Sunday, December 23, 2012
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Howell Hinds joined the Confederate Army and gave Collier his freedom papers. Collier immediately tried to join the Confederate forces alongside Hinds, but was told he was too young to fight. He ran away from the plantation and stowed away on a riverboat in the Mississippi for almost a year and then joined the 9th Texas Brigade by his own choice and served throughout the war. He finished his service as one of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s most trusted cavalry scouts, known as a superb horseman and marksman.
During the time of Reconstruction, Collier was accused of murdering a Yankee soldier, Captain James King, but was acquitted by a military tribunal in Vicksburg. King and Howell Hinds were involved in a fight and during the dispute, Hinds, though a much older man, knocked the youngster down several times. King’s anger grew with every knockdown. Finally, the thoroughly infuriated young man drew a knife on his unarmed opponent, but a bystander fired shots killing King, preventing him from drawing blood with his knife. It was never fully proven that Holt Collier was the man behind the gun. Soon after the trial, Collier left Mississippi and headed for Texas to lay low and let the controversy of the trial and King’s death blow over.
While in Texas, Collier used his skills as a horseman to work as a cowboy for one of the Lone Star State’s Founding Fathers, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, on Ross’ large ranch. Ross was one of the first Texas Rangers and eventually Governor of Texas, which adds a bit of irony to the story considering Collier was biding time waiting for a murder accusation to pass.
Who would have dreamed that the 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt and Holt Collier bear hunt near Onward, Mississippi would become famous and spawn the birth of the Teddy Bear? In January, 2004, legislation sponsored by Senator Thad Cochran and Congressman Bennie Thompson established the Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge.