The Harts of San Patricio

John Hart and Felix Hart settled in the San Patricio colony before 1832. They were not directly related, but likely came from the same extended clan in Ireland. We do not know where in Ireland they originated. But, in 1820, most Harts were in County Sligo. According to the Tithe Applotment Books, completed in 1824, there was one Luke Hart in County Sligo, in Calry civil parish. Luke was not a common Irish name, so there may be a connection.

John first came to New York city, where his first two sons, John, Jr. and Luke were born. John, Jr. was born in New York in 1827 and Luke was born in 1829. John, Sr. was not literate. But, coming to the San Patricio colony, John and his wife, Bridget, received a league of land (4428 acres) and a labor (177 acres) in 1831. That land was part of a different colony. John later renounced the grant, as too far up the Nueces river in Lipan Apache country.

Even so, John and Bridget built a picket cabin which was typical of the time period. The cabin was located in what became known as the town of San Patricio. A portion of his property became known as Hart Place, a place where neighbors would gather on the Nueces River, which had no alligators. The neighbors came to Hart Place to do their wash and play hurley. Later, John’s three sons, John, Jr., Luke, applied for grants from the Refugio colony as close to San Patricio as they could manage. [1]


Early in the Texas Revolution, John espoused the cause of the rebels. He hosted some of the rebel leaders at his home. Local Mexicans assassinated John on a lonely road leading to the town of San Patricio in early 1836. He was shot several times and stabbed repeatedly, suggesting a great deal of anger.

By the late 1850’s, frame houses began to replace the picket cabins of the pioneer days. Luke Hart married Ann Hart, daughter of Felix Hart on July 19, 1853. Luke Hart then lived with Ann on Papalote Creek, near what would become the town of Papalote. [2]


By 1860, there were a good many Harts who mostly lived in San Patricio County. In the 1860 census, there is a Patrick Hart married to Anna with a son named Luke. But, this was  probably a different Luke Hart. The San Patricio Irish retained the custom of re-using first names. Patrick Hart was listed as a stockman in the 1860 census. Most of the San Patricio settlers engaged in raising cattle from the outset. The grass land in the area was suited to ranching, not farming. Patrick claimed $4,000 in personal assets and $5,000 on real estate. He was doing very well for the time. Generally, any value above $4,000 would place a person in the upper class for the time.

Locating any of the San Patricio settlers in the 1850 and 1860 censuses is difficult. During times of danger, the families often re-located to Matamoros, Mexico. Matamoros was about 200 miles from San Patricio. During the 1840’s and 1850’s, raids by Mexican bandits and Comanches occurred with some frequency. Luke and his wife, Ann do not appear in the 1860 census. But, they do appear in the 1870 census. In 1870, Luke claims personal assets of $2,000 and $1500 in real estate. For the depressed economy of 1870 Texas, Luke was doing very well. In 1870, he was listed as a merchant. He had a store in Papalote for many years, in addition to his extensive ranch.

We get some idea of the serious depression in 1870 when we look at Patrick’s assets. In 1860, he claimed personal assets of $4,000 and $5,000 in real estate. Those numbers decreased to $500 and $1000 respectively in the 1870 census.


In 1860, San Patricio County was ranch country. The terrain was dominated by the scrub brush it has today, but by grassland. They had very few slaves, only 77 persons enslaved in the then very large county. None of the many Harts owned slaves, like most of their Irish neighbors. In 1850, San Patricio County had no slaves. But, in 1850, the county was still largely not inhabited. Most of the residents had evacuated to Matamoros. In 1860, there were only seven slaves in the town of San Patricio. The largest number of slaves were found in the town of Ingleside, a town located on the bay, which accounted for 46 of the 77 slaves in San Patricio County. [3]

Civil War

In July, 1861, Luke enlisted in Capt. William Miller’s Home Guards Company. William Miller was a resident of San Patricio himself. This appears to have been a militia for home defense. Luke enlisted with one six-shooter, one rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition. [4]

Hobby’s Battalion

In 1862, Luke Hart enlisted in the 8th Texas Infantry, commanded by William P. Hobby. The unit was sometimes known as Hobby’s Battalion or as Hobby’s Regiment. Luke was in Capt. P.H. Breeden’s company, Co. C. He enlisted at Goliad, Texas in May, 1862. He did not join during those first, heady days of April and May, 1861. That suggests he was not an ardent secessionist. He was 34 years old at the time. Hobby’s Battalion saw action at the Battle of Corpus Christi in the summer and Fall of 1862 and the Battle of St. Joseph’s Island in May, 1863.

