Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Curious Civil War Career of Ebenezer Allen

Most cities obtain their names from early settlers in the area or distinguished residents. However, the namesake of Allen, Texas never lived or visited the North Texas city. According to the City of Allen website,
The original township of Allen was located along the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, which was built in 1872. J.P. Morgan and Company acquired the railroad in 1877; Southern Pacific bought it in 1883. In 1918 the railroad built a freight and passenger depot in the Allen Central Business District. 
Collin County Station website reports, "Allen was founded in 1870 as a railroad stop for the Houston and Texas Railroad, connecting the railway with nearby farms." 
Anson Jones
Fourth President of Texas

This brings us to the question of who or what is the "Allen" of Allen, Texas. The Texas State Historical Association provides the following biography.

ALLEN, EBENEZER (1804–1863). Ebenezer Allen, early state official and railroad promoter, was born in Newport, New Hampshire, on April 8, 1804. Allen migrated to Texas in the 1830s. He became attorney general of Texas under Anson Jones in December 1844, served a while as secretary of state, and assisted Jones in framing the terms of annexation to the United States. He was attorney general under Governor Peter Hansbrough Bell from 1849 to 1853. In 1848 Allen was instrumental in securing the charter for the Galveston and Red River Railroad Company, and in the 1850s he was a promoter and manager of the Houston and Texas Central Railway. He supported secession and entered the Confederate service at the outbreak of the Civil War. He died in Virginia in 1863.
The brief bio reveals that Mr. Allen contributed to the State in many ways. However, the story really becomes interesting when he entered "Confederate service."
ENGINEER BUREAU, August 20, 1863.
Lieut. Gen. E. KIRBY SMITH, Comdg. Trans-Miss. Dept.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to send you the following list of men, who, by the wish of the honorable Secretary of War, are to be employed in your department on the special service of destroying the enemy’s property by torpedoes and similar inventions, vis: John Kirk, Charles Littlepage, John Silure, Robert Creuzbaur, E. Allen, W. D. Miller, and C. Williams.
These men should each be enlisted in and form part of an engineer company, but will, nevertheless, be employed, so far as possible, in the service specified above, and, when the public Interests in your judgment require it, details of additional men may be made, either from the engineer troops or from the line, to aid them in their particular duties. Their compensation will be 50 per cent. of the property destroyed by their new inventions, and all the arms and munitions captured by them by the use of torpedoes or of similar devices. Beyond this, they will be entitled to such other reward as Congress may hereafter provide.
Your obedient servant,
Lieutenant- Colonel and Acting Chief  of Bureau. 
Secretary of War
Alfred Landon Rives
in the 1850s or 1860s
This letter raises the questions of what a lawyer was doing in an engineering company? Perhaps this is not Ebenezer Allen, but some other Allen.  This is only reference in The Official Records of the War of Rebellion for Allen and the rest of his colleagues. As Chief of the Engineer Bureau, Rives' name appears on many documents concerned with constructing defenses, obtaining supplies, and other military engineering activities. There are only a few references to "torpedoes" in the Official Records. This should not be surprising considering the secret nature of these activities. These men were charged with  "destroying the enemy’s property by torpedoes and similar inventions" in other words sabotage. It is not a great leap to assume their activities might have involved spying.

The next curious development in Allen's life is his unexpected death in Richmond, Virginia.

Richmond in 1863
Ed Bryan of the Allen Heritage Guild provided a copy of the account of Ebenezer Allen’s death that appeared in the October 16, 1863 edition of The Richmond Examiner under the headline, “Sudden and Mysterious Death.”

Yesterday, about the hour of noon, a gentleman named Colonel Allen, (and concerning whom nothing more is known up to last night,) entered the Gem Saloon under the Linwood House with some friends, and partook of breakfast in their company. Wine was called for and passed around, and the company left, the gentleman named retaining his seat at the table. In a short time, one of the servants notified Mr. Gough, one of the proprietors, that the gentleman had turned blue and that he must be dying. An investigation revealed that he was really dead, and Dr. Slack, a physician who happened to be in the house, pronounced death the result of disease of the heart. Acting Coroner Sanxay was notified and reviewed the body but did not deem an inquest necessary. The body was removed by an undertaker to the corner of Franklin and 18th Street, where friends of the deceased can apply today for further information. The deceased was apparently about 40 years of age, dressed well in citizens' clothes, and had the appearance of a speculator.  
Battle of Galveston - January 1, 1863
According to an announcement of Allen's death published in the December 5, 1863 edition of the Galveston Daily News,

We regret to note the death of Colonel Ebenezer Allen of Galveston, of appoplexy [sic], in a restaurant in Richmond on the 20th ult. He was buried by the Masonic Fraternity, much respect being paid to his remains.
There are no records of where Allen was buried.

Allen's death and possible "disappearance" of his remains raises suspicions of foul play.
  • Who were the friends who ate breakfast with Allen?
  • Why did Allen remain after his friends left?
  • Why did the Acting Corner Richard D. Sanxay decide not to perform an autopsy?
  • Why is there no information about where his remains are buried?
Sanxay had some difficulties in a trial when he served as both coroner and judge in the case Forde vs. The Commonwealth. There is a Dr. Henry Richmond Slack (1835-1890) of Georgia. Could he be the "Dr. Slack" who happened to be in the Gem Saloon? It appears that the Gem Saloon was damaged during the April 15, 1865 in Richmond.

No comments: