Hispanics in the Confederate Army

In honor of Hispanic History Month, let’s talk about Hispanics and the Confederacy. Were there Hispanics in the Confederacy? Yes, there were. The highest ranking Mexican-American in the Confederacy was Santos Benavides. Santos rose to command the 33rd Texas Cavalry, known as Benavides’ Regiment. His ancestor founded the town of Laredo. His uncle served as Alcalde of the town while still under Mexican rule and later as mayor and state representative under the new Texas state government. Santos himself served as mayor prior to the war. Prior to the war, Santos led several campaigns against the Apaches and other Indians. The economy in Webb County, where Laredo was located, was ranching. Santos owned no slaves prior to the war. Indeed, there were no slaves in Webb County before the Civil War.

Santos’ biggest claim to fame was repelling the attempted Yankee incursion of Laredo in 1864. With just 44 Texas cavalrymen, he drove off 200 Texas Union soldiers under the command of the future Texas governor, Edmund Davis. During the war, Santos made it possible for the Confederacy to export cotton to Matamoros, Mexico. Matamoros was across the river from Brownsville. But, Brownsville was occupied by the Federals. Though always under-funded and lacking in food and supplies, the 33rd Texas cavalry never lost an engagement. Two of Santos’ brothers, Refugio and Cristobal, also served in the 33rd as captains.

See more about Col. Santos Benavides Texas State Historical Association here.

The Alamo Rifles

According to the Texas State Historical association, at least 2,500 Mexican Texans joined the Confederate army. Among those were Antonio Bustillos and Eugenio Navarro. They both enlisted in Capt. Samuel McAllister’s company, which became Co. K of the Sixth Texas Infantry Regiment. McCallister’s company was known as the “Alamo Rifles.” S.W. McAllister had been a city Alderman and Ranger before the war. In November, 1861, he wrote to the commander of the Texas military department saying it was hard to recruit Texans for Infantry service. They all wanted to go to war mounted.

Both Bustillos and Navarro enlisted in San Antonio in April, 1862. They joined a year after the initial patriotic rush to join. The Confederate Conscription Act of 1862 was passed on April 16, 1862. Bustillos joined on April 17, 1862, probably too soon to have been influenced by the act.

Before enlisting, Eugenio was a clerk, as was his father, Antonio. His father was not the famous Jose Antonio Navarro, who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Eugenio appears in the Confederate service records as “Eugene.” Eugenio was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and later to 1st Lieutenant. As part of the Sixth Texas Infantry, he served in the Army of Tennessee. He was captured at the Battle of Arkansas Post on Jan. 11, 1863. That battle occurred as part of the Vicksburg campaign led by Gen. John McClernand and Admiral David Porter. Eugenio was captured again at the Battle of Franklin. Eugenio’s family owned no slaves. There were 1,394 slaves in Bexar County in 1860. Bexar county was much larger in 1860 than its present borders.

After the war, Eugene Navarro served as City Clerk for San Antonio. He was described as a man of energy and as well-liked. He participated in July 4th celebrations. In 1869, at the conclusion of a town parade, Navarro read the Declaration of Independence at the popular park, San Pedro Springs.

Antonio Bustillos

Antonio Bustillos was probably the man known as Jose Antonio Martinez Bustillos. His father was known as Don Domingo Bustillos, In the 1850 census. Don Domingo owned $2,000 worth of real estate, which likely means he owned a ranch in Bexar County. Antonio was also captured at the Battle of Arkansas Post in Arkansas. He served the remainder of the war with the Sixth Texas Infantry and surrendered with the regiment in 1865. Antonio’s family owned no slaves.

It was said of the Alamo Rifles that they left San Antonio for the war with slightly less than 100 men. They came back to San Antonio after the war with less than 20 men.

Sources:

1850, 1860 U.S. census

Texas State Historical Assoc. online

San Antonio Express, June 25, 1869, p. 3, col. 1

San Antonio Express, Feb. 17, 1872, p. 2, col. 4

San Antonio Express, Feb. 9, 1902, p. 8, col. 1

Civil War Soldiers, North and South, Motivated by Patriotism

Why did the Southern and Northern soldiers fight? If we could survey both sides, what would be the results? We cannot survey those soldiers now. They are long gone. Dr. James McPherson, however, conducted a survey of sorts. In For Cause and Comrade by James McPherson (Oxford Univ. Press 1997), Dr. McPherson did the next best thing. He looked at personal letters and diaries of both Union and Confederate soldiers to ask the fundamental question, what motivated them to join, and then to remain in a very harsh military service.

Dr. McPherson reviewed the contemporary correspondence and diaries of some 647 Union soldiers and 429 Confederate soldiers. Dr. McPherson reviewed some 25,000 to 30,000 letters to prepare this study. For Cause, p. 183. Dr. McPherson is a well known Civil War historian. He received a Pulitzer for his book, Battle Cry of Freedom.

As a combat veteran I can attest that the willingness to endure hardship and danger is not an easy choice. As Dr. McPherson mentions, once the choice is first made, the typical combat soldier is forced to re-examine his choice at least two more times, once after his first battle and then again when/if he re-enlists. So, the average Confederate soldier had to choose to risk his life and the lives of his family (because life in a rural society without the men was extremely hard) about three times.

Motivated by Patriotism

According to Dr. McPherson’s study, 57% of Confederate soldiers espoused patriotic fervor for the South. That is, at the start of the war, their service was motivated by patriotism. After the South instituted conscription later in the war, that sense of patriotism only motivated 14% of soldiers.

Compare these numbers to the Union soldiers who enlisted before 1863 and the U.S. Conscription Act. Some 61% of those soldiers expressed a sense of patriotism as motivation early in the war. That numbers drops to 43% for Union soldiers who enlisted after conscription. That is, for Union soldiers joining the army after the beginning of the war, only 43% mentioned patriotism as a motivating factor.  For Cause, p. 102.

