A Brave Boy and a Good Soldier: John C. C. Hill and the Texas Expedition to Mier

Book Cover Image
Mary Margaret McAllen Amberson (Author)



Winner 2007 Publications Award — San Antonio Conservation Society
Finalist 2007 Spur Award for Best Juvenile Nonfiction — Western Writers of America
Finalist 2007 Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for the Best Children's Book — Texas Institute of Letters


Shortly before his fourteenth birthday, John Christopher Columbus Hill left home with his father and older brother to join the ill-fated 1842 Texas expedition to Mier, Tamaulipas, Mexico, to end any questions over ownership of Texas. The story of John Hill's capture and subsequent adoption by President Antonio López de Santa Anna is one of the most fascinating and curious to come out of this extraordinary episode in Texas history.

After a series of escalating events, including Mexican Gen. Adrián Woll's sudden siege of San Antonio, the Texas Rangers sent out a call for volunteers. On Christmas Day, 1842, the Texans encountered the Mexican army at Mier, and the ensuing battle lasted until the next afternoon. During the fight, John Hill killed at least twelve Mexican soldiers; his brother was seriously wounded; and all of the surviving Texans were captured. John was sent back to Mexico City, while his father and brother stayed with the rest of the group.

The Texan prisoners subsequently escaped from prison and were recaptured. A furious Santa Anna demanded that they all be executed. The ensuing decision, to execute one-tenth of the group through a drawing of black beans from a jar, is one of the most legendary events in Texas history.

In Mexico City, young John Hill asked President Santa Anna to release his father and brother, who were still in prison. Santa Anna agreed, on the condition that he be allowed to adopt John and raise him in Mexico. John's father agreed, and he and John's brother returned to Texas. John stayed in Mexico City and was enrolled at the Colegio de Minería, or College of Mining, from which he graduated in 1850 with a doctorate in engineering and a degree in mining.

The story of John C. C. Hill is one of the most remarkable stories to emerge from Texas's struggle for independence. This volume, offered with an educator's guide for classroom use, will appeal to young and old readers alike.

Mary Margaret McAllen Amberson is the author of the best-selling I Would Rather Sleep in Texas: A History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the People of the Santa Anita Land Grant, published by the TSHA in 2003.