A silver mounted buffalo horn from a Texas buffalo shot the year before the historic Battle of the Alamo and presented by a Texas land owner, southern planter, and U.S. Military officer who witnessed the Texas Revolution is truly in a class of its own. Historic artifacts from 1830s Texas and the Texas Revolution are extremely rare, and those with documentable history are particularly scarce and desirable. On top of this, western buffalo powder horns themselves are also very hard to come by, and American powder horns with silver mounts are hard to find in general, regardless of the source of the horn itself. This historic buffalo powder horn is certainly one of the finest early Texas associated powder horns in existence, if not the finest, and is a tremendous piece of Texas and American history. This distinctive western style powder horn measures 14 inches around the outside curve, 10 1/3 across the curve, and has a 3 ½ by 3 1/3 inch base cap. The main body is a dark brown buffalo horn. It is fitted with a threaded brass spout, silver bands, suspension rings, oak leaf and acorns on the center band, a silver base cap engraved with a detailed scene of a hunter shooting one of a pair of buffalo from a perch in a tree, and a pair of presentation inscribed silver plaques: one inscribed "Presented by J. Darrington/to Col. Wade Hampton." and the other inscribed "The Horn of the Buffalo killed/by Col. John Darrington, on the upper Brassos, 1835." The silver base cap alone is spectacular. The detailing of the engraving is particularly noteworthy as it shows Colonel Darrington in a gentleman hunter's attire in a tree taking a shot at one of two running buffalo with his percussion “Plains rifle.” The buffalo themselves are of note given they appear more like shaggy cattle than an actual buffalo. Prior to George Catlin’s famous paintings from the 1830s and 1840s from the West, few Americans had actually seen an accurate representation of a buffalo, let alone seen one in person, and representations of buffalo in art are thus generally inaccurate based on written or oral descriptions of the massive beasts of the plains. The detailing of the oak leaf and acorn band in the center is also interesting, given the prevalence of oak leaves and acorns in German art and the influx of German immigrants into Texas in the 19th century starting in the 1830s. Oaks are symbols of courage, strength, and hardiness, appropriate motifs for a horn presented by a former military officer to his comrade. The fact that the horn is clearly inscribed as taken from a buffalo shot by Colonel Darrington on the Upper Brazos in 1835 is also very significant given that year marks the beginning of the Texas Revolution and pre-dates the famous Battle of the Alamo in February-March 1836. The Upper Brazos region was truly a dangerous frontier in the 1830s and marked the boundary with the Comanche Nation. The Comanche warriors were a terrifying threat for those settling in Texas and frequented the Brazos. Their raids against the Texas settlements directly led to the formation of the famous Texas Rangers, and a running battle between the Comanche and the Texas Rangers is famously memorialized in the roll-scene on Colt’s Walker and Dragoon Revolvers. The fact that a southern gentleman like Darrington came out to the Upper Brazos to hunt a buffalo is a clear demonstration of his interest in the Texas frontier along with his personal bravery, sense of adventure, and keen interest in hunting. The inscriptions indicate the horn was presented by Colonel John Darrington (1786-1855) to Colonel Wade Hampton II (1791-1858). Both men were well-educated wealthy southern planters from South Carolina in the antebellum era and served in the U.S. Military in the early 19th century, including together during the War of 1812 under Hampton's father, General Wade Hampton I (early 1750s to 1835) at the Battle of the Chateauguay on October 26, 1813, near Ormstown, Quebec, Canada. Darrington was then a lieutenant colonel and the commanding officer of the 4th U.S. Infantry, and the younger Hampton had become a lieutenant in the dragoons in 1811. After his father resigned in 1814, the younger Hampton served as General Andrew Jackson's acting inspector general and aide during the Battle of New Orleans, and helped prepare the American defenses, and then personally rode to Washington, D.C. to share the news of the American victory. Both the Wade Hampton II and Darrington submitted depositions on General Hampton's behalf in a case relating to the false imprisonment of a British spy/smuggler. The elder Hampton had previously led the U.S. troops that crushed the German Coast Slave Insurrection of 1811 in Louisiana. This bloody incident was the first time Federal troops were used to put down a slave insurrection and also the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. Darrington, serving under Hampton, is reported as making the first contact with the rebelling slaves. General Wade Hampton I, a veteran of the American Revolution, was by many estimates the wealthiest slaveholder in the United States at the time of his death on February 