Motivated by the Slavery Issue

Some 20% of Confederate service members espoused pro-slavery views as a motivation for serving. For Cause, p. 110. When controlling for slave holding families, the author found that 33% of Confederates who came from slave-owning families expressed protecting slavery as a motivation for serving. While, among non-slave holding families, only 12% of Confederate soldiers expressed protecting slavery as a motivation for serving. But, even among those slave-holding soldiers, they preferred to talk about liberty, rights and the horrors of subjugation by the North. For Cause, p. 110.

The slavery issue is more complicated for Union soldiers. Opinion spiked considerably during the Fall, 1862 and Winter of 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was first announced and then implemented. Pre-war professionals in their civilian occupation and officers generally were more likely to support the Proclamation. McPherson finds that overall 36% of Union soldiers supported the Proclamation, while 16% opposed it. McPherson’s sample is necessarily limited by the fact that persons most likely to write letters and diaries were the pre-war professionals and officers. He suggests the typical regiment was the 15th Iowa regiment which took a poll on the Emancipation Proclamation. Half the men endorsed it. 25% opposed it. 25% had no opinion. For Cause, pp. 123-124.

Avoiding Subjugation by the North

Many Southerners fought to avoid enslavement by the North. They believed the North sought to subjugate the South. For Cause, p. 21. Many enlisted to defend their home from the invading Yankees. For Cause, at p. 22.

John Mitchel, the Irish rebel and editor for a time of two Richmond newspapers during the war, insisted the North was seeking to subjugate the South as Great Britain had subjugated Ireland. The Republican party did evolve from the Know Nothing Party. Most Irish suspected the Republican party of harboring anti-Irish and anti-immigrant sentiment at the time.

Secession Resolutions

In assessing the motivation of the individual soldier, McPherson never discusses the secession resolutions issued by the few Southern states that did so. It is doubtful any soldier consider those resolutions in deciding whether to enlist or not.

Anecdotal Evidence

On May 18, 1865, one 1LT William T. Mumford went to the home of my ancestor’s aunt in New Orleans. Entertained by the ladies, likely, including my GGG grand-mother, the lieutenant spoke the words all veterans would like to utter when s/he first returns home, “we could not have received a warmer reception. . . . The New Orleans ladies shall long be remembered for their devoted patriotism.” My GG grandfather likely met his future wife that day.

Consider the persons likely present at that gathering. William Agar and his wife, Theresa. Their cousin, Dick Price, was a captain in the First Louisiana Heavy Artillery Regiment. This author’s ancestor, 1LT George P. Crane served in the same regiment, as did 1LT Mumford. Theresa was sister to Anastasia Crane Chism. The Crane/Chisms lived next door to the Agars. Living a block away was Theresa’s other sister, Katherine and her husband, Edward Rice. George P. Crane likely met his future wife, Katherine Judson, at this gathering. Katherine Judson was daughter to Mills Judson, a well-known and well-love merchant and banker in New Orleans. Mills was a native of Connecticut. Cyrus Chism, husband to Anastasia, was born in Maine.

William Agar and Edward Rice were both commission merchants. They sold crops for the commission. They were heavily dependent on rice, sugar and some cotton crops. Cyrus Chism sold bags and ties, often for rice crops. Mills Judson was deeply involved in general New Orleans business. By the time of 1LT Mumford’s visit, all the men and their families had gained considerable wealth from the slave based economy. William Agar, Edward Rice, and the three sisters, Theresa, Anastasia and Katherine were Irish born. Everyone present for that gathering were looking at economic ruin. Everyone present were likely to lose everything they had gained. Yet, Mumford records in his diary no despair about the loss of slavery and the slave based economy. Instead, his one mention concerned the of the “patriotism” of the ladies.

Folks claim the Confederate memorials represent Jim Crow and an attempt to intimidate blacks. But, that was not the case in San Antonio. At the dedication of the confederate memorial, John H. Reagan spoke. Judge Reagan had been the Postmaster General of the Confederacy. After the war, he urged reconciliation between the North and the South. They called him the “Old Roman” for his efforts to make peace between the two regions. Later, he became the first head of the Railroad Commission in Texas and was noted for his opposition to the unbridled power of the railroad.

As McPherson explains, his study does not mean 57% of Confederate soldiers and 61% of Union soldiers were in fact motivated hy a sense of patriotism. This study does mean 57% of Confederate soldiers and 61% of Union soldiers expressed their motivation in letters or diaries. Unlike an actual survey, the sample pool is limited to persons who chose to express their motivation at the time.  

Mary Custis Lee, the First Freedom Rider

Mary Custis Lee, eldest daughter of Robert E. Lee, did not fit the mold of her time. At a time when marriage prospects were slim after the Civil War, most unmarried young women were expected to stay home and care for elderly parents. Mary never married. There just were not many men her age who survived the war. Neither did she stay home. Mary chose a different life. She spent decades traveling to Europe and other places.

Near the Exit

Coming back to Virginia in June, 1902, Mary passed through Washington, D.C.  She had a large collection of bags. Thinking herself fortunate, Mary and her African-American maid sat near the exit, at the rear of the railroad car. A new law had just been passed, effective in Alexandria, Virginia. The new law mandated that blacks, known as “Negroes,” sit in the rear, near the exit. There was no such law in Washington. But, in Alexandria, that was the law. It was the first “Jim Crow” law passed in Virginia. The conductor explained to Ms. Lee her error, but she preferred to remain in her seat. She refused to move.

