Isaac Ryan
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Lake Charles is Proud of Its Alamo Hero

By W. T. Block

As the first ray of sunlight glimmered above the San Antonio horizon on that fateful day of March 6, 1836, a voice shouted out: “Wake up, Ike! The Mexicans are coming over the North Wall.” Isaac Ryan was dreary-eyed for lack of sleep; nevertheless, he grabbed his loaded musket and dropped a nearby Mexican soldier in front of him. He was preparing to thrust a knife into another soldier when he was stabbed in the back by a Mexican bayonet, and Ike fell dead not far from the body of Colonel Travis. By 8 o’clock that morning, only an eerie silence permeated the atmosphere above 188 Texian (sic) bodies. 

Isaac Ryan was born on March 1, 1805 at Perry’s Ferry, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, the son of John Jacob Ryan, Sr., and Marie Hargrove. At age twelve, he moved with his parents to the vicinity of Lake Charles (the lake, not the town) in 1817. By 1834, there were a host of neighbors living nearby, including his brother-in-law, Thomas Rigmaiden, Thomas Bilbo, Charles Sallier, Jacob Ryan, Jr.; Arsene LeBleu, and several other families, who raised cattle and cotton.

In 1980, a descendent, Marie Ryan, claimed that Ike Ryan had ridden “one of his father’s lumber schooners to Galveston,” and in either “Dec. 1835 or Jan. 1836,” was recruited by William Barret Travis at San Felipe to go to San Antonio.

This is a myth, for there was no Galveston until 1837, at which time it was only a tent city. There is every indication that Ryan was in New Orleans, when he enlisted at Banks Arcade on Oct. 13, 1835 in Capt. T. H. Breece’s company of the New Orleans Grays.

There were two different means for Ryan to have arrived in New Orleans in the late summer of 1835. He may either have helped Capt. Arsene LeBleu, a former Laffite pirate, drive a herd of cattle to the crescent city, or he may have sailed aboard a New Orleans schooner, carrying the year’s Calcasieu River cotton crop.

There were also two companies of the New Orleans Grays, one commanded by Capt. T. H. Breece and the other by Capt. Robert Morris, whose company traveled by sea to Texas. Capt. Breece’s company boarded the steamer Washita and went up Red River to Alexandria. From thence, they traveled overland to Nacogdoches, where they were given horses, muskets and food, mostly cured hams. Ultimately, a large number of the New Orleans Grays were either slain at the Alamo or during the Goliad Massacre.

Perhaps it was inevitable that much myth would attach itself to the Lake Charles hero, but it seems most plausible that young Isaac Ryan made his living raising cattle, or cotton, or both. The lumber industry at Lake Charles had simply not evolved during Ryan’s lifetime. The Thomas Rigmaiden diary is about the only source of life in very early Calcasieu Parish; hence there is as much mystery about Isaac Ryan’s life in Southwest Louisiana as there is in San Antonio.

After reading 8 articles about Isaac Ryan in Lake Charles American Press, it becomes obvious that his other biographers were unaware that Ryan fought at the Battle of San Antonio on Dec. 7-9, 1835, as well as at the Alamo. During that battle led by Colonel Ben Milam, about 300 Texians fought successfully to evict Gen. Perfecto de Cos’ Mexican army from the town. One of the New Orleans Grays in Capt. Breece’s company was killed in that battle, two were wounded, and six from Capt. W. G. Cooke’s (successor to Morris) company were wounded.

Texas history credits Isaac Ryan as having served in Capt. William Blazeby’s company at the Battle of San Antonio. After that battle, a small number of the “Grays” under Lieutenant Robert White reorganized in the Alamo as the “Bexar Guards,” and Isaac Ryan was also a member of that group. Both Capt. Blazeby and Lt. White were members of the New Orleans Grays, and both Blazeby and White were killed at the Alamo along with Isaac Ryan.

A famous Englishman once wrote that the place in foreign soil, where a British soldier was buried, would remain “forever England.” Hence, a spot in the Alamo, where Isaac Ryan spilled his blood on the floor will remain “forever Lake Charles.” Likewise, Isaac Ryan will always remain one of the sacred heroes who shed his blood to free the Republic of Texas.

Copyright © 1998-2016 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
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