Last forlorn hope of the Confederacy.
[from the Sunny South , November 80, 1902.]
When the tidings of Lee
's surrender at Appomattox
reached the Confederates
, they swore that they would die in the last ditch rather than stack arms under the Stars and Stripes.
was in command of the department, and under him were Generals Buckner
, to say nothing of that born soldier, General Joe Shelby
, with his 1,000 Missouri
rough riders, the very flower of the army.
Backing these generals were 50,000 trained soldiers, the finest fighting material in the world.
Their equipment was superb.
They had not been reduced to rags and starvation, like their comrades east of the Mississippi
They had not felt the federal blockade.
they were in splendid fighting condition and eager for the fray.
Perhaps the situation needs a word or two of explanation.
At that time the French
had been occupying Mexico
nearly four years. Maximilian
was on the throne, trying to permanently establish his empire, and Marshal Bazaine
was backing him with 75,000 soldiers, with expected reinforcements from France
King Cotton was still a power west of the Mississippi
, Fexas and part of Louisiana
produced immense crops, which were easily transported across the Rio Grande
and marketed for gold.
The federals were unable to prevent this traffic and for some reason did not try very vigorously.
Arms, supplies, luxuries and money poured into Texas
In every town the stores were filled with foreign goods, and gold
jingled in every pocket.
The State was a vast arsenal.
In every direction one could see inexhaustible supplies of ammunition, improved foreign muskets, rifles and artillery, clothing, provisions and medicine.
Stacks of guns and packs of cannon were rusting from disuse.
was able to furnish the whole Confederate army with a brand-new equipment.
Only the blockade east of the Mississippi
stood in the way.
knew these conditions, and he believed that President Davis
, who had not then been captured, would make his way to Texas
, with many of his ablest generals, and in a month or two probably 100,000 soldiers would succeed in following him.
applied to Kirby Smith
to make an aggressive fight.
The commander listened, assented and did nothing.
Then the daring Missourian
held a conference with several other generals and it was agreed to make a determined stand for the Confederacy
, under the leadership of General Simon Bolivar Buckner
, a soldier with all the dash and glitter of Murat
, and none of his fighting qualities.
agreed to the plan, everybody favored it. The next thing was to get rid of Kirby Smith
hunted up the old man, and told him all about the conference.
“The army has lost confidence in you,” he said.
“I know it,” replied Smith
‘What would you advise?’
“Resign in favor of Buckner
,” was the prompt answer.
It was a bitter pill, but Smith
swallowed it. He wrote out his resignation, leaving Buckner
commander-in-chief of the department.
Another disappointment followed.
The spectacular Buckner
never raised a hand.
He even failed to press the negotiation for the alliance which Shelby
wanted to make with Maximilian
The Missouri general then proceeded to act for himself.
He recognized his command, and out of the government stores equipped 1,000 picked men with new uniforms, guns, pistols, swords, ammunition, wagons, provisions, horses, mules, tents and as many cannon —fine Napoleons—as they could take on their march.
On their way through Texas
to the Rio Grande
found many strong bodies of armed robbers terrorizing the country.
They occasionally halted, or turned aside, to meet these desperadoes, and in a short time killed and dispersed the most dangerous of them.
there was a Confederate sub-treasury with over $300,000 in gold
's troopers galloped into the city after midnight, just in time to find a gang of robbers battering down the treasury doors and helping themselves to the treasure.
The fight that ensued was hot and merciless.
The Confederates gave no quarter.
They shot down the bandits in the treasury vault, in the corridors, and in the streets.
Then, by torchlight, they picked up the scattered gold, even taking it from the pockets of the dead.
Early the next morning the State
authorities were invited to count the money.
It was found to be all right, and as it belonged to the Confederate government, and Shelby
was in command of the only existing body of recognized Confederates, he was urged by the officials to take all he might need for his little army's support.
He flatly refused, and resumed his march.
At San Antonio
the general and his men rested a few days.
The town overflowed with luxuries from every market, imported into Mexico
by the French
and exchanged for cotton.
Brandy and champagne were the daily beverages of rough fellows who had never before drank anything better than corn whiskey.
On the way to San Antonio
, and after reaching that place, Shelby
was joined by such gallant Confederates as Ex-Governor Polk
, Generals Kirby Smith
, Governors Reynolds
and General Parsons
, Commodore Maury
, and a lot of colonels, congressmen and soldiers.
Crossing the river the little army had many bloody encounters with Mexicans and Indians
, coming out victorious in every fight.
's messengers could get no satisfaction from Maxamilian, and at last the order came from Bazaine
for the Confederates
to report to him in the city of Mexico
The story of that adventurous march cannot be told in this brief article.
It was one of the most heroic on record, full of romance and adventure.
At the capital Shelby
, his officers, soldiers and his distinguished Confederate companions were cordially received.
with close attention, and Bazaine
was evidently very much interested.
In fact the marshal was not unwilling to support Shelby
, however, had faith in his people.
He believed that his empire was safe, and he was averse to anything that would lead to trouble with the United States
With profuse thanks, he declined to help the Confederates
to regain control of the department west of the Mississippi
in return for their general's pledge to bring 100,000 southerners to fight for the empire.
had been advised by his counsellors that it was not safe to trust Americans
—Yankees, as they were called in Mexico
He had been taught to believe that the new-comers would finally turn against him and take control of the government.
Disappointed and helpless, in a strange land, with his companions dependent upon him, what could Shelby
do but accept the emperor's offer of a big tract of land at Cordova
for his colony?
gave him $50,000 in gold to aid the new settlement, and the general and hundreds of his friends began their life as colonists under the empire.
Gradually the settlers returned to the United States
, and their leader followed their example, not however, before he had, at the risk of his life, befriended Maximilian
in a vain effort to save him from his Mexican
With other notable bits of history connected with Shelby
's expedition this narrative has nothing to do. The purpose of the writer is simply to give a flashlight glimpse of the last desperate effort of the Confederates
to recover and hold a part of their territory under a government of their own.
What would have been the ultimate result if the movement had been successful in its day and time does not admit of much speculation.
Sooner or later the fragment of Dixie, protected by the bayonets of Shelby
, would have come back into the Union
, as the result of conquest or through amicable agreement.
Doubtless this will be the judgment of the great majority of my readers.