She will be Arrested

At the next stop, A Negro man got on board. The conductor again tried to Mary to move to the front. Again, she insisted she would stay. The conductor returned to Mary, trying to persuade her to move. He told her she would be arrested. Ms. Lee remained. Upon arrival in Alexandria, she was indeed arrested. People began to gather on the street, realizing who she was. In post-war 1902, there were hundreds of Confederate veterans or family members in the city. On the way to the station house, the sidewalks were thronged with Lee supporters.

Men of the Caton Stripe

The new Jim Crow seating law was not entirely popular. It had been passed by James Caton, representative to the state legislature from Alexandria. Mr. Caton was described in a black owned newspaper as a “representative of the poor whites.” According to the Colored American, a Washington D.C. newspaper, the arrest of Ms. Lee stirred up discontent among the “better classes” of Virginia. The white newspapers, Alexandria and Washington, commented that the new seating law was working well. But, the Colored American expressed hope her arrest would lead to revocation of the new law. The editor believed the confederate veterans in Richmond would seek its reversal.

At the station house, gray-haired veterans surrounded Ms. Lee. The officer in charge was prevailed upon to release Ms. Lee with the understanding she would return the next day to face the charge. It was said that when Ms. Lee finally reached her destination in Alexandria, the home of a friend, she collapsed. Modern commentators suggest Ms. Lee was less interested in opposing a strange new law than simply annoyed that she was expected to sit apart from her trusted black maid. But, that seems unlikely. It was a major to-do for the name of a woman to appear in the newspapers of 1902 for any reason, much less for an arrest. The Colored American expressed sympathy for her plight, knowing she must have felt extreme embarrassment. The editor indicated he knew she was embarrassed, but appreciated her efforts. Ms. Lee was, said the Colored American, liberal regarding the rights of man. Meaning the newspaper knew she opposed these “petty racial animosities,” advanced by men of the “Caton stripe.”

More likely, the daughter of Robert E. Lee was aware of this new law and appreciated an opportunity to express her opinion. She likely did not expect to be arrested. According to one report, when she was brought to the doors of the station house, someone in the crowd protested against Ms. Lee being brought within. Ms. Lee responded that she did not believe the people of Alexandria would suffer her to be brought in as a prisoner.

In a time when women had few avenues for public discourse, Mary Custis Lee expressed her annoyance as she saw the opportunity. She was in the end, her father’s daughter.

Fore more about this incident, see this blog post.

Sources:

Washington Post, June 16, 1902, p. 4

Richmond Dispatch, June 14, 1902, p. 1

Washington, D.C, Colored American, June 21, 1902, p. 8

The Ships, “Blanche” and Otilla,” Part 3

By June 13, 1851, the captains and owners of the Blanche and Otilla had faced American justice.  Federal authorities in New Orleans had prosecuted the captains of the two ships for exceeding the passenger limits.  Together, the two owners of the ships had been fined $9,000, which would amount to about $300,000 today.  The Daily Crescent, a Second Municipality newspaper, approved of this result.  The Second Municipality was largely Anglo-American.  It was the more prosperous area of New Orleans. Both ships were British registered. [1]

Seizure

J.H. Maddox, the editor of the Daily Crescent, argued that seizure of the two ships was not necessary.  Because the passengers on board both ships exceeded the maximum allowed by a very large number, the federal government could have seized both ships.  The Blanche under U.S. law exceeded its maximum capacity by 120 passengers.  The Otilla exceeded its capacity by 70 passengers.  Seizure was allowed if the number of passengers exceeded the limit by 20 passengers.  Maddox claimed the owner of the Otilla was owned by a ship captain who had invested his life savings in the ship.  The owner of the Blanche was a ship carpenter in New Brunswick.  Seizure would ruin the two men, claimed Maddox.  Mr. Maddox does not explain how he would know the financial circumstances of the two owners.  In any event, Maddox claimed the owners knew nothing of the over-capacity.  Maddox claims the Otilla exceeded British law regarding maximum numbers of passengers only becaue4 there were twelve stowaways. [2]

But, the two owners were responsible for hiring two captains who were willing to violate U.S. law and risk the lives of helpless passengers.  Someone helped the Blanche with a perjured certificate regarding its actual measurements.  But, Maddox reveals his bias.  He insists the Irish passengers on the Blanche caused themselves to sicken and die.  He says they “refused” to obey the captain’s orders to not lie in “their filth.”  He apparently meant the passengers did not keep clean their “tween decks” berth.  Human waste would indeed accumulate if the passengers did not use the few available privies or if they did not clean their mess. [3]

Cleanliness

But, this was 1851, the sixth year of the worst famine in centuries.  Hundreds of thousands of Irish had already emigrated.  Even uneducated Irish laborers knew to clean their waste.  They certainly appreciated the need to maintain a clean environment on long voyages. Illness on those trans-Atlantic voyages was a known risk.  The mortality rate for the Blanche was over 10 percent.  This occurred at a time when most voyages for both European travelers and Irish famine refugees saw mortality rates of about 1.5 percent. [4]

John Maginnis was still very angry about the Otilla.  Writing in the Daily True Delta, he complained that the incarceration of the Otilla captain, James Irwin, and the seizure of the ship had been remitted by Pres. Millard Fillmore.  In the case of the captain, his imprisonment had been remitted even before his conviction.  Maginnis reminded his readers that when the Otilla passengers emerged from the ship, the men “glided along ghastly, wild and idiotic.”  The women, married and unmarried girls, “reeled like drunken creatures, half naked, filthy, gaunt, spectral looking, . . .  with eyes sunk deep in their bloodless sockets, expression disordered, language strange and incoherent.”  Maginnis considered it to be an “outrage” that the captain avoided jail time and that the ship was not seized. [5]

It was reported many times by various visitors to Ireland during the Great Famine that many persons were half-naked.  That some of the worst emigrant arrived in America with little or ragged clothing speaks to the condition they escaped.

