The Escambia River

Algernon Sidney Badger technically was a carpet-bagger. An African-American, he served as an officer in a Massachusetts regiment. He came to New Orleans with his Massachusetts regiment and stayed. But, unlike many of the other carpet-baggers, he was respected by all sides during a very complicated and contentious Reconstruction period in the Crescent City. He was one of the few Republicans, white, black or otherwise, to consistently serve in the Metropolitan police force with honesty and courage. He also had a very distinguished career in the First Louisiana Cavalry. I previously talked about Badger here.

An extraordinary event stayed with him the rest of his life. His regiment was fighting in Southern Mississippi and Southern Alabama late in the war. Advancing toward Mobile, his regiment and others came upon the tattered remnants of two Alabama cavalry regiments. The Federals charged. The Alabamians broke and ran. They tossed aside equipment and anything else that would slow them down. The Federals captured many Rebels who surrendered, including one general.

Some Rebels still on horseback, however, took a different path. They turned back towards the Escambia river. The Federals had already burned the bridge. The Rebels had no way to retreat. Yet, many of them rode straight for the rain-swollen river to certain death. Then Lt.-Col. Badger watched as several Southern Cavalrymen ride straight into the river. They preferred death to surrender. We can argue about the sense of honor and manhood that motivated such sacrifice. But, no one can quibble about the devotion to duty of those Southern Cavalrymen. It was a memory that stayed with the young Badger forever.

Compare the devotion to duty shown by a handful of Rebel Cavalrymen to the fleeing Russians in the Ukraine war. They not only tossed aside their personal equipment. They left behind major pieces of lethal equipment which would be used by their foe. One Ukrainian remarked about the fleeing Russians, “They didn’t have a fighting spirit. They were afraid.” No one can say those fleeing Rebels lacked a fighting spirit at the Escambia River.  


Justin A. Nystrom, New Orleans: After the War, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press 2010), p. 36-37.

New York Times, Sept. 15, 2022, p. 3, col. 1

Memorials to Problematic Wars

The war was and still is controversial. The United States has engaged in many questionable wars and this was one. A memorial to the participants in that war recognizes the unique nature of their service:

Not for fame or reward

Not for place or rank

Not lured by Ambition

Or goaded by Necessity

But in simple Obedience to duty

As they understood it

These men suffered all, sacrificed all

“Dared all, and died”

No, these words do not commemorate those who fell in the Viet Nam war or the many other questionable wars in which our country has engaged. These words recall the service of Confederates who are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Some 400 Confederates are buried at Arlington. How did Confederates come to be buried at this place of honor? Early in the 20th century, the United Confederate Veterans petitioned to move some 260 buried Confederates to Arlington. In a spirit of fraternity, as time passed the predecessor entity to the Veterans Administration allowed other Confederates to be buried there.

Bleached bones from Shiloh to Corinth

Unlike the Federal soldiers, very few Confederates who died during the war were buried in marked graves. Most of the Confederate KIA’s were buried in slit trenches on someone’s farm or were left to de-compose in the Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi soil. Several years after the war, one Confederate general started an effort to raise money to inter these thousands of remains. He said there were “bleached bones from Shiloh to Corinth.” In 1869, at a dedication of a Federal monument at Gettysburg, Gen. George Meade called for a respectful burial for the Confederate dead. He was reacting to the many news reports of dead Confederates lying openly in forests and in the hills from Corinth, Mississippi to Shiloh, Tennessee.  This Arlington memorial is a reaction to the complete absence of a place where Southern families could recall their loved ones.

Now, the Naming Commission – that is addressing the re-naming of Army posts – is recommending that the Confederate memorial at Arlington cemetery be removed. The memorial was erected in 1914. The Commission believes it espouses Lost Cause beliefs. But, the words recounted above make no reference to a Lost Cause – or to any cause. The memorial itself speaks of sacrifice as the soldiers saw it. The words suggest the soldiers may have been wrong in their belief. That renders the memorial as much anti-Lost Cause as not.

For more about the Confederate memorial, see the Arlington National Cemetery website here.

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.


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.


Washington Post, June 16, 1902, p. 4

Richmond Dispatch, June 14, 1902, p. 1

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