Dr. Jack Shackelford’s Red Rovers
Downtown Courtland is the site of an oft-overlooked historical marker 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 number of people who have never heard of them.
Alabama’s Forgotten Regiment
Everyone has heard the rousing story of The Alamo, which featured a “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, one that would 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 requested assistance from the United States government. Dr. Shackelford, a War of 1812 veteran, responded by forming The Red Rovers.
The unit left Courtland for Texas and became 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 was heavily involved in the Battle of Coleto, in which the Texian defenders were forced to surrender.
The captured soldiers, including the Red Rovers, were marched to the town of Goliad. On Palm Sunday 1836, the Mexican Army executed 340 members of the Texian Army, which included more than 70 members of the Alabama Red Rovers. Shackelford was one of several doctors whose lives were spared because of their medical experience, but Jack Shackelford had to watch the execution death of his son Fortunatus.
The Goliad Massacre led the United States to become more involved in the war and eventually resulted in Texas’ statehood.
Dr. Shackelford was able to escape captivity of the Mexican Army and he was honorably discharged from the United States Army. He returned 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 travel near the small town of Courtland, make sure to swing through its picturesque downtown and visit the historic marker honoring the brave men of Dr. Shackelford’s Red Rovers, who were killed much like those involved in the more famous Battle of the Alamo.
Wil Elrick hails from Guntersville, Alabama where at an early age he developed a love for both trivia and history. He has spent the last 20 odd years, fine tuning the art of communication while working in law enforcement, writing, television media, historical research, and public speaking. He lives in North Alabama with his two boys, and a neurotic German Shepherd Dog. He one day hopes that Bigfoot is proven real. Wil’s new book Alabama Scoundrels is available from History Press.