Feculent Matter

Perhaps the more immediate cause for the Blanche horror was the fact that the captain and most of the crew also contracted “ship fever.”  Ship fever could be many ailments, typhus, cholera were most common.  The port health officer for New Orleans, Dr. Frederick Hart, reported that there was no leadership on the vessel, because so much of the crew was ill.  He said the main deck was completely strewn with filth and “feculent matter.”  The ‘tween deck, where the steerage passengers resided, was the same.  Dr. Hart said two passengers committed suicide during the trip.  There was at last one corpse on the vessel when it arrived.  Dr. Hart’s letter was and still is part of the national archives for the Colonial Office.  So, we can presume the appropriate British authorities saw his report. [6]

Later in 1851, Lt.-Gov. Edmund Head of the colony at New Brunswick complained about the Blanche and another ship, the Virginia.  The British Colonial Land and Emigration Office replied to the Lt.-Governor that the size of the Blanche satisfied British law.  She could not, therefore, be legally rejected by the emigration officer in New Brunswick. [7]

The term “coffin ship” emerged in the 1880’s.  Maginnis and Prendergast described the Blanche and Otilla as plague ships or as pestilence ships.  Whichever term was used, they were dangerous ships for a population long weakened by the Great Irish Famine.  As Dr. McMahon explains, the ships were not inherently dangerous, with some major exceptions.  Generally, the mortality rate for the Irish famine boats was no different than other ships of the time period.  But, if illness broke out, the Irish famine refugees were exceedingly vulnerable to disease. [8]

Notes:

[1] New Orleans Daily Crescent, June 13, 1851, p. 2, col. 2

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cian T. McMahon, The Coffin Ship (New York: NYU Press 2021), p. 151-152.

[5] New Orleans Daily True Delta, June 13, 1851, p. 2, col. 2

[6] The Coffin Ship, p. 167

[7] Accounts and Papers, House of Lords, vol. 14, 1852, p. 58 (Responding to Lt.-Gov. Head’s Aug. 25, 1851 dispatch).

[8] The Coffin Ship, pp. 146-152.

The Ships, “Blanche” and “Otilla,” Part 2

On a Saturday afternoon, Margaret Naughton, newly arrived at the port of New Orleans, found herself in front of Recorder (i.e., a judge and mayor) Genois’ office. She laid down on the flag stones under the portico of the building and died.  She could have laid down anywhere. Perhaps, that was the cleanest spot. Or, perhaps her meager strength simply gave out.

Margaret was from Limerick.  She was one of the passengers of the Blanche, a ship that arrived with over 100 passengers needing care at Charity Hospital. This latest version of Charity Hospital was established in 1834 by the Sisters of Charity.  It served the poor.  When the great Irish famine stated in 1845, Charity Hospital treated many Irish immigrants. [1]

Margaret was not one of those dis-embarking passengers who sought treatment at the hospital. She was one of the survivors, until she wasn’t. The ship arrived on Tuesday, March 25, 1851. Margaret wandered the streets of New Orleans until Friday.  On that day, she and some seven other passengers were stopped by a police officer who sent them to an empty building. There, on Saturday, they received food and passage money to St. Louis, where some relatives lived.  Later that day, about 3:00 p.m.  Margaret, a young woman, felt ill.  She fell down among the flag stones and died. [2}

Margaret’s body was taken to the police office and examined. By 5:00 p.m., Margaret was buried. [3]

The Blanche started with some 550 passengers.  But, ship fever broke out within days of leaving Liverpool.  Men, women and children died during the voyage.  Near the end of the voyage, many passengers were forced to remain on the upper deck to avoid the sick below decks.  These were the poorest of the poor.  They lived amongst filth and dirt below decks. [4]

Fifty More

By April 12, some 50 more Blanche passengers were admitted to Charity Hospital.  Being famine refugees and then having to endure a pestilent voyage, this number is not surprising. That means some 190 passengers required hospitalization within days of arrival. [5]

The owners of the Blanche and Otilla faced legal liability for having too many passengers.  The U.S. law and the British law on how to calculate maximum passengers differed. But, New Orleans was American, not British.  U.S. law applied at the port of New Orleans.  Under U.S. law, if a ship exceeded its maximum passenger load by 20 or more, then the ship would be forfeited to the government.  When even a relatively Anglo-oriented newspaper like the Daily Crescent advocated that the Blanche be seized, then the Captain knew he was in trouble.  So, Capt. Duckitt traveled to what was then known as Washington City to plead his case. [6]

The Blanche and Otilla were in a special class of horror in a time of many such smaller horrors.  Within days of arrival, almost 200 of the 500 Blanche passengers had to seek treatment at Charity Hospital.  Many of the rest were still ill, but not sick enough for the hospital.  New Orleans had seen many such arrivals, although on a lesser scale.  This time, it was just too much. Those Irish problems had found their way to the doorstep of New Orleans.

