The Black Bean Incident and the Republic of Texas

(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum and Historyrelated posts) – As a docent at the Texas Military Forces Museum, I have lead several student tours. One of the popular exhibits relates to the ‘Black Bean Incident” from the days of the Texas Republic.

I had been planning on writing about this Incident for a while. Yesterday (March 25) was the anniversary of the Incident and the Museum staff posted the video above.

Texas had defeated the Mexican Army led by Santa Anna in 1836 to win their independence. Mexican forces continued to harass the Texans in hopes of recovering needed territory.

On March 5, 1842, around 700 Mexican who had crossed into Texas took San Antonio. They soon retreated back into Mexico. Again on September 11 Mexican troops took San Antonio. This time the force was around 1400 men. This was part of an ongoing struggle between Texas and Mexico. They were fighting over the land between the Rio Grande and the Nueces rivers.

Texas President Houston dispatched the militia on November 25 to punish the Mexicans. This was also for Dawson Massacre and for financial gain. A force of more than 700 men left San Antonio. After some initial success, the expedition was abandoned. 

A group of around 300 of the militia chose to continue their raiding against orders. The privateer expedition recruited more followers from the La Grange, TX area. They headed into Mexico and contacted the Mexican Army at Ciudad Mier. This is what earned them the Mier Expedition name.

Initially, the Texans inflicted heavy casualties on the Mexicans. They surrendered after running short of supplies. The prisoners were marched back to Mexico. About 180 of them escaped, but were later recaptured.

The escaped prisoners incensed Santa Anna who ordered their execution. The United States and British diplomats interceded. Santa Anna relaxed his edict, but demanded that 1 in 10 must die.

The Mexicans filled a pot with 159 white and 17 black beans. The blindfolded prisoners drew beans. Those who drew white would remain captives. Those who drew black beans faced execution. The execution of those drawing the black beans occurred on March 25, 1843.

In 1848 the bodies of those who died in the Dawson Massacre and those who drew the black beans were recovered. They were interred south of La Grange, TX. The burial site is now part of a state park, the Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites. I have visited that park several times over the years. There is a monument there telling the story of the black beans.


In the Texas Republic portion of the 19th Century gallery of the Museum is a pot filled with beans. The visitors have the opportunity to draw their own bean to see if they would have survived. This is always popular with the students I lead on tours. Surprisingly, they seem disappointed when they draw a white bean.






Further Reading:

  1. Mier expedition
  2. The Black Bean Lottery: October ’97 American History Feature
  3. Texas History 101: The Mier Expedition
  4. Luck of the Draw

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