The Ben Milam Cypress has quite a history. Located on San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk, the Ben Milam Cypress can be found between E. Commerce and East Houston Streets on the east bank of the San Antonio River in downtown San Antonio. Who was Ben Milam, and why is this tree so important?
Ben Milam was a native of Kentucky and a veteran of the War of 1812. He came to Texas via New Orleans. He made a living trading with Comanche Indians along the Colorado River. Eventually he began working with the revolutionaries who were seeking their independence from Spain. This did not bring good fortune to Milam. He was imprisoned in Mexico City but later released through the efforts of the U.S. minister. He returned to Mexico after its independence from Spain in 1824. He was now technically a Mexican citizen and became a colonel in the Mexican army that year.
By the year 1835, Milam was back in Mexico seeking titles for those who had settled in the dual states of Coahuila y Texas. Unfortunately, he had bad timing. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had just overthrown the new government of Mexico. He established a dictatorship. Milam was captured and was again imprisoned, but this time in Monterrey.
Colonel Milam escaped the Mexican prison in Monterrey. We are not sure how. He crossed the Rio Grande in October of 1835. It was by chance that he discovered the troops under command of George Collinsworth. This is when he became aware of the Texan Revolution. Milam, who was serving as a private in this new war, helped capture Goliad and marched with the army against San Antonio. It was held by Gen. Martin Perfecto de Cos and his troops.
Milam became discouraged to find out that many of the Revolutionary Army troops decided to abandon the attack on San Antonio until springtime. Milam made a plea to the troops, asking “Who will go with Old Ben Milam into Bexar (San Antonio is in Bexar County)?” Three hundred volunteered and the siege began on December the 5th at dawn.
As you can imagine General Cos was not happy. During the house-to-house fighting, Milam entered the backyard between the Veramendi Palace and the river to confer with Francis W. Johnson. As he crossed the high-walled courtyard, he was hit in the head with a rifleball and killed instantly. The Mexican sniper used a twin cypress tree to conceal himself from Milam and other Texians. The tree became famous as the Ben Milam Cypress.
Maybe your tree isn’t historic – yet, but we still find it important. Give us a call at Austin Tree Service at 512-341-8888 and we’ll help you keep your tree healthy. We can’t wait to hear from you.