Notes:

[1] New Orleans Daily Crescent, March 31, 1851, p. 3, col. 1

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] New Orleans Daily Crescent, April 12, 1851, p. 2, col. 1

[6] New Orleans Daily Crescent, March 31, 1851, p. 2, col. 1

The Ships “Blanche” and “Otilla,” Part 1

Within days of one another arrived the Otilla and the Blanche from Liverpool. Both ships arrived in New Orleans in late March, 1851. Both ships carried Irish immigrants. Some 40 passengers on the Otilla suffered from “ship fever,” probably typhus and had to enter Charity Hospital. The Otilla buried at sea two adults and three children. Upon arriving in New Orleans, there were one dead child and two or three adults aboard.[1]

The Blanche was even worse. Upon arrival, 126 passengers were taken to Charity Hospital, said Prendergast in his initial report. Just a day later, the New Orleans Daily True Delta, also edited by an Irishman, John Maginnis, reported that the Blanche arrived not with 497 persons, but with more than 525. Maginnis was angry that the ship’s captain, Capt. Duckitt, did not sign the list showing 497. His crew said Duckitt was too ill from ship fever to sign the list.[2]

Charity Hospital

Upon arrival of the Blanche, the Daily True Delta reported that the Otillia sent 63 passengers to Charity Hospital with ship fever, while the Blanche sent 134 to the hospital for the poor. Charity Hospital served everyone, but mostly it served the Irish. Maginnis blamed the British government. He flat accused the British landlords and government of murder. Maginnis insisted the captain and owners of the Blanche and Otilla violated U.S. law because they did not properly care for their passengers. Maginnis allowed that many English were fine and decent. But, some Englishmen must be punished. He commended Rev. Charles W. Whiteall, Pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal church on Esplanade in New Orleans for coming immediately to the aid of these devastated Catholic passengers.[3]

But, a day later, Maginnis was furious that Capt. Dukitt did not sign the final passenger list showing 497 persons arrived in New Orleans. He was angry because Nicholas Sinnot, the New Orleans Collector for the passenger tax, acquired the Liverpool broker’s list, which was the Captain’s private list of passengers. That second list showed over 525 passengers when the ship embarked from Liverpool. Maginnis was also angry because the Captain, supposedly too ill to sign the 497 passenger list, was alert enough to make public his annoyance at the accusations being leveled against him. That means some 28 passengers died enroute. [4]

It was likely no accident that Nicholas Sinnot, the younger, located the Liverpool broker’s list. Mr. Sinnot was Irish himself and was the son of Nicholas Sinnot, Sr, a former rebel of 1798. The elder Sinnot was well respected among the Irish community in New Orleans.

Centuries of Irish Anger

Centuries of Irish anger boiled up in Maginnis and Prendergast in their respective newspapers on April 5 and 6. Maginnis described Capt. Duckitt as a “stolid” Englishman with all the “presumption, self-sufficiency and vulgarity of [his] class.” Maginnis meant Duckitt was pompous and arrogant. Duckitt explained apparently in some New Orleans newspaper that he lost only 25 passengers and not one Englishman. He even suggested the previous “debility and previous habits” of the 25 Irish passengers may have caused their death on the voyage. Today, we would describe Duckitt’s comments as complete bigotry. Maginnis thundered: “Only twenty-five deaths, says this Englishman, ‘certainly not an excessive mortality under the lamentable circumstances – and it ought to be remarked that not one English passenger died” (Maginnis quoting Duckitt). The next day, Prendergast supported Maginnis completely. [5]

Maginnis called for the District Attorney and the Port Collector to devote their attention to Capt. Duckitt and the Blanche. Maginnis reported that the Blanche was 1000 feet short of the measurements her papers claimed. Maginnis believed this was a fraud perpetrated by the owners of the Blanche with the help of corrupt officials in Liverpool. Being smaller than her claimed size, she should not have been carrying as many passengers.

Notes:

[1] New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 4, 1851, p. 2, col. 2

[2] New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 4, 1851, p. 2, col. 2

[3] New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 4, 1851, p. 2, col. 2

[4] New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 5, 1851, p. 2, col. 2

[5] New Orleans Daily Orleanian, April 6, 1851, p. 2, col. 2; New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 5, 1851, p. 2, col. 2

Memorial to Hood’s Texas Brigade

There is a myth today that Confederate statues and memorials were intended more to commemorate white supremacy than lost loved ones. One can almost appreciate the myth, since so many of the memorials depict one Confederate general or another. But, in fairness, the statues were erected at a time when history was largely viewed as the history of “great men.” Prior to a few ground breaking books like Johnny Reb by Bell Irvin Wiley (LSU Press 1970), social histories were never done. The focus was always on the so-called great men, not the men who slogged through the mud or who bore the brunt of the decisions of the great men.

One of the few Confederate memorials to the average soldier is found in Austin, the memorial to Hood’s Texas Brigade. The memorial started around the turn of the twentieth century. As the veterans of the famed Hood’s Texas Brigade were aging, they talked about erecting a monument to their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their departed brothers. After exhaustive debates and years of fund raising, they agreed the memorial should feature an individual Confederate soldier and that it should make no reference to Jefferson Davis or the Confederate government. As former private, Joe Polley explained, it had to be about their sacrifices alone:

If a medallion of [Jefferson] Davis appears on the monument at all,

it is bound to have the central and most conspicuous place, and the

men and women who when we are dead and gone look at it, will accept

 it as a monument to Davis and the cause he represented, and never

give a thought to the brave men to whose memory alone it should be

dedicated.

The veterans of Hood’s Texas Brigade believed they were the best brigade in the Confederate army. They believed, with much justification, that they represented the best. For decades after the war, they collected their stories and history. Their goal as stated in 1872 was to “collect and perpetuate all incidents, anecdotes, history, and everything connected therewith.” By 1906, they were still working to finalize complete rosters of the original members of the brigade and their eventual fate. The memorial would represent the ultimate remembrance of their time together.

Hyperbole

So, it was perhaps surprising that at the unveiling of the monument in 1910, the speakers spoke inaccurately about the role of Southerners throughout American history. According to the speakers, a Southerner had won the War of 1812, the Mexican War in 1846 and was the author of the Monroe Doctrine. The members of Hood’s Texas Brigade rarely engaged in such hyperbole.

