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The Southern States of America
Chapter IV - Texas in the Confederacy, 1861 - 1865


Contributions in Men and Supplies to the Confederate Government.

Texas was formally admitted to the Confederacy by an act of congress approved March 2, 1861, but not until Governor Houston had been deposed was the authority of the general government fully recognized within the state. In the meantime the President, Jefferson Davis, had assumed control over all military operations in the various states having reference to other states or foreign powers. Although authorized to organize a provisional army, President Davis did not call on Texas for troops at once, as it was generally believed that war would be avoided. In April the firing on Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for volunteers effectually dissipated this hope; yet even after hostilities had begun the belief was prevalent that the war would be only of short duration. In April the Confederate government requested Governor Clark to get 3,000 troops in readiness for service, and shortly afterwards asked for 5,000 more. These were first raised as state troops and then mustered into the Confederate service. In June an additional 2,000 were called for. Meanwhile a number of companies, battalions and regiments were raised by individuals with the permission of the Confederate authorities and without the intervention of the state. These were mustered directly into the Confederate army and were taken out of Texas. However, most of the troops raised in 1861 remained in the state, for it was believed that the war would not last long enough to justify taking them on the long and expensive trip to Virginia.

In the state elections of that year Edward Clark, supplanter of Houston, was narrowly defeated for the governorship by Frank E. Lubbock, who exerted himself to the utmost to put the state into a better condition of defense and to furnish needed support to the general government. By this time the course of events in the North and the energetic determination of Mr. Lincoln to reduce the South to submission at any cost made it clear that a more thorough organization of methods of raising troops and supplies was necessary. When the legislature met that winter it proceeded first to raise a mounted ranger regiment for service against the Indians on the frontier, and then to divide the state into thirty-three "brigade districts" for the more orderly and expeditious enlistment of soldiers. All able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and fifty years, except certain public and quasi-public officials, were declared subject to military service and were to be enrolled in companies. Companies and regiments thus enrolled were under State authority until called for by the general government and mustered into its service. In the early spring heavy demands were made upon Texas for men. She had already contributed more than 16,000 [War of the Rebellion Records, Series IV., Vol. I., P. 983.] to the Confederacy, but the burdens of extended operations necessary to meet the heavy attacks planned against the Southern states east of the Mississippi required that the whole strength of every part of the new government be brought into action. By the Confederate "conscript law" of April 16, 1862, all men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five were to be taken immediately into active service. None were to be enlisted for less than three years or for the war. Those in Texas above the age of thirty-five who did not volunteer for Confederate service remained in reserve as state troops; but as the war progressed and the condition of the government became more precarious, the age limit was extended again and again until the country was drained of its men, both young and old. Governor Lubbock responded energetically to the continuous call for men, notwithstanding the exposed and precarious condition of the defenses of the state, especially along the coast; but he was greatly hampered by numerous permits injudiciously granted by the Confederate authorities to individual officers to enlist men in Texas without regard to the arrangement devised by the state government. In this way more men were being drawn out of Texas than the requisition called for, and it was only after repeated protests on the part of Lubbock that the practice was stopped.

Because of the repeated merging of battalions into regiments and the reduction of regiments to battalions again, it is impossible to more than approximate the number of troops furnished to the Confederacy by Texas. Lubbock estimated that by February, 1863, the total enlisted in the regular army was . 62,000, with 6,500 more in the state service, while in addition to these were nearly 27,000 others between the ages of sixteen and sixty years not then enrolled at all. [Lubbock: Six Decades in Texas, p. 471.] This was far in excess of the highest popular vote and is almost certainly too high. It seems probable that the total was nearer 50,000, of whom some 12,000 were permanently east of the Mississippi. Among the latter were the famous Hood's Brigade of the Army of Virginia, winning glory in every battle from Gaines' Mill to Appomattox, while in the Army of Tennessee were Boss' Brigade (cavalry), Granbury's Brigade, Terry's Rangers (cavalry), and the Eleventh Texas Cavalry. All of these organizations won imperishable glory for themselves and their state. In the trans-Mississippi department, scattered about over Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, were nearly 40,000 more troops. While they did not engage in conflicts as conspicuous as those of their comrades across the river, they saw bitter fighting and hard service. [A very full account of the Texan troops in the Confederate armies, with special attention to the more conspicuous regiments, is given in Wooten's Comprehensive History of Texas, Vol. II., pp. 571-754. ] Aside from these were several regiments and battalions of state troops aggregating 8,000 or 10,000, acting as frontier guards and interior patrols. They were often called upon for garrison and scouting duty upon those occasions when the enemy threatened the border, and were frequently sent upon the less pleasant task of hunting out "skulkers," "bushwhackers" and other lawless characters, and all of those who, for any reason, were attempting to evade military service.

The part taken by Texas in furnishing and forwarding supplies to her sister states was fully as important as the furnishing of soldiers. Her proximity to Mexico and her comparative inaccessibility to attack rendered her position one of unique strategic value. From the beginning, the blockade of all or practically all Southern ports had reduced foreign traffic and communication by sea to a precarious dependence upon blockade runners and had compelled the Confederate government to turn to the Mexican border for the importation of such necessities as could not be obtained in the states themselves. It proved, however, no easy task even when the Federals were not at hand to interfere. Between Galveston and the Bio Grande was a distance of nearly 400 miles, without railroads and most of the way a desert. Goods had to be hauled in wagons and guarded against marauders. Yet the greatest difficulty lay in the simple lack of hard money for the purchase of the supplies wanted. Confederate money and bonds were received with some misgiving and were heavily discounted from the first. As they fell lower and lower recourse was had to the barter of domestic products, cotton chiefly, and also wool and hides. But lack of proper organization, lack of harmony between different interests, opportunities for speculation, and private and official corruption joined with the difficulties already inherent in the situation to weaken the efforts of the government. When the economic history of the Confederacy is written, the story of this Mexican border trade will make an interesting chapter. But this did not comprise the total service of Texas in obtaining supplies.

In April, 1862, the legislature had passed an act creating a military board consisting of the governor, comptroller and treasurer, whose duty it was to purchase arms and ammunition and provide for the manufacture of arms and ordnance for the defense of the state. At first the board made no use of cotton, but secured funds by the sale of state bonds and of the United States bonds obtained in 1850. The supplies thus obtained, either in Mexico or abroad, were not always kept for the use of the state, but were sometimes disposed of to the government at Richmond in exchange for Confederate bonds. Considerable difficulty, however, was experienced in disposing of bonds in foreign markets, and finding that cotton was more in demand, the board issued circulars to the people offering 8 per cent. state bonds in payment of their cotton. Through various agents appointed to receive this cotton some 4,800 bales were obtained, carried to the lower Rio Grande and sold; and arms, ammunitions, medicines and other supplies to a corresponding value were brought in. During the same year, 1862, the board contracted for a great deal more cotton that was not delivered. It was stated in a report to the legislature that from $150,000 to $200,000 worth of goods were at the mouth of the Rio Grande awaiting facilities to land with other consignments on the way. [Lubbock: Six Decades in Texas, pp. 667-668.] More cotton was needed to cover these shipments. There were two difficulties encountered by the board that were never fully overcome during the whole course of this traffic. In the first place it proved well-nigh impossible to secure all the cotton contracted for, because the owners were constantly seeking and securing some way of exporting their cotton themselves where they could sell it for hard cash instead of state bonds. Frequently, therefore, the board was unable to pay for consignments that had arrived and were in danger of capture—a thing which damaged its credit and made more difficult the procurement of other goods. Again, cotton was often sold to irresponsible speculators and allowed to go to Europe before an equivalent in goods was obtained. In March, 1863, the board was authorized by the legislature to continue buying and selling cotton in order to provide specie for the needs of the state treasury. In December, 1863, under Governor Murrah's administration, the board was reorganized by legislative enactment, the governor being given power to appoint his colleagues, and its authority was extended over all public works and the production and importation of public supplies. It now undertook work that had before been left to private enterprise or initiative of the governor. It built foundries, authorized the manufacture of guns, cotton cards, cloth, hats, tents, blankets and other necessities, and sought their importation when possible. To secure them from abroad was, however, growing more and more difficult, not only because of the increased watchfulness of the Union forces, who, in the fall of 1863, seized and held the mouth of the Rio Grande, but also because of an unfortunate lack of concert and harmony with the Confederate authorities who were endeavoring to make similar uses of cotton.