In November, 1863, Luke was marked as AWOL. By the standards of the time if had just left to go take care of business at the ranch, he would not have been designated as AWOL. In January, 1864, he was marked as AWOL in San Patricio County. So, he appears to have gone home to take of business. Hobby’s Regiment was ordered to Galveston in December, 1863. He may have left the Battalion, to avoid leaving his home so far away. [5]

Yet, sometime after this point, Luke Hart raised his own troop of calvary and traveled as far as Louisiana when the Civil War ended. Luke Hart was long known to his family as Capt. Hart, apparently due to this troop of cavalry. [6]

In 1871, Luke Hart and two other Hart families sold land to Bishop C.M. DuBuis for a Catholic church. Most of the residents in that part of Papalote were Catholic.ry. [6]

Luke Hart would eventually own some 10,000 acres in and around Papalote. He served as Bee County Clerk. He was elected one of five County Commissioners for Bee County in 1880. Luke died Dec. 6, 1883 in Papalote. [7]


An old story told about the Harts concerned a son of David Craven. David married Catherine Hart. When WW I first started, Great Britain sent thousands of soldiers to Europe. Britain had trouble feeding its troops. So, U.S. Pres. Wilson asked Americans to eat less wheat and eat more cornbread. He hoped to send the wheat to Britain. The son of David Craven lived  in Bee County, in South Texas. He ate cornbread every day at each meal. The son loved cornbread. When he heard Pres. Wilson’s request to help Britain, he announced to his family that from now on, they would eat wheat bread at every meal every day. David Craven was not Irish. It is likely that the anti-British sentiment originated with the Harts.

[1] Rachel Bluntzer Hebert, The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press 1981), pp. 171-182.

[2] The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia, pp. 171-182.

[3] 1860 Slave Schedule

[4] Civil War Muster Rolls Index Cards, 1838-1900.

[5] Service Records, Confederate States of America

[6] Notes of discussion with Alfred T. Otto, this author’s grandfather, in the author’s possession.

[7] Galveston Weekly News, Nov. 25, 1880, p. 7; Old Papalote Cemetery, grave markers

He Served His Country Faithfully

Every successful army needs them, the dedicated few soldiers who will undergo any sacrifice to make the unit work. Audie Murphy said in his book, To Hell and Back, that every platoon needed three to four soldiers ready to kill without flinching. That is what he meant, that every military unit relied on those few who were very good at their craft and were ruthless in the execution of that craft.

Virginius “Jinny” Petty was one such soldier. At the Second Battle of Manassas, he was First Sergeant of Co. E, Fifth Texas Infantry Regiment. The Fifth Texas Infantry was known as  the “Bloody Fifth,” because of its high casualties at the Second Battle of Manassas. Jinny Petty was shot in the bowels and mortally wounded. Then as now, that was the worst wound, because death was certain and it would come slow. He was said to be the most dedicated man in Co. E. He had promised he would “go naked and eat dirt” before he would fall out of line on the march.

His messmate was W.H. McCalister. Mr. McCalister did not lie to 1SGT Petty’s family, as most soldiers did. He told the family that the First Sergeant died a slow death. “He suffered a great deal before he died,” W.H. wrote to the Petty’s family. But, his last request, wrote W.H., was to tell his friends that he “died for a good cause and that he was perfectly willing to die for he had served his country faithfully.” No soldier can hope for more than that.


Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), p. 112.

Stealing the Crops, A Yankee Tradition

Reports have emerged from the Ukraine War that Russians have been stealing stored grain from individual farms and grain silos. They even stole some 27 tractors and combines form a Deere dealership. That is reprehensible conduct. It amounts to war crimes. But, is that conduct new? No, I am afraid not. During the Federal occupation of New Orleans, Benjamin Butler and his brother, Andrew, profited mightily. Even before the occupation, Gen. Butler somehow came to own stores of cotton and turpentine. While still biding his time at Ship Island, he shipped the cotton and turpentine on a Union ship to his agent in Boston as “ballast” with instructions to sell the commodities. But, the Federal Quartermaster in Boston could not understand how this cargo could constitute private property of Gen. Butler if it was shipped on a government-owned ship.

Before Butler’s Boston agent could straighten this out with the U.S. government, a second shipment of cotton and sugar arrived, also from Gen. Butler. The Assistant Quartermaster, Capt. William W. McKim, resolved the issue by selling the two shipments and depositing the money in favor of the U.S. government. The Quartermaster and Secretary of Treasury Chase both then censured Gen. Butler while also noting he must be protected.

Having learned his lesson, from then on, Gen. Butler would confiscate cotton and other crops under the Confiscation Act and skim from the profits, with the aid of his staff. He avoided direct shipments in his own name.

“Colonel” Andrew Butler

Andrew Butler, a colonel for all of two months, came to New Orleans soon after his brother, Ben, occupied the city. Andrew was denied a permanent rank as colonel, so he came as a civilian. But, with his brother, the two brothers embarked upon various schemes to profit from this occupation. In a time when cotton was virtually worthless in the South because it could not be shipped, it nevertheless held great value if it could be shipped. Sugar sold for three cents per pound in New Orleans, but for six cents in New York. Turpentine sold for $38 per barrel in the North, but could be found for three dollars on the Mississippi river. Dry goods could be purchased in New York and sold for several times that price in New Orleans. Flour sold for six dollars a barrel in New York, but for twice that amount in New Orleans.

Liquor Monopoly

Gen. Butler issued an order that liquor could not be sold, after another general complained that his men were getting drunk every pay day. Andrew then bought up all the liquor supplies in the City at bottom prices. Soon, Gen. Butler then rescinded the no-liquor order and Andrew sold his liquor supplies at a large profit.

