Henry Karnes

Henry Wax Karnes (September 8, 1812  August 16, 1840) was notable as a soldier and figure of the Texas Revolution, as well as the commander of General Sam Houston's "Spy Squad" at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Both Karnes County[1] and Karnes City, its county seat, are named after him.


Henry Wax Karnes, a native of Tennessee, first visited Texas in 1828. He returned to Texas during the Texas Revolution; he was one of Sam Houston's most important spies and worked closely with Deaf Smith. He fought with Smith, Seguín, and James Bowie in the battle of Concepción and then joined the siege of Bexar. While serving in a volunteer company, Karnes was sent with Smith to learn the fate of the Alamo. By the time of the Battle of San Jacinto, he had become a captain and later was a colonel.

After the war, he served in the Texas Rangers. Karnes and Seguin teamed up as part of a campaign to calm the Comanche threat in Texas.[2] He was wounded by an arrow in the Arroyo Seco Fight, an operation against the Comanches in August 1838.[3] He died of yellow fever during 1840 in San Antonio, Texas.

Karnes was buried outside of Old Campo Santos Cemetery as he was a Protestant, and only Catholics were allowed to be buried there. This cemetery was later moved and Santa Rosa Hospital was built in its place across from Milam Park. A monument to Karnes was erected in the park in 1932, as this was the closest to his grave that the city knew of.


Contrary to popular belief, Karnes was not the great-grand-uncle of Patsy Yvonne Karnes aka Patsy Swayze, the mother of actors Patrick Swayze and Don Swayze. They descend from a different Henry Karnes from Tennessee.

There are many Karnes descendants living in Texas to this day.

See also


  • Account of Karnes fight on the Arroyo Seco in 1838 from Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas by John Henry Brown, published 1880.
  • Moore, Stephen L. (2006), Savage Frontier: Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas, Volume II, 1838-1839, Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, ISBN 978-1-57441-206-2
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