Joe Polley was himself a person of some controversy. He did not care for excessive ceremony. In a time when virtually every white man supported the Democratic party, Joe flirted with the Republican party. He was a well-known contributor to the Confederate Veteran magazine. Yet, he was anything but an apologist for the Southern cause. No doubt it helped that the Republican candidate for Texas governor was also a former Confederate veteran. But, Joe Polley supported the Republican in the next gubernatorial election. Joe, who lost a foot at the Battle of Darbytown, was more practical than demagogic. The memorial to Hood’s Texas Brigade reflects that same spirit of honest remembrance.

Source:

Susanah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 272-274.

The Anti-Irish Riots of 1854

Henry Wise, governor of Virginia, minister to Brazil and Brig.-Gen. in the Confederate army ran against a Know Nothing candidate for governor in 1855. Gov. Wise would say about the Know Nothing movement years later that it was “the most impious and unprincipled affiliation by bad means for bad ends.”  He compared the struggle of Irish Catholics in Ireland against the Protestant landlords to the struggle in America against Know Nothingism. The Know Nothing party, formally known as the American party, succeeded to the Whig party. Many Whigs transitioned to the American party when the Whigs disintegrated in the early 1850’s. But, some Whigs did not. [1]

One Whig who would not join the Know Nothing party was J.C. Prendergast, publisher and editor of the New Orleans Daily Orleanian. Prendergast, an Irish immigrant himself, widely sympathized with the Irish immigrants and with immigrants in general.  Prendergast suggested it was best if the “foreigners” refrained from voting for a time until the bonds of friendship might increase.  But, as long as some Irish would insist on casting their vote, the Know Nothings would not be satisfied. [2]

The Know Nothings believed the New Orleans police were rounding up Irish voters to proceed to the polls and cast their votes.  Whether true or not, they believed it. Even Prendergast, the erstwhile Whig, believed the Irish were being manipulated by the Democratic party in some way. [3]

March, 1854

During the March, 1854 elections, two New Orleans papers whipped up anti-Irish feeling. The Daily Crescent and the Delta accused the Irish immigrants of all the evils afflicting the city, “forever kicking up rows and breaking heads.”  Their societies were divisive and prevented assimilation.  At other times, the Crescent simply argued the Irish voters were the dupes of others, apparently meaning Democratic politicians. What the Crescent and even Prendergast seemed not to appreciate was that the Democratic party, unlike any other party, welcomed all immigrants, even the Irish. [4]

There were elections set for early October. Regardless of the cause, the Know Nothings resorted to violence. Ten days of riots broke out starting Saturday night, Sept. 10, 1854. A large riot broke out on Sunday night, around the St. Mary’s Street Market, a predominantly Irish neighborhood. It was said that a Mr. Grinnell of Leeds and Co., a large ship-building firm, John Mitchell, a foreman of Leeds, and a Mr. Green, a relative of Grinnell, were walking near coffee houses (which actually served anything but coffee) in the St. Mary’s neighborhood. The three men were challenged by customers within the coffee houses. The three man party insisted on their right to walk where they please. Violence soon erupted, resulting in injury to all three men. The Crescent suggested the Irish customers in the drinking establishments started the fracas. But, the Crescent was generally sympathetic with Know Nothingism. [5]

Prendergast reported that he understood Grinnell to be opposed to foreigners and was one of the leaders of an attack on Murphy’s coffee house a few nights earlier. [6]

St. Patrick’s Church

On the night of Sept. 11, Monday, rumors flew that the Americans, as they were known at the time, planned to sack St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, the church for the Irish. [7]

Dr. J.J. Meighen, a druggist, gathered with the crowd which was intent on protecting St. Patrick’s. The Americans came into the area and a general fight broke out. Two men were killed. Meighen was arrested, as was John Cavanaugh, Captain of the Louisiana Grays, a predominantly Irish militia. Cavanaugh denied he was involved in the defense of St. Patrick’s Church.  He said he was working late that night at the Crescent Steam Marble Yard on St. Joseph street.  He and his men worked until about 10 p.m.  They left work and proceeded to a coffee house on Tchoupitoulas street for refreshment.  So, it looked like he was leading a group of armed men, but not so.

At the coffee house, Cavanaugh saw Gen. Lewis, the commander of the New Orleans militia.  He went out to talk to the commander.  Lewis asked him to persuade the men to disperse.  Cavanaugh tried to send them home, but some refused.  They wanted protection for their lives and property.  Capt. Cavanaugh then went home himself.  He emerged from his home later that night when he briefly thought the marble yard was on fire.  Dr. Meighen told Gen. Lewis he was a naturalized citizen, but that he would “un-naturalize” and protect himself. In the end, the only persons arrested were Capt. John Cavanaugh, captain of the Irish militia, the Louisiana Grays, Stephen O’Leary, and Dr. J.J. Meighen

A witness would testify in court a few days later that the crowd did not appear to be organized and there appeared to be no leader.  The charge against Cavanaugh was later dismissed for lack of evidence. [8]

That night on the 11th, Dr. Meighan strode up and down the streets with a sword in his hand, which was inscribed “Liberty or Death.”  Later that night, Meighan claimed to have been wounded, even though he sustained no visible wound.  One witness described the druggist as a “damned fool.”  No record appears regarding any trial for Dr. Meighan. Perhaps, the court took into account his odd behavior that night. [9]

Duffy’s Coffee House

On the night of Sept. 12, the coffee house of Tom Duffy, located at No. 58 New Levee Street, was attacked. Duffy and the customers initially resisted the intrusion.  But, the attackers persisted, gained entry and destroyed the place.  They found a man named John Kane, who had recently arrived from Louisville.  The mob of some 20-30 men dragged him outside,. They demanded he answer their question, “Are you American or Irish?”  Scared for his life, he answered “American.”  Kane then ran off, but was chased and shot down. Another man named Boylan was shot in the leg.  A man named James Porter, a clerk at a lumber yard on Tchoupitoulas street, was shot in the head. According to the Daily Picayune, the mob of 20-30 men attacked Porter quietly and stealthily and then disappeared.  Porter was a Dublin native. [10]