When Gen. Butler learned the blockade of the New Orleans port would be lifted on June 1, 1862, he sent Andrew $60,000 of sugar packed in hogsheads. Gen. Butler assured his superiors in Washington that he purchased the sugar to stabilize the price of sugar and demonstrate the good will of the U.S. government to the local planters. But, in reality, Andrew bought it for a pittance because the planters believed they would not be able to sell the sugar. In his communication to Secretary of War Stanton Gen. Butler also did not mention that his brother made the actual purchase and that Andrew pocketed $5 per hogshead as a carrying charge

After the blockade was lifted, some of the pre-war commerce resumed with farmers and planters sending their goods down river to be sold to U.S. and European buyers. But, many shops and stores in New Orleans remained shuttered. One Daily Picayune edition reported that tens of thousands of merchants had been ruined by the blockade.  


But, not the Butler brothers. They were doing just fine. In September, Pres. Lincoln signed the second Confiscation Act. This act provided that unless every Confederate soldier put down his weapon and swore an oath of allegiance to the United Stats, then his property was subject to confiscation. Gen. Butler pressed all New Orleans citizens to swear the oath to the U.S. When some 4,000 refused the oath, Gen. Butler published their names and evicted them from the city. He allowed them to take only personal possessions. He seized their real property and sold it. He sequestered the property of thousands of Confederate soldiers who had homes in the Crescent City, but were off somewhere fighting. Thousands of New Orleanians were hundreds of miles from their homes fighting for the Confederacy. Beast Butler sold much of that property at auction.

“Colonel” Andrew Butler sent notices to the sugar growers telling them they needed his permission to sell their sugar. Otherwise, his brother would seize their sugar crop. Andrew then hired two New Orleans firms who employed only white workers to go and seize their product. According to at least one account, Andrew’s raiders also took the wife’s wardrobe and jewels. Andrew charged farmers and planters a fee to avoid confiscation. If an important person was imprisoned, Andrew would secure their freedom for the right price. Andrew would buy at auction seized sugar and cotton in New Orleans. He would then sell it in New York for three or four times what he paid for it.

After the lifting of the blockade, Andrew started importing flour from New York and selling it at great profit in New Orleans. That led to a monopoly on grocery items, medicines and staples in New Orleans. He also came to control the bakeries. As one lady commented at the time, both brothers engaged in illicit enterprises, but Andrew was the front man.

No Tow Boats for the Navy

The Butlers’ control of so much commerce attracted the ire of Commander Porter. In mid-June, 1862, Porter needed tow boats to help move his fleet. But, the nine steamers used for towing were too busy collecting medicines, sugar, salt, and cotton for transport to New Orleans for auction. The officers and crew on these tow boats were not happy either. They did not enlist to help two brothers profit from speculation. Andrew would collect this material and then send it on to New York or Boston for sale. Andrew and Ben had secured these networks all within two months. The Federals occupation only started in late April, 1862.

In Late June, Secretary of the Treasury Chase, a close friend of Benjamin Butler, warned the general that his activities were attracting negative attention. Secretary Chase then sent two agents to investigate these claims. One of the agents, George Denison, was  also a friend of Benjamin Butler. He reported that “everyone” from U.S. government officials to rebels believed the two brothers were acting in concert with Andrew as the front man. Denison reported that Andrew had profited by some one to two million dollars in the past two months. One million dollars in 1862 would be worth about 28 million dollars, today.

Denison wrote to Chase that Andrew was not an employee of the government. He was only in the city to make money, he reported. It looks bad, he said, because the only authority he would have would be through his brother. Yet, at the same time, in a letter to his wife, Denison praised Andrew because he had sent some thousands hogsheads of sugar up North which was prime quality and will pay very well.

Trading with the Enemy

Denison soon changed his view of the general when he located a schooner laden with salt on Lake Pontchartrain. It was destined for the north shore of the inland bay. The north part of the bay was held by the Confederates. Denison told the customs officer to seize it. To Denison, Butler acted surprised someone would ship salt to the enemy. Yet, later that day, Denison learned that Gen. Butler had countermanded the seizure and had released the vessel to continue its journey. Gen. Butler noted the military governor, Col. George F. Shepley had approved the shipment.

But, noted Denison, Gen. Butler did not have lawful authority to countermand a customs officer seizure. Denison later learned that 600 sacks of salt had been transported: 400 sacks were sold to the Confederate army at $25 a sack and 200 were sold to civilians for $36 per sack. Denison later discovered many other shipments of salt, medicines and other supplies across Lake Pontchartrain apparently with Gen. Butler’s blessing  – and more likely originating with “Colonel” Andrew Butler.  

About the time of Denison’s report to Secy. Chase, Commander Porter returned to Washington. Porter informed the Secretary that for a price, Gen. Butler was supplying the rebels with salt, shoes, blankets, flour, etc. These actions, if taken by a Confederate sympathizer, would carry a ten year prison sentence.

