Alabama’s Forgotten Regiment – Dr. Jack Shackelford’s Red Rovers
Downtown Courtland Alabama plays host to an often overlooked and almost forgotten historical marker. This marker is dedicated to a group of soldiers who are slowly fading from the history books. They are known as the Red Rovers, and I am astounded by the amount of people who have never heard of them
Everyone has heard the rousing story of The Alamo which featured a virtual who’s who of early American heroes. William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett, are forever tied to the San Antonio mission where they lost their lives in the most famous battle of the Texas Revolution. Another battle shortly after involved the Red Rovers, and it went on to be called the Goliad Massacre.
The Red Rovers were a volunteer unit formed under the command of Dr. Jack Shackelford in December of 1835 in Courtland, Alabama. Texas was in the midst of revolution while breaking away from Mexico, and had requested assistance from The United States. Dr. Shackelford being a War of 1812 veteran responded to form The Red Rovers in response.
After forming in Courtland, the unit left for Texas and has the historical significance of being the first military unit to be deployed via train. After several months of travel and red tape, the unit arrived in the besieged battlefield of Texas. The unit was assigned to the defense of Fort Defiance, and went on to be heavily involved in the Battle of Coleto in which the Texian defenders would be forced to surrender.
The captured soldiers including the Red Rovers were marched to the town of Goliad. On Psalm Sunday 1836, The Mexican Army executed 340 members of the Texian Army including more than 70 members of the Alabama Red Rovers. Several doctors including Shackelford were spared for their medical experience, but even though he was spared, Jack Shackelford had to watch the execution death of his son Fortunatus. The Goliad Massacre did lead to more United States involvement in the war, leading to Texas later becoming a state.
Dr. Shackelford was later able to escape his captivity of the Mexican Army and he was honorably discharged from the United States Army returning to North Alabama where he set up a medical practice and wrote about his experience in the war. Shackelford passed away in Courtland in 1857. In 1858 Shackelford County, Texas was named in honor of Dr. Jack Shackelford and his Red Rovers.
If you ever happen to make it near the small town of Courtland, make sure to swing through downtown and visit the historic marker honoring the brave men of Dr. Shackelford’s Red Rovers who were killed much like those in the more famous Alamo.
This was originally written for my friend at Our Valley Events.
Find the original story here.