Also on the night of Sept. 12, it was rumored that the Americans planned to attack two coffee houses owned by Irishmen – Murphy and Falvey – at the corner of Julia and Tchoupitoulas, an Irish neighborhood.  They also planned to attack the nearby marble yard of the stone mason, John Cavanaugh – Cavanaugh, the captain of the Louisiana Grays. Prendergast believes this was one of many false rumors, but it reflects the great fear then reverberating through the Irish community. [11]

Special Police

By Sept. 16, Mayor Lewis called for special police from citizens willing to patrol the streets. Dozens so volunteered.  They were organized by Capt. Forno, one of the militia unit captains.  Forno was not Irish. But, the militia commanders generally carried a good deal of informal authority, even though they were not actual employees of any government. Prendergast lamented that several able-bodied citizens intended to serve as a special policemen, but withdrew their names when they saw that many of the volunteers were Irish. [12]

The nightly patrols stopped the attacks, because they stopped the intrusions into Irish areas by the Americans.  But, the Know Nothings were just getting started. They would terrorize the city for the next several years.  They did succeed in suppressing the Irish vote in the next round of elections in 1856.

For more about the Know Nothings, see Smithsonian site here. The Know Nothings opposed immigration by all groups. The two principle groups of immigrants in the 1850’s were the Irish and the Germans. But, the Know Nothings reserved the full force of their thuggery for the Irish.

Notes:

[1] David T. Gleeson, The Irish in the South, 1815-1877 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press 1995), p. 110-112.

[2] New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Aug. 22, 1854, p. 1, col. 2

[3] Earl F. Niehaus, The Irish in New Orleans (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1965), p. 86, citing Daily Orleanian, Sept. 11, 1854

[4] Irish in New Orleans, p. 88

[5] N.O. Daily Crescent, Sept. 12, 1854, p. 3, col. 2

[6] Daily Orleanian, Sept. 13, 1854, p. 1, col. 2

[7] Daily Orleanian, Sept. 13, 1854, p. 1, col. 2

[8] Irish in New Orleans, p. 90; Daily Picayune, Sept. 27, 1854, p. 2, col. 5; Daily Picayune, Sept. 16., 1854, p. 2, col. 5, 6

[9] Daily Picayune, Sept. 16., 1854, p. 2, col. 5; Daily Crescent, Sept. 16, 1854, p. 4, col. 1

[10] Daily Orleanian, Sept. 14, 1854, p. 1, col. 1

[11] Daily Orleanian, Sept. 14, 1854, p. 1, col. 1

[12] Daily Orleanian, Sept. 17, 1854, p. 1, col. 1

When You Lose All Your Buddies

Josh Brodesky wrote a column in the San Antonio Express-News in July, 2017, when the talk about the Confederate memorial in San Antonio was reaching a fever pitch. Mr. Brodesky mentioned several times that the Confederates were fighting for slavery. Certainly, the point of the Confederate States of America was to extend slavery and protect it as an institution. But, did the Confederate soldiers fight to maintain slavery?

I served 12 months in Iraq during the war. We lost a half dozen soldiers. One I knew well. The others I barely knew. The one was enough. It was not just losing 1SGT Saenz. It was the ripple effect on men and women I cared deeply about. Good friends of mine were devastated by the loss of Carlos Saenz. I felt this tremendous concern for the soldiers who blamed themselves for his loss. One death had all these ripple effects on the entire military unit.

What happens when you lose buddies and friends everyday? What happens when you lose all your buddies? In war, your buddies are your family. At the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Hood’s Division saw its first large scale action. At about 8:30 a.m., the Division, which included Gen. Hood’s former Texas Brigade was committed to an assault.

Casualties

The First Texas Regiment, all of 211 soldiers, went out too far. They were too aggressive. It was a rookie mistake, even if one motivated by the right reasons. The regiment on the right and left did not keep up with the Texans. The flanks of the First Texas was exposed. It was raked by fire from three sides, though their battle lasted only about 30 minutes. 182 members of the First Texas fell that morning. No one survived from Co. F. One man survived in Co. A. Co. C could claim two survivors. Co. E had a whopping three survivors. The First Texas endured an 86% casualty rate in those 30 minutes, the highest casualty rate of any regiment in a single battle during the Civil War. Andrew and Alexander Erskine, two brothers from near Seguin, Texas, were there. Andrew fell. Alexander wrote to Andrew’s wife, Ann about his sorrow, but he knew her sorrow was surely greater. Ann’s brother had been killed earlier that year at the Second Battle of Manassas. Ann was left a widow, with a ranch, a farm, a ferry and a cotton gin and six sons ranging in age from 9 months to 13 years.

Capt. William Gaston lost his brother in the same battle. He wrote his father that he would find Robert’s body, or die in the effort. Many men were wounded and left behind. He explained to his father sorrowfully that they had to withdraw, leaving many men on the battlefield. He talked about possibly resigning his commission and coming home to Texas. But, in the end, Alexander Erskine and William Gaston transferred to Confederate units back home in Texas. They could have simply gone home to the farm. But, instead they soldiered on.

Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 130-131.

PVT Snuffy and Confederate Memorials

I talked previously about the San Antonio Confederate memorial here. The San Antonio Confederate Memorial, when it still stood, commemorated the service of the common Confederate soldier. In the Army, we refer to the average soldier as “Pvt Snuffy.” The San Antonio memorial did not commemorate a steely-eyed general or some plotting politician. It recalled the average soldier, usually 18-19 years old. In the statute, he grew a mustache, probably to make himself seem older. But, who exactly did our San Antonio Confederate soldier represent?

The folks who raised the funds and designed the statue are long gone. But, we gain some insight when we look at the women behind the statute.