The Confederate government had endeavored at first to support its bond issues by revenues from customs duties and a general war tax. The former, for obvious reasons, never amounted to much, and the latter was not always paid promptly, even in the beginning of the war. When its bonds fell, the government, as did Texas, went into the cotton business. At first the cotton was handled by the general quartermaster's department and was exchanged directly for munitions of war. Private parties were also given contracts to the same end. After the fall of Vicksburg and the capture of the Mississippi, communication between the east and west became very difficult, and the latter became almost a separate and independent district. At the solicitation of its commander, Gen. E. Kirby Smith, a cotton bureau under his general direction was established for the more efficient handling of this business in the west. But the bureau found its path a thorny one. Unable, often, to procure the bonds or currency of the government, unable to induce the planters to sell their cotton freely for money of this sort, out-bid by the state military board of Texas, its efforts weakened by official connivance with private speculators, by conflicting authorities and official quarrels, and by mismanagement if not downright corruption, the bureau was never able to accomplish half of what was hoped for. When cotton became difficult to procure the military authorities impressed first a fifth of it, then one-half, and lacking cash, paid only in certificates of indebtedness which the government would not receive even in payment of taxes. Restrictions were placed upon exportation by private parties; outgoing vessels were obliged to take half of their cargo in government cotton and to return with a like proportion of their cargo in supplies for the government. [War of Rebellion Records, Vols. XV., XXXIV., XLVIII. and LIII., under index of Trade and Intercourse, correspondence of E. K. Smith, W. A. Broadwell, J. B. Magruder, P. W. Gray, H. P. Bee, et al.] These rigorous measures, justified perhaps by desperate military necessity, rendered the bureau and its officials extremely unpopular. On all sides arose complaints of mismanagement, of corruption, and of ruthless speculators in the guise of officials or favored as "exempts" and "details" from their proper military service.

Perhaps the Confederate authorities were less happily situated than those of Texas for the business in hand, yet it is easily evident that the latter were more successful in raising supplies both for themselves and for the general government. Inaccessible to the enemy, her planting system still intact, Texas remained, despite her sparse population, the great storehouse of the western portion of the Confederacy. The cotton was far from being the only product of value. Vast quantities of beef, pork and corn were sent to the armies, while the efforts of the military board, as recited above, supplied clothing and munitions of war. There were also numerous free public subscriptions to the same purpose.

Military Operations in Texas.

Lack of opportunity for the display of extraordinary military talents may account for the infrequent change of commanders in the west. The first general officer in command of Confederate troops in Texas was Gen. Earl Van Dorn, who assumed control April 21, 1861, and was relieved on September 18 by Gen. P. O. Hebert. This officer retained command of the department of Texas until Nov. 29, 1862, when Gen. J. B. Magruder became commander of the district of Texas, which position he held to the close of the war. In May, 1862, all of the region west of the Mississippi had been organized into the Trans-Mississippi department under command of Gen. T. H. Holmes. In March, 1863, he was relieved by Gen. E. Kirby Smith, who remained in command until the surrender.

There were no military operations of an extensive character in Texas at any time during the war. Such fighting as occurred was around the borders of the state, for the enemy never penetrated any distance into the interior. In the summer of 1861 an expedition under Gen. H. H. Sibley was made into New Mexico for the purpose of securing that territory to the Southern cause. After capturing Fort Fillmore and defeating the Federals under Canby at Val Verde, Feb. 21, 1862, Sibley pushed on to Santa Fé. Federal reinforcements in the following spring and lack of supplies compelled the command to withdraw to El Paso, and finally to San Antonio. A few bloodless encounters took place along the coast, resulting in the capture of a part of the Third IT. S. Infantry under Maj. C. C. Sibley and the vessel Star of the West, famous as having drawn the first fire of the war at Fort Sumter.

In the same summer a number of United States war-vessels appeared off the coast and undertook a blockade. From time to time small parties were sent ashore at unprotected places and managed to do some damage. Texas was almost entirely without coast defenses, since there were very few cannon and little ammunition, and strenuous efforts were made to put the ports in a condition to resist attack. Fortifications were thrown up at Galveston, Sabine Pass, Velasco, Corpus Christi and other points. Ammunition was brought in from Mexico, and heavy guns from New Orleans via Red River and overland to Houston. Minor engagements between coast patrols and detachments from the blockading ships continued through 1862.

On Oct. 4, 1862, the blockading squadron off Galveston steamed up the channel and opened fire upon the city. After some negotiations, a truce of four days was agreed to and the Confederates, finding it impossible to defend the city with the forces at their command, evacuated the island and fortified Virginia Point on the opposite shore. The Federals did not actually occupy Galveston until December 24. In the meanwhile General Magruder, with laurels still fresh from his Yorktown campaign, had assumed command of the district of Texas and immediately planned the recapture of the island-city. The enemy had thrown into the city a garrison of 260 soldiers, and had in the harbor a fleet of eight armed vessels and two barks. Magruder had two cotton steamers fitted up as gunboats with decks protected by cotton bales, and placed thereon about 300 volunteers armed with shotguns and rifles. These were to attack the largest of the war-vessels. On the night of December 31 after dark several batteries of heavy guns were carried across the railroad bridge to the island, about 1,000 men were taken across as a storming party, and the whole moved through the town close to the enemy. Shortly after midnight the attack opened, but the land batteries were unable to effect much damage until the improvised gunboats reached the scene and fell upon the Harriet Lane, the largest of the Federal vessels, boarded and captured her. Three of the squadron managed to escape, the rest were either captured or destroyed. The garrison on shore also surrendered. The attack had been skilfully planned and daringly executed, and the victors received the thanks of the Texas legislature, President Davis and the Confederate Congress. Galveston was once more open to blockade runners, and danger of invasion from that quarter was removed. It remained in the hands of the Confederates until the end.

The Federals had not, however, given up the idea of invading the state. Gen. A. J. Hamilton, a Union refugee from Texas, shortly before this had been appointed military governor of the state by President Lincoln. Hamilton was exceedingly anxious to establish Union forces within its borders, for it was believed that a large portion of the people were disaffected and could be won over. He insistently urged upon the Union commanders at New Orleans that an expedition be fitted out. The United States government, moreover, was now confronted with imminent danger of French intervention from the side of Mexico, which had just been seized by Maximilian, the agent of Napoleon III. It was known that tentative proposals had been made to the states west of the Mississippi for France to intervene in their behalf on the terms of the Louisiana cession in 1803, [As the proposition made directly to Texas implied that the state was to withdraw from the Confederacy, it was promptly rejected. See Lubbock: Six Decades in Texas, pp. 511-515.] and it was also known that many high officials in the Confederate government were eager to secure the aid of the tri-color flag. Therefore it seemed of the highest political as well as military importance that a heavy force be thrust in between Mexico and the Confederacy, and General Banks was required by the authorities at Washington to undertake operations to that end with as little delay as possible. In September, 1863, Banks sent 5,000 troops on transports with a convoy of gunboats to force a landing at Sabine Pass, with the object of taking Beaumont and Houston. From here it was expected that the interior could easily be penetrated by use of the railroads. In the attack on the small fort at the Pass the brave little garrison of forty-seven Irishmen under Lieut. Dick Dowling disabled and captured, without the loss of a man, two of the gunboats with 350 prisoners, and drove the others out of the harbor. The fleet returned to New Orleans.

Nearly two months later Banks sailed from New Orleans with nearly 6,000 men for the mouth of the Bio Grande. Brownsville and the region round about were speedily taken, for the Confederate forces were exceedingly meagre, and during the early winter expeditions were pushed up the river to cut off Texan communication with Mexico, and along the coast toward Galveston as far as Indianola. In the meantime danger of French intervention had passed, and by the opening of spring all garrisons, except those at Matagorda and Brownsville, were withdrawn, and Banks was back at New Orleans preparing an attack upon Texas by way of the Bed River and Shreveport. This expedition also failed. Before it reached the Texas line the Union army was defeated by Gen. Dick Taylor at Mansfield on April 8, 1864, and compelled to retreat to New Orleans. At the same time an attempt on the part of General Steele to cooperate with Banks from the side of Arkansas was frustrated, and he withdrew to Little Bock. This was the last attempt to invade Texas.

There had been much fighting by small parties along the Bio Grande and the adjacent coast country. Small forces from the Union garrison at Brazos Santiago were continually making attacks upon and plundering the small unprotected towns along the coast. In March, 1864, Col. E. J. Davis with a force of some 200 Texans and Mexicans, Unionists, marched against Laredo—then important to the Confederates as a depot for supplies from Mexico— hut was defeated by Col. Santos Benavides and driven hack. During the next summer Col. John S. Ford raised a force for the recapture of Brownsville from the Federals. After several skirmishes he reached the city and forced the enemy to evacuate, July 30, 1864. The latter still held the mouth of the river, and in September following made an effort in conjunction with the Mexican adventurer, Cortina, then commanding an independent section of the Mexican Liberal army, to drive out the Confederates. The attempt was defeated and the Texans held Brownsville until the breakup of their army in 1865. The last battle of the war was fought near this point, at the Palmito Ranch, May 13, 1865, in which a body of 800 Federals was put to flight by a much smaller force of Texans under command of Colonel Ford. From the prisoners the victors learned that their government had fallen and that the war was over.

