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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"
HUNTING MISHAPS

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
By the time Sgt. Oscar Hoffman of the 23rd Infantry got stationed at Fort Clark, the Texas border was enjoying one of its periodic spells of relative quiet.

Hostile Indians no longer posed a threat. Nor did Mexican bandits. President Porfirio Diaz ruled Mexico with an iron hand, keeping outlaws and cattle thieves in check along his side of the Rio Grande. North of the river, Texas Rangers and local officers did the same. Given all that, duty at the Army post adjacent to Las Moras Springs was routine to the point of boring, but recreational opportunities did exist.

On Saturday, Sept. 14, 1895, Sgt. Hoffmann and his corporal rolled out of the fort in a buckboard for an afternoon of quail hunting.

They two off-duty soldiers traveled east on the road to San Antonio. How they did on their hunt was not later reported, but if they were any sort of shots at all, they probably had a feathery pile of quail in the back of their wagon when they headed back to the garrison. About six miles from the fort, the corporal braked the wagon so his sergeant could stand up and take in the countryside. Why the sergeant wanted to scope the scenery also was not reported, but it cost him his life.

When he sat back down, the spring-supported seat shifted. That caused his double-barreled shotgun to fall. Both barrels went off, two loads of bird shot hitting him in his thigh. He toppled from the wagon, bleeding to death in only a matter of moments.

The stunned corporal loaded Hoffman's body back in the wagon and went straight to the Kinney County courthouse in Brackettville. There, a justice of the peace ruled the death accidental.

With full military honors, the sergeant was buried in the post cemetery. He stayed there until 1946, when the Army abandoned the fort. His remains and those of everyone else buried at the fort since it's establishment in 1852 were exhumed for reburial in the National Cemetery in San Antonio.

The point? Hunting was - and still is - not a danger-free pursuit.

One of the quirkier Web sites available on the Internet is www.politicalgraveyard.com, which has a section called "Politicians Killed While Hunting or Fishing."

The page lists three prominent Texans, who like Sgt. Hoffman, died while hunting. The first Texas politico known to have lost his life while looking for game was George Washington Barnett (1793-1848). The South Carolinian had fought with the Texas Army during the Mexico Revolution and later served in the senate of the Republic of Texas. But on Oct. 8, 1848, while deer hunting near Gonzales, he became the hunted instead. A party of Lipan Apaches encountered him alone and killed him.

In the summer of 1854, Richardson A. Scurry, a former Republic of Texas soldier who served as a general during the Civil War, shot himself in the foot while hunting. The wound never completely healed, and eight years later, he died from complications.

The final well-known Texas hunting victim was Lawrence Sullivan Ross, better known as Sul Ross. His Texas Ranger company recaptured Cynthia Ann Parker in 1860, and he later served as governor from 1887 to 1891.

Seven years after leaving office, Ross was on a hunting trip along the Navasota River in East Texas when he became ill and died.

Next time you put on your camouflage and head for the hunting lease, you don't need to worry about Indians, but watch where you point that shotgun.

Mike Cox
November 28, 2003
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