Gen. Lee to the Rear

In the annals of warfare, it was extraordinary. There is no record of this happening to Julius Caesar, Hannibal or Napoleon. In May 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness, Gen. Robert E. Lee tried to lead the charge of the Texas Brigade. Commanding generals do not typically attempt to lead a charge themselves. They should have more concerns than one portion of a larger battle. Yet, when the Texas Brigade moved up to block a penetration by Union General Winfield Scott’s forces, Lee knew the moment was dire. He knew that the Confederates were being pressed in ways they had never been pressed. He wanted to be sure the charge succeeded.

Drive These People Back

Gen. Lee cheered as the Texans moved into position to plug the gap created by Gen. Scott. The Corps Commander, Gen. Longstreet planned to move one brigade into the gap, followed by a second brigade and then a third. When the Texans first arrived, Gen. Lee urged them, “We must drive these people back.” A man not given to frequent displays of emotion already showed more emotion than his soldiers were used to. “The Texans always drive them,” he added.  The commander of the Texas Brigade, Gen. Gregg, told his men, “The eye of Gen. Lee is on you.” The Texans responded with cheers. With a shout of “Forward,” the Texans and Arkansans started forward with a yell.

Immediately, the men noticed Gen. Lee was moving with them. Capt. Bedell noticed the general advancing with them well into the enemy fire. Dozens would later insist they were there and they held the reins of Traveller, pulling Lee back to the rear. Traveller was the name of Lee’s horse, named after Gen. Washington’s horse during the American revolution. Gen. Washington was Gen. Lee’s step-grandfather.

Jumping the Chain Command

Capt. Bedell had been wounded twice in prior battles. He was one of the original recruits into Co. “L” of the Texas Brigade. Co. L came from Galveston. Capt. Bedell implored Lee to stop. Gen. Lee responded, “I want to lead the Texas Brigade in this charge.” From commander to his men, bypassing three or four layers of command was unusual in itself. But, the overall commander was negotiating with his men. He could have simply told them to shut up and let him do his job. But, he was negotiating, asking them to let him do what he thought he needed to do ensure success.

It is hard for civilians to understand this remarkable military relationship during war. There is an unspoken understanding that each person, male or female, will do his/her best at all times to ensure success of the military unit. In this instance, the Commanding General was asking his men to let him do what he believed he had to do to plug this gap. His men were telling him, “no.”

The tender feeling in that moment cannot be overstated. They were also saying the possibility of losing Gen. Lee was too high a price to pay for the success of one charge. That is an extraordinary honor, a gesture rarely extended to army commanders.

Charge Hell Itself

Other soldiers joined in. “You will get killed dad[d]y.” “We won’t go forward until you go back,” said another. One soldier watching this unheard of display remarked years later, “I would charge hell itself for that old man.” One soldier in a friendly way kicked at Traveller, saying, “Get out of the Wilderness with General Lee, you old looney!” That alone would merit court martial in today’s army.

The general finally turned toward the rear, as the Texas Brigade surged forward into the fire. Dozens of Texans fell. But, Gen. Lee lived.

Arthur Wellesly, the Duke of Wellington, was equally adept at forecasting moves and counter-moves by the enemy. He was also generally well-liked by his troops. But, his soldiers never expressed similar sentiments, as Lee’s men did him.

Source:

Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade (LSU Press 2017), pp. 212-213.

The Emancipation Proclamation

While in camp, when the men of the Texas Brigade had time to write home, they would ask about the slaves back home. They would ask their family member “to say hello to the Negroes.” If the soldier had a “Negro” with him, he would write home how the enslaved American was doing in camp. Many of the men or their family back home owned some slaves. So, the modern reader might expect some resentment of the Emancipation Proclamation. Pres. Lincoln issued the proclamation on January 1, 1863, he announced his intention to issue the proclamation soon after the Battle of Antietam in September, 1862.

In letters of the men and families of the Texas Brigade, they mentioned the Proclamation not much. To the extent they did, it was more about the war possibly ending soon. The men noted to the folks back home that the Union soldiers they talked to were not happy to learn they were now fighting for the “for the freedom of the black.” One soldier wrote home that Indiana and Illinois were considering seceding themselves because of the Proclamation. That belief was probably based on news reports of the time, which were not always accurate. In any event, we now know that no such secession ever happened in those two Northern states.

Union Generals

Brig-Gen. John Gibbon recorded in his memoirs that generals in the Union Army were usually picked for command positions based not on military ability, but based on their views of slavery. For much of the Civil War, the Union Army, he recalled decades after the war, preferred persons who viewed slavery favorably. That is probably less a reflection on slavery and more on generals preferring persons with less zealous personalities. Abolitionists tended to be very zealous. In the 1860’s, as today, senior officers avoid zealots.

