No Picture of Him Exists

No Picture of Him Exists

James Butler Bonham (1807–1836) was a 19th-century American soldier. Born near Red Bank (now Saluda), South Carolina, Bonham moved to Montgomery, Alabama, in October 1834; the following year he travelled to Mobile where he helped to organize a company of militia cavalry called the Mobile Greys to serve in Texas. The company reached San Felipe, Texas in November 1835, and Bonham was commissioned a lieutenant in the Texian Cavalry one month later.

On December 1, 1835, Bonham wrote to Sam Houston from San Felipe volunteering his services for Texas and declining all pay, lands, or rations in return. He and Houston quickly developed a mutual admiration and after being in Texas for only one month Bonham was recommended to James W. Robinson by Sam Houston to be promoted to major. On January 19, 1836, Bonham arrived at the Alamo with James Bowie.

On February 16, he was sent by Alamo commander William B. Travis to obtain aid for the garrison at Bexar; he returned to the Alamo on March 3, charging through the Mexican lines bearing a letter from Robert M. Williamson assuring Travis that help was on its way and urging him to hold out. James Butler Bonham died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. He is believed to have died manning one of the cannons in the interior of the Alamo chapel.

Bonham’s legacy is nothing short of incredible: the town of Bonham, Texas, is named for him as is the city of Bonham the county seat of Fannin County. In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS James B. Bonham was named in his honor. Many Texas schools are named after James Bonham, for example, in the cities of Abilene, Amarillo, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, McAllen, Midland, San Angelo, San Antonio, and Temple.

But perhaps the most incredible circumstance of James Butler Bonham is the fact that on a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: “James Butler Bonham—no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.”

No literal portrait of Jesus exists, but the likeness of the Son of God who gave His life on Calvary is seen in the lives of every Christian. Paul declared, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). If we have truly put to death the old man of sin (Rom. 6:6) and “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10) a Christlike spirit will reign in our hearts and a portrait of Jesus Christ will be seen by all who look into our lives.

Writing to the Corinthians Paul instructed, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). As new creatures in Christ we are conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) imitating His righteous character in our daily lives. Who do others see when they look at you?


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