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John P. Blair

SALTER RIFLES, TEXAS VOLUNTEER GUARD (1880–1882). The Salter Rifles of Calvert, composed of African American men, was an officially state-recognized militia company that was activated for crowd control in April 1880. The Salter Rifles, named for prominent citizen and state legislator Charles P. Salter, organized on January 2, 1880, at Calvert in Robertson County. The company elected D. Strouther (or Strother) as its first commanding officer and reported on its roll a first and second lieutenant, four sergeants, four corporals, and thirty-five privates for a total of forty-six men. Joe Sapp, a local farmer, received his commission as second lieutenant on January 24, 1880.

On April 16, 1880, in Calvert, Richard Knight, an African American also known as William “Bill” Walker, was scheduled to be hanged for the murder of James Monroe, who had been killed during a robbery attempt in August 1876. With the gallows erected about one-half mile outside the southwest limits of the city, reportedly 5,000 people came to witness the execution. The crowd was so large that the Dallas Daily Herald reported “the Sheriff had to call out two detachments of the military companies to push the crowd back with bayonets and stand with fixed bayonets until the execution was over.” The Galveston Daily News received a special telegram from Calvert reporting that the “Calvert Guards [the city’s white company] and Salter Rifles were out to preserve the peace, and rendered great service in keeping the crowd back from the gallows.” Accompanying Knight to the platform as the condemned’s spiritual leader was Reverend Andrew M. Gregory, the commanding officer of the Hubbard Rifles, Waco’s African American militia company.

When the First Regiment Colored Infantry, Texas Volunteer Guard, was created on May 20, 1880, the Salter Rifles became Company G, and Captain Strouther was selected as the regiment’s adjutant. Joe Sapp commanded the company as second lieutenant until the election of Captain S. M. Deckard (or Deckhard) and C. C. Goodwin (or Godwin) as first lieutenant. Both these men received their commissions from the governor in August 1880. 

No records of the Salter Rifles beyond the adjutant general’s Annual Report have been located. Furthermore, information on Strouther, Deckard, and Goodwin remains elusive.


Dallas Daily Herald, April 17, 1880. Galveston Daily News, April 17, 1880. “List of Companies Complying with Militia Revised Statutes,” Texas Volunteer Guard Records, Texas Adjutant General’s Department, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Texas, Austin, December 31, 1880 (Galveston: News Book and Job Office, 1881). Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Texas, December 31, 1882 (Austin: E.W. Swindells, State Printer, 1883).

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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, John P. Blair, "SALTER RIFLES, TEXAS VOLUNTEER GUARD," accessed May 24, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qjsal.

Uploaded on December 10, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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