The statue was designed by Virginia Montgomery in 1899. We know from newspaper articles of the time that Virginia was the daughter of Julia Montgomery, a former member of the Daughters of the Confederacy here in San Antonio. Virginia Montgomery – or Jenny as she was sometimes known – was an artist living in New Orleans.

How did Julia end up in San Antonio? Mrs. Julia Montgomery was simply trying to make ends meet. Her husband was John Alfonso Montgomery, a captain in the Confederate army. He enlisted in April, 1862. He enlisted a year after the big rush to join. The more patriotic Southerners generally joined in April-May, 1861, when the war first started. Joining in May, 1862 suggests Capt. Montgomery was not a fervent Southerner. Two years later, he was dropped from the rolls of active soldiers in June, 1864, indicating he was probably wounded and could no longer perform his duty.

Capt. John Montgomery

Capt. Montgomery was a Quartermaster for the 32nd Alabama Infantry regiment. Prior to the war, he was a “cotton merchant” in Mobile, Alabama. “Cotton merchant” is a generic term that probably means he was a cotton broker. Cotton brokers accepted crops of cotton from a planter or farmer and then took the risk of selling it to overseas or New York markets. Cotton brokers earned a good living. They were solidly middle class. It was an occupation, for example, that was generally not open to the Irish and German immigrants of the time. John Montgomery was doing well. That was good, because he and his wife, Julia, had seven children. The youngest child was Blocker Montgomery, born 1861-62. Blocker was Julia’s maiden name.

But, after the war, things turned. John came back from the war “broken in body and fortune.” He returned to Mobile after the war. The family suffered. John was listed with no occupation in the 1870 census. Six years after returning from the war, he was not working. In the 1871 Mobile City Directory, his occupation is simply listed as “merchant.” A description that means nothing for that time period. It is equivalent to describing someone in 2017 as a “businessman.”

A year later, John is a policeman. A year later, he has no occupation. The next year, he is listed as a “cigar dealer.” The next year, he is a clerk. At the age of 50 years old, he is employed as a clerk. The next year, he is not listed in the Mobile City Directory, at all. Like many returning veterans, he could not hold a job. Even worse, every year, the address for the family of nine persons changed. Capt. Montgomery could not even hold onto the family home.

Scattered to the Four Winds

In 1873, Mrs. Julia Montgomery appears in the New Orleans City Directory. That appearance suggests she left Mobile looking for work as a teacher.

The next year, 1877, John, the former captain does not appear. Instead, his son, John A. Montgomery, Jr. is listed. That likely means John, Sr. probably died. And, now surprisingly, his son, 25 years old, is the head of the household. Normally, the widow would be listed as the head of the home and she would be described as the widow. But, Julia does not appear in the 1877 Mobile City Directory. We can only surmise that she was living in New Orleans trying to earn a few dollars.

San Antonio, Texas

Julia was in San Antonio by 1899. She is described in San Antonio papers as a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy here in San Antonio. She is described as someone who has lived in San Antonio for many years. That sort of movement suggests she was moving for work. Year later, she will be described as an educator for some 50 years. It is likely that she moved first to New Orleans and then to San Antonio, looking for work.

Virginia Montgomery

And, where was Virginia during this time? Virginia appears in the 1880 census living with her sister Faith. Faith Montgomery married a farmer, David Dunlap, in upstate Alabama. They were not wealthy. They listed a net worth of $350 in 1880, which was normal for a working class family.

By 1878, John A. Montgomery, the son, disappears from Mobile records. Apparently, he too passed away. The whole family was scattering to the four winds. By 1887, Virginia is living in New Orleans on her own. That was not a common path for young, single women of the time. Single women were not supposed to seek careers. We know she was alone, because other family members who were working would have been listed in the City Directory for the same address. But, no other Montgomery’s appear.

Virginia was listed as an artist. This was a time when female artists were extremely unusual. When she designed the Travis Park monument in 1899, she was described as the first woman to ever design a monument. That could very well be true. In 1899, Virginia designed the Confederate monument for free. So, she was still in touch with her mother in San Antonio.

A New Orleans Suffragette

Julia attained some local fame of her own. She died in 1922. Her lengthy obituary explained she was very active in clubs, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Woman’s Club and others. She was one of the leaders of the suffragette movement in New Orleans. She voted for the first time in her life just two years before – in the 1920 presidential election. She was said to be the oldest voting woman in New Orleans for the 1920 election. When she passed away, her age was given as 99. The 1870 census indicates she was born in 1830.  Regardless, her age was advanced, but he was still very active up to her death.

Bachelor Girl

Virginia acquired some local fame as an artist. In 1930, she wrote a lengthy article for the New Orleans Times Picayune about “Bachelor Girl, A World Leader.” In the article, she explains that a single woman is not “unnatural” and that she can be a “world leader.” Virginia never married. But, she led a full life. In one year, she is mentioned teaching Bible Study to students in Lower Algiers, a working class neighborhood across the river from New Orleans. In another lengthy Times Picayune article, her artistic approach is described. She favors, she said, three watercolors about “Negroes” in their daily lives. Doubtless, Virginia shocked readers again by suggesting African-Americans were appropriate subjects for serious art.

Julia passed away while living with Virginia. The home was and still is located at 7924 South Claiborne. It is a modest home. Nearby is a small park known as Palmer Park. The DAR planted a tree there in honor of Julia.

It is said in a 1911 San Antonio Light article that Julia came up with the concept for the Travis Park monument. That likely means she suggested that it represent a common soldier, not a general. The two women lost a father and husband before his time. For us, the Confederate memorial represented a common soldier. But, for those two women, it likely represented someone whose memory they treasured. Julia and Jenny had their own PVT Snuffy.