General Conditions During the War. The din and stress of war had so overborne the interest in partisan politics that there is little of the latter worth recounting for this period. There was, in fact, but one party, the supporters of the war, for such was the intensity of public feeling that its opponents were not allowed to express themselves, much less form a party. No historian of the period, however, should entirely omit mention of the Union sentiment that was manifested in certain parts of the state. Perhaps one-third of the people were either opposed to secession or went into it reluctantly; but once in, most of them gave it their support. A small number remained Unionist, and found themselves objects of suspicion, and confronted with the choice of entering the Confederate army or of fleeing from the state. The latter was hazardous since the authorities regarded it as desertion to the enemy. In the southwest hundreds of Germans made their way out of the state despite the efforts of the state and Confederate authorities to intercept them, while in other parts anti-secessionists endeavored to escape the searching parties by hiding out among the hills and forests, acquiring thereby the evil name of "skulkers." Generally they were hunted down without mercy, often with the greatest cruelty, for public service too often became a cloak for private grudge. Their story is a painful one, but such as will always be told of a minority favoring the public enemy, and it is doubtful if the Union men in Texas suffered worse than the "copperheads '' in the North. In a material way Texas was more fortunate than any of her sister states. No invading armies had laid waste her towns and farms or taken away her slaves; and although practically all able-bodied men had been drawn into the army, crops, with the aid of the negroes, had been good every year. In fact, so many slaves had been transferred to Texas from other states for safe-keeping that labor was plentiful. If skilfully managed, the resources of the state could have been so conserved as not only to add more than was done to the material strength of the government but also to encourage the active loyalty of the people.

But it gradually became apparent that the general enthusiasm that had marked the first years of the war was giving way to the irritation and despondency that presaged defeat. The struggle was becoming hopeless. Sherman's march to the sea had shown the impossibility of ultimate success, and people began to weary of the constant strife. The dissatisfaction of a large element had been increased by the apparent solicitude of the government for the wealthy planting class in exempting their slaves from impressment and themselves from military service. It was currently declared that it was "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." The discontent reached the troops in the field. Several regiments became mutinous, desertion grew common. The soldiers, in fact, were half clad and had been for months practically unpaid.

The "Break-Up."

The officials, state and military, made desperate efforts to revive the waning enthusiasm and to maintain a bold front, but without much success. The news of Lee's surrender seemed to demoralize everything. The governors of the trans-Mississippi states met with General Smith at Marshall, Texas, to discuss means for further resistance or terms of surrender—and did the latter. Meanwhile the surrender of Joseph E. Johnston had destroyed the last hope of prolonging the war with any chance of success. Then came the crash, the dissolution of the army. Beginning with the evacuation of Galveston on May 22, 1865, the troops of the various commands broke ranks, seized whatever government property they could find, and went home. Gen. E. Kirby Smith, left a commander without an army, surrendered on May 26 upon substantially the same terms as had been granted to Lee and Johnston.

For a time the greatest possible confusion prevailed throughout the state. Most of the higher officials, among them Generals Smith and Magruder and Governor Murrah, fled to Mexico. As it was known that the Federals would not recognize the state authorities, all attempts at government ceased. The disbanded soldiers returning home swept on through the state pillaging government stores; the state treasury at Austin was looted; lawlessness and disorder of all sorts prevailed. Because of the scarcity of transports the Federal commander at New Orleans, General Canby, was not able at once to take possession of the state, and it was not until June 19 that Gen. Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, proclaimed the freedom of slaves, declared all acts of the state government since secession illegal, and ordered all Confederate officers and soldiers to report for parole.

Bibliography.—Gammel: Laws of Texas; War of the Rebellion, Official Records; Lubbock, F. R.: Six Decades in Texas; Williams: With the Border Ruffians; Wooten, D. G.: Comprehensive History of Texas (Vol. II); Executive Correspondence and Executive Records (MSS. in Texas State Archives).

Charles William Ramsdell,
Instructor in History, University of Texas; Corresponding Secretary Texas State Historical Association.


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