In September, Denison confronted Gen. Butler directly. The general simply responded that the government directed that cotton should be shipped from this port. Denison assumed this meant Washington, but his boss, Secy. Chase, neither confirmed or denied Butler’s assertion. Denison admitted in his reports that he had no solid proof that “Colonel” Andrew Butler was behind this trade across the lake.

Again approaching Gen. Butler, Denison persuaded the general that trade with the enemy degraded the character of the government. Gen. Butler said he would talk to Col. Shepley, the military governor of the city about the permits which he had been issuing for this trade. It was Col. Shepley who had been issuing the permits for the trading with the Confederates.

A week later, both Gen. Butler and Col. Shepley agreed with Denison that they would stop the trade after two last shipments.

Bayou Lafourche

But, about this time, Union forces seized control of the parishes across the Mississippi River, known as Bayou Lafourche country. “Colonel” Andrew Butler soon moved in with other speculators and began to seize property owned by Confederate soldiers across the river – just as they had already done in New Orleans. Col. James M. McMillan of the 21st Indiana worked for Andrew Butler and served as his military attaché. The network seized more cotton and sugar which they auctioned at rigged prices in New Orleans and then re-sold at large profits. 

By November, Gen. Butler had persuaded Denison that Andrew Butler was simply acting as a patriot in taking control of plantations and nurturing reconstruction and producing bountiful sugar and cotton crops while employing black labor.

But, the soldiers saw and followed these examples. One company seized a plantation across the river. They stole the silver, whiskey and the ladies’ clothing. A Navy commander saw the theft and reported it up the chain of command to Gen. Butler. Butler threatened to take action against the soldiers, but he also expressed resentment at this “bombastic,” junior Naval officer intruding on Army business.

In December, 1862, Beast Butler was replaced. He had incurred the wrath of some 20 consuls in New Orleans who then complained loudly to their respective governments. How much money did the Butlers profit in New Orleans? They covered their tracks well. But, historians know that Andrew came to New Orleans with little money and no rank in the army. Benjamin came with $150,000. While by 1868, Benjamin claimed assets of $3 million. Andrew died that year and left his sizeable estate to Benjamin. This at a time when assets of more than $4,000 generally placed a person in the upper class of American society.

See more about Gen. Benjamin Butler here.


Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 181-196

Leadership in the Texas Brigade

Back in the 1980’s, back when I was a young Infantry Officer attending the Infantry Officer Basic Course, we had a course called “Leadership.” How do you teach leadership to a group of some 40 lieutenants? The IOBC cadre used the case method, the same method you see in Business school or law school. We looked at a wide variety of stories and examples from real life about good and bad leaders. There was no one ultimate answer to how to be a good leader. But, the point the IOBC cadre drove home with us was that in regard to United States soldiers, the best approach was egalitarian or democratic. Authoritarian leaders did not do so well in U.S. military history. The truism we arrived at was that we, as Infantry leaders, should always expect to explain to the soldiers why a given order made sense. Don’t just tell them. Expect that you will also need to explain to your soldiers why they must follow a given plan or order. We in the U.S. have a different tradition, when compared to Europe and other places.

The Failed Leaders

Some leaders failed the Texas Brigade long before the war began. J.J. Archer, from Maryland, was appointed the first colonel of the Fifth Texas Infantry. He was not well-liked, partly because he was from Maryland – too close to “Yankeedom” said one soldier. But, the fact that he was not from Texas probably played a greater role. The lieutenant-colonel of the regiment faced even greater scrutiny. Frank Schaller, a German émigré, on paper had all the credentials. His grandfather and father served in the French army. He graduated from a military school in Germany and college in France. He served briefly in the Crimea. But, as one descendant explained, he was shy and lacked social skills. He was short, slim and high-strung. In early October, 1861, he rode into the Fifth Texas Infantry Regiment camp. He wore gold lace and stars on his uniform, amidst a regiment that prided itself on officers with well-worn boots and appreciated one officer who rode into battle with a pistol in one hand and a frying pan in the other. Upon seeing the elegant officer, one soldier asked “What is it? Is it a man, fish, or bird?” The last the men saw of Lieut-Col. Schaller, he was riding out of camp on his horse, the mane sheared and the tail cut off. And, the men laughed heartily at their prank. So much for one appointed officer.

John Bell Hood

John Bell Hood understood how this worked. He might be appointed, but he still had to earn the respect of his men. Not the first, but one of the best commanders of “Hood’s Texas Brigade,” he knew instinctively to treat the citizen-soldiers as equals, or as near equals. The Texans were difficult. They complained about some commanders and found ways to force them out. Not so with John Bell Hood. Gen. Hood was from Kentucky originally, but he had lived many years in Texas. He was a West Point graduate. So, he was “regular Army” when compared to the Texas volunteers. The Confederate army could elect their company grade officers, but regimental and above officers were appointed by the central government. So, the Texas Brigade did not ask for him. But, they took to him right away.

Pre-War Status

How did Gen. Hood succeed where others failed? He would say later that he devoted the entire winter quarters to show he valued his men, both as soldiers and for their pre-war status. Many men were persons of standing in their home communities, but were now just another soldier. In his way, Gen. Hood recognized they had a place of significance before the war. He made a distinct effort to make the junior officers better junior officers. He said later he lost no opportunity to “arouse” their pride and to impress upon them that they would be the best soldiers. That goal of being the best appealed to the brash Texans. He urged them to police themselves, to look out for soldiers not doing their best and to take steps to fix the problem.

The Why of an Order

Gen. Hood mentioned that his predecessors did not take the time to explain the “why” of a given order. They would just issue the order and expect instant obedience. Hood, on the other hand, would take the time to explain. For example, he had a rule that lights had to be out by ten o’clock at night. He explained to the Texans that in keeping a light on, the soldier would not just keep himself awake, but all the others in his tent or cabin. An army must have its sleep if it was to do well the next morning. The general insisted that officers had to explain the reason for orders, not simply issue the order.

One of the Texans would write years later that Gen. Hood knew much better than other officer how to lead volunteers, as opposed to leading regular soldiers. Then Col. Hood was well versed in human nature, said Joe Polley. He knew full well that volunteers would not accept the sort of restrictions regular soldiers would tolerate. He knew not to draw the “full reins of true military discipline.”


Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 48-49, 79-80.

The British Military Observer

It is an old military tradition to send military observers to view a war in a distant country. We learn so much from wars in distant lands about the latest tactics and equipment. During the United States Civil War, Great Britain sent Col. Garnet Wolseley to observe the Confederate army. Col. Wolseley would later become the leading general of his age in the British army. He would retire as a Field Marshall.

Col. Wolseley frowned as he watched the First Texas Infantry Regiment march by. Even then, in 1862, as they retreated form the Battle of Antietam, most of the men were barefoot. They limped from the cuts and scrapes on their bare feet. Their lower legs were covered by briar scratches. The cuffs of their sleeves and pants were frayed and ragged. They had tossed their blankets away, because they were shredded by bullet holes.

Col. Wolseley noticed their complete lack of military bearing. But, Gen. Lee assured him, “The enemy never sees the backs of my Texans.”

No Footwear

The truth was the Confederacy could not support its troops. Even into November, 1862, 2,000 men in the Army of Northern Virginia lacked foot wear of any sort. Another 3,000 had shoes that would not last through Christmas. The flour that arrived into the stores of Hood’s Texas Brigade in November had worms an inch long. As the war dragged on, the supply situation grew worse, not better. Yet, these hardy, brave men fought on.

The men of the First Texas Regiment were inspected and found wanting. The Inspector General for the Army of Northern Virginia found their rifles in “very bad order” In modern parlance, we would say they failed the IG inspection. It is likely they simply had not cleaned their rifles adequately or lacked some parts. The Inspector General said the officers were derelict in their duty. But, Gen. Hood was not impressed. He knew his citizen soldiers may not look pretty, but they were combat effective. He ignored the report.

Contemporary observers insist the Southern soldier fought for slavery. It is true that slaves represented material investment to the South. But, if the Southern soldier fought solely for slavery, why did he endure such privation for nothing more than material gain? If he was fighting only to protect his investment, why did he fight with no shoes and socks? It was surely poor investment strategy to protect one’s investments in another human being by serving in an army that could not provide shoes and socks.


Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), p. 136-137, 138.

Texas Guardsman Disappears in the Rio Grande

I have written about Operation Lone Star here and here. It is an exceedingly stupid mission, generated simply to secure an election. It is fundamentally flawed in so many ways. Chief among its problems is a lack of work for its about 6,500 Guardsmen/women. A close second is the lack of basic equipment. The soldiers lack first aid kits, ballistic vests, and helmets. They also lack federal benefits. If they are hurt or simply ill, they cannot seek Veterans Affairs Department medical care. They are not on federal orders, so they cannot go to the nearest Air Force base or Army post and see the on-post doctors. They must seek medical insurance like any state employee. But, unlike state employees, they have not been briefed on their medical insurance benefits. So, it is not surprising that many have joined a state employee union.

What If

But, the worst oversight surely is what if. In the Army, we would say what if the sh** hits the fan. What if a crisis occurs and a Guardsman is shot or passes out from heat exhaustion on some lonely ranch. Or, what if a Guardsman sees an Illegal Immigrant struggling in the water and jumps in to help. Anyone who knows the Guard knows 99% of Guardsmen will jump in despite being told not to. The reason most Guards guys join is that hero moment. That is a big part of the attraction. As one Guardsmen told me anonymously regarding Operation Lone Star:

“Despite being briefed not to help, we will always do the right thing and help even if it puts our lives in danger.”


Now, the worst has happened. An unidentified Guardsman did just that, he jumped in to help a struggling immigrant. It might have been a child or a woman. Guardsmen are not saints. But, that is what we do, we jump in to save folks. Anyone at state leadership, including the Governor, who does not know that is not paying attention. Now, that Guardsman has disappeared in the Rio Grande. See Army Times report here. The Rio Grande is very shallow in some parts, but in other parts, the water is quite deep, especially at this time of year.

The Texas Military Department, which has minimized the equipment shortages, the pay problems and the lack of genuine work, has issued a statement – anonymously as they always do – saying the Guardsmen has simply disappeared. He has not necessarily drowned. But, if he is missing, that is a big deal. The young man or woman is either AWOL or drowned. No, he has drowned. The TMD is wrong, again. One young Guardsman died doing what Guardsmen do everywhere, trying to save someone he never met.

If the young man or woman had died in the sandbox, his friends and family would know he died for something worthwhile. He would have died defending his country, as he understood his duty. But, to die to help one governor win re-election?? I want to know who will tell this young Guardsman’s family that he gave his life, so Gov. Abbott could win his next election.

The Soldiers of Guadalupe County, Texas

Why did Confederate soldiers serve? Were they fighting for slavery? We cannot survey the Confederates from 1861-1865. But many letters and diaries remain. In some ways, letters and diaries are more accurate than an actual survey. One soldier, Andrew Erskine, was older than many soldiers. He was 36 years old when he enlisted in 1862. He joined long after the initial patriotic rush in 1861. But, he too felt a sense of patriotism. Andrew traveled all the way from Seguin, Texas (Guadalupe County) to Richmond, Virginia to join the Fourth Texas Infantry Regiment, part of the Texas Brigade (soon to become famous as “Hood’s Texas Brigade”). Andrew traveled with his brother, Alexander, who was 33 years old himself, and some two dozen others from Seguin, Texas. The two brothers traveled with neighbors and cousins to join the war effort. They paid their own way simply so they could join the army in Virginia. They believed Virginia to be the likely scene of the significant battles. How right they were.

Not all in their party reached Richmond. One member of their group, R. R. Harriot, dropped off in New Orleans, apparently lured by the sights. How many soldiers today would travel at their own expense to Afghanistan to enlist?

County Clerk

Why did the brothers come? They came from a middle class family in Seguin, Texas. Andrew was the County Clerk for Guadalupe County in 1860. His brother, Alexander, was a farmer in 1860. Neither man owned slaves. In 1860, there were some 1700 slaves in Guadalupe County. 202 persons owned other human beings. Of those 202, 28 percent owned one slave, while another 20 percent owned 2-4 slaves. Neither Erskine brother owned a slave. Alexander had owned slaves as recently as 1857, but he owned no slaves afterward. Ann, Andrew’s wife, would later inherit some eight slaves in 1863.


Andrew Erskine was motivated by patriotism. It would have shamed him to be drafted, and if he joined, he wanted to serve with his family and neighbors, with people he knew. Probably reflecting an extended discussion with his wife, he explained in a letter to Ann: “You know I left you and my sweet darling boys and my comfortable home because I deemed it my duty, and because I thought the public expected me to go. I was too proud to remain at home when everybody in the country able to bear arms had left to go in defense of the bleeding and suffering country.”

He added, “I am acting as all good patriots should act and that although it may seem to you hard that I should leave you and my little boys alone, remember that no one could say hereafter to my children, ‘Your father did not aid in gaining the independence of the Southern Confederacy.” Ann’s brother was also in Andrew’s Company D. Alexander was a graduate of the University of Virginia. Certainly, both brothers had choices other than to enlist. Ann had just given birth in January 1862. Their two year old son had recently drowned in the Guadalupe River. Yet, on they came, at their own expense.

Battle of Antietam Creek

In September, 1862, Andrew Erskine would later be killed in the days after the Battle of Antietam Creek. Alexander was wounded in his left arm and twice in his side. Alexander wrote home that Andrew was shot in the temple while making a “terrible” charge on the enemy. Alexander explained to Ann, Andrew’s wife, that he had been too wounded to procure Andrew’s body. But, their commander had assured him that Andrew would be buried. That was no small promise. In those days, many bodies were left on the battlefield due to the exigencies of war. A system to simply recover bodies had not yet been created. Ann’s brother, Thomas I. Johnson, had also been killed in August, 1862 at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He too had served in Hood’s Texas Brigade among his friends and family. Andrew’s father had died back home in Guadalupe County in May, 1862, after a recent cattle drive to New Orleans.

Ann was mother to six sons, aged nine months to thirteen years old. She now had to operate a grist mill, a cotton gin, a ferry, an inn, a farm and a ranch largely on her own. After the war, Alexander remained in Seguin and was active in the Confederate soldier’s association.


Hood’s Texas Brigade, Susannah J. Ural (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), p. 87, 130-131

Slave Transactions in Guadalupe County, Texas, Mark Gretchen (Janaway Publ., Inc. 2009) pp. 37, 38, 227, 241, 260.

Joseph Brenan, Young Irelander

The Young Ireland movement was started by young Irish revolutionaries who believed Daniel O’Connell was not doing enough. The Young Irelanders advocated the use of force if necessary, a step Daniel O’Connell long resisted. In 1846, the Young Irelanders seceded from O’Connell’s Repeal Association. Among those early rebels were William Smith O’Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher, future commander of the New York 69th Irish Brigade and John Mitchel, future Confederate States of America supporter. I have previously written about Mitchel here.

Joseph Brenan, born in Cork city in 1828, also supported the Young Ireland movement. Brenan found inspiration in John Mitchel’s writings. The Young Irelanders organized a brief uprising in 1848. It was short-lived, but it scared the British authorities immeasurably. The firefight at Widow McCormack’s house occurred on July 29, 1848. Michael Nolan, an Irish native who had emigrated to New Orleans, then returned to his former home County Tipperary in August, 1848. 118 Young Irelanders were arrested in the days after the fight at McCormack’s house. Joseph Brenan was one of those arrested. Upon his release in 1849, he returned to his work for the Dublin Irishman, a militant nationalist newspaper. It was the Irishman that later published a lengthy obituary for Michael Nolan when he was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. See my prior post on Michael Nolan here.


In September, 1848, some of the Young Irelanders, including Brenan, made plans to launch an uprising in Cappoquin, County Waterford. Brenan and Michal Cavanaugh, launched an attack with pikes and firearms on the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks. One of the rebels was killed and one of the constables was piked to death. The rebels were repulsed, after which they retreated. The band then proceeded to Dungarvan, where the constables were cooperative. The British then sent the 7th Fusiliers Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers to Cappoquin. The rebels remained active for another two weeks, at which time they abandoned their efforts. The leaders were not arrested. The British only managed to arrest some of the participants. Brenan and Cavanaugh and others fled to America. [1]

An Exile’s

Brenan first came to New York and worked for Horace Greeley on the Tribune. In October, 1851, now married, he moved to New Orleans to work on the New Orleans Daily/Weekly Delta, published by Denis Corcoran. He published one of his poems titled “An Exile’s Dream.” That poem ends with this stanza:

I will seize my pilgrim staff and cheerily wander forth

From the smiling face of the South to the black frown of the North;

And in some hour of twilight, I will mount the tall Slievebloom,

And weave me a picture-vision in the evening’s pleasant gloom;

I will call up the buried leaders of the ancient Celtic race,

And gaze with a filial fondness on each sternly noble face –

The masters of the mind, and the chieftains of the steel,

Young Carolan and Grattan, the McCaura and O’Neill;

I will learn from their voices, with a student’s love and pride,

To live as they lived, and to die as they died.

Oh, I’ll sail from the West, and never more will part

From the ancient home of my people – the land of the loving heart.

The Slieve Bloom mountains are in central Ireland.

Escape from Van Dieman’s Land

Brenan became one of the leading Irishmen in New Orleans. He was President of a Committee that organized a welcome reception for John Mitchel after he escaped the penal colony in Australia. Mitchel came to New Orleans in 1853. Brenan helped organize a similar reception for Thomas Francis Meagher when he also escaped the same penal colony. Meagher came to New Orleans in 1852. Meagher was received by the leading persons in New Orleans at the time: W.C.C. Claiborne, Barnard Marigny, Judah Benjamin, and by the leading Irishmen of the day: Maunsel White, J.C. Prendergast, and others.[3]

An Ardent Secessionist

In 1853, Brenan contracted the yellow fever in one of the worst epidemics to hit the Crescent City. The treatment for the illness left him partially blind. Brenan loved the South. In March, 1857, he stated a new newspaper, to be known as the Daily Times. The journal would focus on Southern interests, literature, and criticisms. Walter Hopkins, another former editor for the Delta assisted him. Brenan by this time had become an ardent secessionist. [4]

Brenan published a poem titled “A Ballad for the Young South.” The first stanzas went as follows:

Men of the South! Our foes are up

In fierce and grim array;

Their sable banner laps the air

An insult to the day!

The saints of Cromwell rise again,

In sanctimonious hordes,

Hiding behind the garb of peace

A million ruthless swords


In early May, 1857, he became ill. The treating physician reported that he would not recover. On May 28, 1857, the eloquent Irish patriot died of “consumption.” Joseph Brenan was described as an “esteemed friend” by the redoubtable J.C. Prendergast, Irish editor of the Daily Orleanian. Prendergast remarked that those best loved by God often die young. Prendergast lamented the loss of one so intelligent and so skilled with words. The young Brenan was buried in the old cemetery known as St. Louis. [6]

Brenan appears to have had some connection to the Crescent Dramatic Association. That amateur theater group put on a performance to raise money for Brenan’s widow and four children. The performance was held in a large venue, the Gaiety Theater. [7]

See Brenan’s entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography here.


[1] Anthony M. Breen, “Cappoquin and the 1849 Movement, History Ireland Issue 2 (Summer, 1999), vol. 7

[2] New Orleans Weekly Delta, Dec. 28, 1851, p. 6, col. 4; Dictionary of Irish Biography, entry regarding Joseph Brenan

[3] New Orleans Daily Picayune, Dec. 11, 1853, p. 4, col. 3; New Orleans Weekly Delta, July 4, 1852, p. 7, col. 1

[4] Baton Rouge Daily Advocate, March 19, 1857, p. 2, col. 3

[5] Bryan McGovern, “Young Ireland and Southern Nationalism” Irish Studies Issue 2, Article 5 (Celtic Studies, Kennesaw State Univ. 2016)

[6] Baton Rouge Daily Advocate, May 11, 1857, p. 2, col. 3; New Orleans Daily True Delta, May 29, 1957, p. 1, col. 2; New Orleans Daily Orleanian, May 29, 1857, p. 1, col. 1

[7] New Orleans Sunday Delta, June 14, 1857, p. 4, col. 1

The Will to Fight

Modern day observers argue that the Confederate soldiers were fighting for slavery. See Journal of the Civil War Era post, which frankly accuses the Confederates of treason. See Journal of the CWE post here. But, even if that were true, what motivated the Confederates do willingly incur the sort of sacrifices they made? “Treason” alone cannot sustain a soldier for months or years.