Another Texas Brigade soldier reported to the folks back home in Texas that he had passed through Virginia and had spoken with a group of 60 Federal prisoners. They were not happy to hear about the Proclamation. They said they were still willing to fight for the union, but not for the black man. The Texas soldiers believed the Emancipation Proclamation would help bring the war to a close. One soldier optimistically predicted the war would not last another six months. They believed the western states would rebel at fighting to end slavery. At the time, states west of Pennsylvania were considered “western.” We now know there were some mutinies among Federal units. But, by and large, the Union soldiers fought on.  

What is missing from these letters, whether written by soldiers or by the family, was a concern or resentment about the Proclamation. Either the soldiers did not see the Presidential order as close enough to their daily lives, or more likely, while they cared for blacks on an individual basis, for the black man as a whole, they just did not give him much thought, for good or ill.

Sources:

Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 143-144

Allen C. Guelzo, “Meade’s Council of War,” Civil War Monitor, Winter, 2018, p. 75 (citing Gibbon, Personal Recollections of the Civil War (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1928), p. 21-22, 242).

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 (near San Antonio) 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 or Iraq to enlist?

Guadalupe County Clerk

Why did the Erskine 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.

Patriotism

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 was 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. The Southerners had no system by which to recover bodies, as the North did. 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.

Sources:

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.

The Texas Brigade Soldiered On

Conditions for the Confederate army worsened as the war dragged on. By 1863, the Texas Brigade was in Tennessee. It was common to see soldiers barefoot, 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 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.

Yet, they fought on. In my time in the U.S. Army, no one would stay in a conflict with that sort of support. Even in Iraq, where we received many packages and thoughts from home, we would sometimes wonder if the folks back home remembered us. If we had to rely on “Longstreet’s Moccasins,” we would surely have despaired of support from home. Yet, the December, 1863 Confederates soldiered on.

Desertion Rates

Or, did they? The Texas Brigade, until November, 1863, was immune from the desertion rates found in other Confederate units. Letters home and diaries reflected their sense of abandonment and rejection. The desertion rate did spike between November, 1863 and March, 1864. According to Dr. Ural, during the entire war, Hood’s Texas Brigade suffered 6% desertion rate. 34% of these desertions occurred between November, 1863 and March, 1864.

To be fair, the homes in Texas were not as threatened by Yankee invaders as the homes in Virginia or Mississippi, or other Southern states. The Federal troops had not penetrated deep into Texas and had simply not burned and stolen as much in that distant state. The letters home reflect that relative lack of concern for the safety of their families. But, the Texas Brigade returned to Virginia in the Spring of 1864. Their support increased. The quality of their leadership vastly improved, as well. In time of war, those things do matter. And, some 300 soldiers returned from furlough, unauthorized leave and sick leave. Many of the returning soldiers had received wounds in prior battles and were returning for more. Yes, in the end, they did soldier on, even when all they had was “Longstreet moccasins.”

Source:

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

Bleached Bones from Shiloh to Corinth

As the Civil War progressed, the Union army picked up a new innovation, burying the bodies after a battle. During prior wars, the European armies did what armies had done forever, they focused on the moment and left their dead behind. But, as the civil war commenced in 1861, the Federal government issued an order that each commander would be responsible for burying his dead. Even with this order, the Union forces often buried their dead quickly in graves which were quickly undone.

The Confederate Army issued no such order. Even if they had issued such an order, it is unlikely the Confederates had the resources to bury their dead. After the Battle of Antietam, Matthew Brady took pictures of the dead soldiers. Most of the dead soldiers we see today in his pictures are Confederates. The Northerners had already buried their dead by the time Brady took his pictures. Historian Katherine Jeffrey recounts the story that the retreating Confederate army had rescued the body of one young officer from behind enemy lines, only to leave it lying by the road along with other officers. This occurred during the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and the army was hastily pulling back to Virginia. They Confederate army lacked the wagons necessary to transport even the dead officers to a proper burial.

So, after the war, there were tens of thousands of Southern bones left lying beneath the sun unburied and unremembered. In the North, the federal government had started collecting and burying veterans in 1862. In that year, the federals set up the first veteran burial ground. Prior to 1861, fallen soldiers would have been buried at the post cemetery or in some quick grave on the prairie. But, by 1862, that simple system was quickly overwhelmed. The federal government responded by creating what we know today as national cemeteries for veterans. By 1865, there were some 30 national cemeteries for federal veterans. See National Park Service website here.

After the end of the war. The federal army started the pains-taking laborious process of re-burying the fallen in these new national cemeteries. They did not bury the Confederate dead. The Confederate dead served a different government.

