Ivor G. H. Wilks

REES, JOHN (ca. 1810–?). John Rees (Jack the Fifer), participant in the Texas Revolution and the south Wales uprising of 1839, was born in Wales to working-class parents, probably around 1810. He immigrated to North America and was in New Orleans in October 1835, when he volunteered for service in Texas with the Second Company of the New Orleans Greys. He took part in the siege of Bexar from December 5 through 10, 1835, and remained with his company when camp was established at Goliad the next month. In March 1836 a numerically superior Mexican force under Gen. José de Urrea accepted the surrender of the troops at Goliad from Col. James W. Fannin, Jr. Of approximately 400 prisoners of war, Rees was one of the twenty-eight who escaped the massacre ordered by Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna. He was recaptured but was released in April or May 1836, after the Mexican defeat at San Jacinto. He rejoined the army and took an honorable discharge on October 10. He claimed his arrears of pay and land-bounty entitlements, all of which he immediately sold, and took a return passage to England. There he worked for a time in London and Manchester before resettling in Wales.

In 1839 he was employed as a mason at the Tredegar Ironworks in south Wales. The period was one of extreme turbulence. Rees became involved in the insurrectionary workers' movement organized under the cover of Chartism. Because of his previous military experience he was chosen to lead the attack on Newport, Monmouthshire, on November 3–4, 1839. The town was well defended by soldiers of the Forty-fifth Regiment of Foot, and the insurgents suffered heavy losses in the fighting. Slightly wounded and with a price on his head for high treason, Rees evaded capture and crossed the Atlantic once again. In 1843 he was in Virginia but had already secured a commission in the Army of the Republic of Texas, an opportunity readily available to veterans of the war of 1835–36.

The loss of army records by fire in 1855 makes it difficult to trace Rees's career further. In 1852, however, he took up a donation land grant of 640 acres to which, as a veteran, he had become entitled by an act of the Texas Congress of 1837. In March 1853 the land was located and patented to him. It was on Hampton Creek, about three miles southwest of the site of present-day Mullin.

Harbert Davenport, "Men of Goliad," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (July 1939). William Kennedy, Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas (London: Hastings, 1841; rpt., Fort Worth: Molyneaux Craftsmen, 1925). Thomas L. Miller, Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1835–1888 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). Ivor G. H. Wilks, South Wales and the Rising of 1839 (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1984).

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Handbook of Texas Online, Ivor G. H. Wilks, "REES, JOHN," accessed May 26, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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