Lack of Unit Cohesion

Russian troops have criticized their commanders as “stupid morons.” Speaking of his brigade commander, one Russian soldier said he “dumped us. His commander left his brigade. “We’re all dead in the water if he left.” See Yahoo news report here.

Longstreet Moccasins

That sort of talk rarely occurred among the Confederate soldiers. By 1863, it was common in the Texas Brigade to see soldiers barefoot. There were men with no pants and some with no coat. Robert Campbell recorded that in late 1863, he had but one pair of pants with only one leg. Sgt. D.H. Hamilton kept the split sides of his shoes together by tying the pieces to his feet. He and some of his friends learned to make rough shoes out of simple rawhide. Malachiah Reeves received rawhide shoes like this from home during winter and was thrilled. It was, he recorded, better than being barefoot. These “shoes” became known in camp as “Longstreet’s moccasins” – named for their Corps Commander, Gen. James Longstreet.

The Russian soldiers criticize their commanders for employing the same unsuccessful tactics over and over. Until November, 1863, the Texas Brigade enjoyed much lower desertion rates than other Southern units. The desertion rate then spiked in November, 1863, as the brigade moved to Tennessee under new leadership. Letters home reflected a sense of abandonment and rejection. They were far from their normal lines of communication. Packages from home were no longer available. The support from local families and homes did not compare with what they had known in Virginia.

Motivated by Patriotism

But, they returned to Virginia in April, 1864 and enjoyed better support. Their desertion rate then returned to its normal low rate. One Russian soldier told his wife in a phone call, “It’s unclear why we are even here.” The Confederate soldier, on the other hand, always knew why he was serving. He was trying to repel the Yankee invader and protect his home. As Dr. McPherson found in his book For Cause and Comrade, some 57% of Confederate soldiers espoused patriotic fervor for the South. That is, their service was motivated by patriotism. The Confederates were fighting for their homes and families. They were the Ukrainians repelling the invaders, as best they could. I previously wrote about Dr. McPherson’s study here.

Casual observers of military operations argue that what motivates soldiers the most is fighting for their buddy, for their comrade. Yes, unit cohesion motivates many soldiers. But, as we see with the Russian soldiers, there must also be a foundation involving some larger purpose justifying their sacrifice.


Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 198-201.

James McPherson, For Cause and Comrade by James McPherson (Oxford Univ. Press 1997), p. 102.

Diminished Humanity and the Irish Immigrant

J.C. Prendergast, Irish immigrant and editor of the New Orleans Daily Orleanian, often commented on the plight of the Irish immigrants. His perspective is unique, because he arrived in the U.S. long before the famine. Yet, he saw the daily privations of the Famine refugees daily, weekly in the busy port.

He complained about the wretched condition of the passengers of the Otillia when they arrived in late March, 1851. Unlike the Irish immigrants from 15 years prior, the passengers of the Otillia were craving (apparently meaning craven), vacillating, and devoid of spirit. He said these passengers have become brutalized and unfeeling. They arrived in terrible condition.

When they arrived, there were 40 cases of “ship fever,” which was probably typhus. They buried at sea two adults and three children. Upon arrival in New Orleans, there were onboard one dead child and two or three adults fast approaching death. The decks were filthy and between the decks, the air was putrid. The doctor who inspected the ship in the New Orleans wharf said that even after those 40 cases of ship fever recover, they will return to the hospital afflicted with starvation. Dr. Hart, the city’s health officer, predicted there would soon be a typhus epidemic in the city if steps were not taken.


Prendergast was appalled that one father whose wife died at sea, abandoned his two year old child as soon as the ship touched the levee. He left the child, gaunt and weak, on a log on the levee and then disappeared. The child seemed “stupefied.” Unlike most children, the child uttered no cry, not the slightest whimper. The child’s eyes dropped. It ate readily, but then relapsed into its former stupor. Prendergast suggested some generous person in the city might wish to adopt some of the children who had arrived.

Prendergast mentioned that two rough looking men, one Spanish and the other French, were stopped as they were taking three of the young women, as young as 14, to “get bread.” When stopped, the three girls seemed as if they were drugged. One teetered from side to side. It turned out that the two men had plied the girls with drink. The editor did not explain how the two abusers were stopped. But, they were probably rescued by police. The police, such as they were in 1851, were often Irish and they often kept an eye out for the Irish immigrants.

Such was the immigrant life when the coffin ships arrived in 1851.


New Orleans Daily Orleanian, April 4, 1851, p. 2, col. 1, 2, 3