Gettysburg Battlefield

At the Battle of Gettysburg, 5,500 Southern boys were killed or suffered mortal wounds. Some 16,000 were wounded. In the ensuing retreat, hundreds of the wounded were left behind to die a slow, lingering death. Many of the dead lay in the open, to be feasted on by maggots and hogs. Those who received a shallow burial were uncovered by the heavy rains that fell soon after the battle. Two weeks after the battle, Southern bodies could be seen lying all over the battlefield out in the open, under the gray skies. One correspondent wrote:

“Day and night, rain or shine, cold or hot, there they lie. Hour by hour they die off, are carried to the trenches, a foot or two deep, in which they are to lie … and to remain there in continually increasing groups until the parties whose duty it is to come around to tend to their internment. It is awful, it is terrible, it is horrible beyond expression”

The Confederate dead at Gettysburg received a shallow burial or burial in trenches. None were buried in the national cemetery at Gettysburg. See NPS blog entry here.

“In the spring of 1864, there had been scattered calls in the Gettysburg Sentinel to collect the “Rebel remains,” in the name of “a common humanity,” but the pressures and politics of war-time had forestalled such.”

In 1869, at a dedication of a monument at Gettysburg to the Federal dead, Gen. George Meade called for a more respectful burial for the Rebel dead.  As he said, it is usual after a battle to afford the dead, even the enemy dead, a respectful burial. In the end, the different Southern ladies groups managed to re-inter some 3,200 remains to four cemeteries in Southern states from the Gettysburg battle field.

And, what of the other battles? There were dozens of major battles from Virginia to the Red River in Texas to upper Missouri to Southwest Louisiana. Some 450,000 Confederate soldiers died during the war. See Ohio State University eHistory website here.

Wake County, North Carolina

There is no known figure for which or how many of the Confederate dead received a decent burial. Whatever burial the Confederate soldier received was ad hoc. For example, the ladies of Wake County, North Carolina first started making an effort to re-bury the Battle of Gettysburg dead Confederates in 1874. That means, nine years after the war, one group of women in one county made an effort to bury North Carolina bodies which had received a shallow burial at one battle. See University of North Carolina science website here.

Other groups from other states also started making an effort to bury the Gettysburg dead years after the war had ended. But, as the Park Service explains, many farmers did not maintain those shallow graves.  Doubtless, many of those shallow graves had washed away. And, that was just the Gettysburg dead.

Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell conveyed this profound longing in her book, Gone with the Wind. The women of Atlanta fussed vehemently about whether to remove the weeds form the graves of Yankee soldiers, as they did the Southern graves. The two groups were set to engage in open warfare over this issue. Until, the respected Melanie Wilkes spoke up. Melanie exhorted that many women in post-war Atlanta did not know where their boys were buried. Mitchell cited a few examples of one mother who had traveled to Gettysburg to search for her son’s grave and found nothing. Another mother knew nothing more than her son had died somewhere in Ohio. And other mothers who knew nothing other than their sons were listed as missing.

These mothers turned on the esteemed Melanie. They were cut to the core. Ms. Mitchell spoke for Southern mothers everywhere when she wrote, “[t]heir eyes said, “Why do you open these wounds again? These are the wounds that never heal – the wounds of not knowing where they lie.” Melanie won the day. The two groups agreed to beautify the graves of Union soldiers, as they did Confederate soldiers. Melanie reasoned that it was likely Yankee women up north were doing the same with the graves of Confederate soldiers.

Shiloh Battlefield

Confederate dead were left where they fell. The remains might be moved aside to gather the remains of a federal soldier, but not buried. So, advertisements appeared in the newspapers of the day seeking funds for recovering the bones of their deceased loved ones, like this ad:

“The Shiloh Burial Association, formed for the purpose of purchasing a portion of the field, where the gallant Johnson fell, for interring the Confederate dead, whose bones lie bleaching from Shiloh to Corinth, have issued an appeal to the people. The object is to obtain two hundred acres of this sacred soil, fell the timber, make a fence, and plant Osage Orange for a hedge. Contributions may be sent to S.D. Lee at Columbus, or Maj. Upshaw at Holly Springs.”

S.D. Lee was Stephen D. Lee, who served in the Confederate Army. He graduated from West Point. He was not related to Gen. Robert E. Lee. He lived in Columbus, Mississippi after the war. The statement about the bones refers to the thousands of dead from the many battles up and down the Mississippi River valley, from Shiloh, Tennessee down to Corinth, Mississippi and still further south. Mr. Lee helped create the Vicksburg National Park Association which later lead to the creation of the Vicksburg Battlefield Park. Stephen D. Lee died after giving a talk to Union veterans from Wisconsin and Iowa, regiments which he faced during the war. He was very active in planning and organizing veteran reunions.

Only in the early 1950’s, when the number of remaining Confederate veterans could be counted on one hand, were national cemeteries opened to Confederate veterans. Most Southern boys, especially in the western theater were simply left where they fell. So, in the South, those Confederate memorials took on added importance.

Sources:

West Baton Rouge Sugar Planter, Nov. 24, 1866, p. 2, col. 5

Katherine B. Jeffrey, First Chaplain of the Confederacy, (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2020), p. 57, 75

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]

Assassinated

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]

Success

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.

Grassland

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]

Cornbread

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.

Source:

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.  

Confiscations

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.

Source:

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.”

Source:

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.

Source:

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