Soldier. Bonham was born in Edgefield District on February 20, 1807, the son of James Bonham and Sophia Butler Smith. He was expelled from South Carolina College in 1827 for participating in a protest over the quality of the food served at the college boardinghouse. He then studied law and set up practice in Pendleton in 1830. During the nullification crisis of 1832 he commanded an artillery company in Charleston, but by 1834 he was practicing law in Montgomery, Alabama. When the Texas revolution broke out, Bonham went to Mobile and helped raise the Mobile Greys, volunteers for service in Texas. On December 1, 1835, he wrote to Sam Houston offering to serve without pay, land, or rations. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Texas cavalry, although he never served in an organized unit. In late December he was practicing law in Brazoria.
Bonham rode with James Bowie into San Antonio de Béxar and the Alamo in early January 1836. About February 16, 1836, Bonham was sent by Lieutenant Colonel William Travis with letters requesting reinforcements. Bonham was unable to convince Colonel James W. Fannin to act, but he did return with a letter written on March 1, 1836, by Major Robert M. “Three-Legged Willie” Williamson promising help and urging Travis to hold out. On March 3 Bonham dashed through the Mexican lines and carried this letter into the Alamo. Williamson’s promise raised the spirits of the defenders, but it was too late. On March 6 Santa Anna ordered the final attack, and Bonham, along with six other South Carolinians, died defending the Alamo. The town of Bonham, Texas, was named in his honor.
Groneman, Bill. Alamo Defenders: A Genealogy, the People and Their Words. Austin, Tex.: Eakin, 1990.
Nofi, Albert A. The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence, September 30, 1835 to April 21, 1836: Heroes, Myths, and History. Conshohocken, Pa.: Combined Books, 1992.
Roberts, Randy, and James S. Olson. A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory. New York: Free Press, 2001.