4, 1835. Darrington was also a wealthy slaveholder and plantation owner and had inherited much of the family wealth upon the death of his brother Thomas. In the 1830s, he was primarily living at his plantation near Grovehill, Clarke County, Alabama. In 1835, he expanded his reach into the tumultuous Texas frontier. On March 24, McKinney & Williams bought the land that became known as the Darrington Plantation on the Brazos River in Brazoria County, Texas, for $3,028 for Darrington. The Darrington Plantation itself is historically significant as the land was originally owned by David Tally, one of Stephen F. Austin's original 300 families of settlers. Darrington was taxed in the Republic of Texas in 1837, as shown in the scans of tax rolls for that year, and among the neighboring land owners was Thomas J. Rusk, Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas. Darrington continued to own the Texas plantation until selling it in April 1848. He died at his plantation in Alabama on September 12, 1855. Based on the powder horn as well as period documentation, Darrington clearly traveled to and visited his Texas plantation in the mid-1830s and shot at least one buffalo and also witnessed some of the affairs of the Texas Revolution. This is confirmed by U.S. Military correspondence from the period reprinted in the Congressional Globe on May 16, 1836, and other period publications. Writing from New Orleans on April 25, 1836, Major General Alexander Macomb wrote about the situation in the ongoing war between the Texans and Mexican military and indicated he had met with “Colonel Darrington, who was formerly in the army, and who gave me the information you will find in the enclosed…” The attachment reads, “FROM TEXAS: ‘Colonel Darrington informs us that General Houston was encamped on the west of the Brazos, at Groce’s, a very strong position, with an aggregate force of about twenty-five hundred men, and daily increasing…Texas is broken up, and all the women and children are fleeing, and in the most deplorable condition. The inhabitants of Natchitoches have subscribed largely, and sent many supplies for the relief of the fugitives. On the 14th of April Nacogdoches was safe, but deserted. On the 1st of April Colonel Darrington left the body of fugitives in the fork between Navasoto and Brazos, in Robinson’s colony. The Indians are openly hostile in the neighborhood, and should the Navasoto continue up, the inhabitants are at the mercy of the Mexicans…As to the gathering of the Indians on the Sabine, Colonel Darrington says he knows nothing, and thinks there is no cause for the destruction and breaking up of Nacogdoches. ‘He met between the Sabine and Brazos five hundred men on their way to Houston’s camp.’” By the 1830s, Darrington and the Hampton family were clearly well-acquainted, having run in the same elite social circle in South Carolina and serving together in the U.S. Military during the War of 1812. They also shared interests in hunting and horse racing. He clearly also spent time on his holdings in Texas, and may have sent the horn on to his old comrade in 1835 or 1836 during the excitement of the Texas Revolution. In early 1835, Wade Hampton II would have become the patriarch of his powerful South Carolina family upon his father's death, and he was active in the management of his vast holding, but as a wealthy gentleman also had the leisure time to pursue his interests in hunting and horse racing. He is often referred to in sporting articles from the period as Colonel Wade Hampton. The buffalo horn powder horn certainly seems a fitting gift from a former comrade and old friend as he became the family patriarch. Though he died in 1858 prior to the Civil War, the Hamptons remained a wealthy and powerful family with Wade Hampton III (1818-1902) as its patriarch. He too was an avid outdoorsman and hunter, and had been raised to be a Southern gentleman and planter. He served in the South Carolina General Assembly and Senate prior to the Civil War. He resigned and became a colonel like his father and grandfather as the leader of "Hampton's Legion" and rose during the Civil War to the rank of lieutenant general. After the war, he was returned to his role as a political leader in South Carolina as governor and U.S. Senator, and was also appointed U.S. Railroad Commissioner by President Grover Cleveland.
Fine overall. The silver has attractive aged patina and distinct designs and inscriptions. The brass spout is a very nice professional replacement. The horn body has some insect damage, but is otherwise in fine condition and presents very well. Overall, this is a fascinating silver mounted Texas buffalo powder horn presented by a Southern "planter" and veteran military officer to another prominent antebellum era planter and former comrade. The fact that this horn was taken in 1835, the same year as the beginning of the Texas Revolution, is incredibly exciting and helps make this incredible powder horn a truly "priceless treasure" of both Texas and the American South during the time of expansion in the 1830s.
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