who responded were organized as the New Orleans Greys. In January 1836 Christy was instrumental in helping Stephen F. Austin, Branch T. Archer, and William H. Wharton, commissioners from Texas, to secure two loans totaling $250,000. Early in 1836 the United States government charged Christy with violating the neutrality law, alleging that he had aided José Antonio Mexía's Tampico expedition in November 1835. He was acquitted by the presiding judge.

Christy claimed to have pledged a great part of his personal fortune to the cause of Texas independence. After the battle of San Jacinto his friend Sam Houston sent to Christy the saddle and bridle of Mexican general Martín Perfecto de Cos in appreciation of Christy's assistance to the revolution. Houston wrote that Christy's name would "never be uttered by the people of Texas unaccompanied by a prayer for his happiness and prosperity." Christy's continued interest in Texas was evidenced by his reported subscription in the mid-1830s to the Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company.

Christy was a staunch Whig who supported the presidential candidacy of his old commander William Henry Harrison. In 1850 he was appointed surveyor of customs at New Orleans, a position he held until 1854. He is remembered in New Orleans as one of the founders of the city's first home for orphans. He died on November 7, 1865.


John Henry Brown, History of Texas from 1685 to 1892 (2 vols., St. Louis: Daniell, 1893). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 11. Proceedings in the Case of the United States Versus William Christy (New Orleans: Levy, 1836). Telegraph and Texas Register, October 31, November 14, 1835, February 28, 1837. 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). James E. Winston, "New Orleans and the Texas Revolution," Louisiana Historical Quarterly 10 (July 1927). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Thomas W. Cutrer, "CHRISTY, WILLIAM H.," accessed July 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fch39.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 25, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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