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Chapter 5:

The legislature adjourned on the 9th of February and met again on the 18th of March, 1861. A joint resolution was passed on the 6th of April, requiring the officers and agents of the State, having in charge or possession any of the property recently taken from the government of the United States, to turn the same over to the agent appointed by the Confederate States government to receive it, provided that the Confederate States shall assume all responsibility to the government of the United States.

An appropriation was made of $100,000 to supply deficiencies for frontier defense, and on the 8th of April was passed an act providing for issuing $1,000,000 eight per cent bonds for the payment of debts incurred by the convention and for the military defense of the State. On the same day an appropriation of $75,000 was made for subsistence and transportation of the regiment ordered to be raised by the convention, and the governor was authorized to borrow $90,000, pledging the railroad school bonds as security for the loan.

Col. John S. Ford, in his expedition to the lower Rio Grande, was accompanied by E. B. Nichols, commissioner and disbursing agent, appointed by the committee of public safety. With the two vessels conveying the forces [39] from Galveston, composed of six companies, 500 strong, they arrived off the bar of Brazos Santiago February 21st, 1861, and were boarded by a pilot, who informed them that Lieutenant Thompson, with twelve men, was prepared with loaded cannon to resist their entry upon Brazos island. Thereupon Colonel Ford and Commissioner Nichols visited the island and had a conference with the lieutenant, who withdrew with his men. Colonel Ford with his force took possession of the island; the United States flag was lowered, and the ‘Lone Star’ flag of Texas was hoisted and saluted with fifteen guns. In Colonel Ford's instructions the district over which he was to have command was defined to begin at a point on the Rio Grande halfway between Forts Duncan and McIntosh, and include all the forts below said points and the entire district of country between the Nueces and Rio Grande. Within that district of the United States army there were three companies of cavalry, five of infantry and two of artillery, with means of transportation that could be concentrated promptly at or near Brownsville. Fort Brown, the nearest post to the island which Colonel Ford's command had taken possession of, was under the command of Capt. B. H. Hill.

On the 22d of February, Colonel Ford, LieutenantCol-onel McLeod, Commissioner Nichols and his secretary, Mr. Waller, proceeded to Brownsville; Col. F. W. Latham of that place furnishing the transportation for them. Commissioner Nichols addressed a communication to Captain Hill asking an interview, and sent it by Mr. Waller, who returned a verbal answer, stating that Captain Hill could be seen at his quarters. Another letter from Commissioner Nichols procured an answer and an interview on the 23d of February, in which he was informed that Captain Hill could not recognize him as commissioner of Texas; that until Hill got orders from his government his responsibility as an officer could not be changed. All of which was tantamount to [40] a positive refusal to surrender the post or the property. A floating report having been heard that Captain Hill contemplated attacking Colonel Ford's forces, Lieutenant-Colonel McLeod and Mr. Waller had already gone to Brazos Santiago to fortify that place. Another letter was sent by Commissioner Nichols stating distinctly the object of his mission, and that Texas was virtually out of the Union, which, on the same day, February 23d, was answered in these words: ‘You have raised a question upon which my government will doubtless take action in due season, but which in the meantime cannot affect my military duties or responsibilities.’

This, with what he had stated previously in the interview, that the action of Colonel Ford in taking possession of Brazos island was an act of war, was conclusive evidence that any demonstration Colonel Ford could make with his force would not produce surrender without a desperate fight. As Hill had a number of cannon and men to man them, and Captain Stoneman was at the fort with two companies of cavalry, a hostile attack would entail the loss of many lives without any certainty of success. It was considered by Colonel Ford and Commissioner Nichols that as it might be designed by the Federals to collect a large force by concentrating troops from posts up the river, so as to permanently hold the fort at Brownsville, it would be proper to increase their strength upon the island, so as to hold it at all events. With that view Colonel Ford remained at Brownsville to watch the action of the Federals, and to ascertain the disposition of other officers there besides Captain Hill's; and Commissioner Nichols repaired to the island to urge the fortification. He dispatched to Corpus Christi to hasten the coming of recruits, and went himself on board a vessel, the General Rusk, to Galveston; raised four companies, with B. F. Terry as major of the battalion, and returned with them to Brazos Santiago on the 2d of March, 1861, when he found the place fortified with guns mounted for defense if [41] necessary. The regiment was then organized with Ford as colonel, McLeod, lieutenant-colonel, and Terry, major, and a strength of over 1, 200 men.

On the night of the 2d of March, Colonel Ford arrived at Brazos Santiago with a Federal officer from Fort Brown, who expected to meet the steamer Webster from New York that arrived the next day. The officer on board, Major Porter, assistant adjutant-general, being communicated with, it was found that he had come to superintend the embarkation of the Federal troops, by which the hope was inspired that the order of General Twiggs for the surrender of the post and departure of the troops would be complied with. Major Porter and Colonel Ford went to Brownsville the same morning. On March 4th it was reported on the island that there was shooting up at Fort Brown, and as it was supposed it was in honor of President Lincoln's inauguration, a furious excitement arose among the men at the indignity upon Texas soil, which was with difficulty allayed by the officers, and indeed not entirely until Colonel Ford sent a letter that he had secured from his personal friend, Captain Stoneman, stating that the Federal soldiers would leave Texas as soon as transportation was furnished, and that there would be no difficulty if the troops on each side were kept apart so as to prevent a collision.

From that time, this was all that was necessary until the Federals left in vessels from Brownsville. Commissioner Nichols carried back the companies that he had. brought to Brazos Santiago and they were discharged, leaving from 600 to 800 men, who soon afterward took possession of Fort Brown as the headquarters of the district. Detachments were sent to the posts up the river, and all of the valuable property on Brazos island was moved up to Fort Brown. Thus Colonel Ford, assisted by the officers with him, finding an obstacle impeding the immediate accomplishment of his mission, by the generalship of prudence and patience succeeded far better than [42] if he had adopted a reckless adventure, that, though it failed, might have given him the reputation of a gallant officer in action. Before the Federal soldiers left, in order to inform the people of that section of the object of his coming there with a military force, he published a statement regarding the secession of Texas and the purpose to protect the rights of persons and property of the people as an independent State out of the Union.

Above Ringgold barracks a number of Mexicans made a raid over the river and killed a Mexican settler, friendly to the Confederate cause. Captain Edwards and Captain Nolen both, at different times, attacked them successfully; and they still being on his side of the river, Capt. Santos Benavides, of Laredo, came down with his company and had a battle with them and succeeded in driving them over the river. They were supposed to be under the direction of General Cortinas, who had formerly made a raid into Texas, causing what was called the Cortinas war, in the defeat of whom Colonel Ford had acted as an officer with Captain Stoneman of the Federal forces. Captain Benavides was afterward appointed colonel and did good service. He and his relatives, being Mexicans, exercised strong influence over the Rio Grande frontier in favor of the Confederacy during the war.

Col. Henry E. McCulloch, under appointment by the committee of safety, raised a sufficient number of companies and proceeded to the frontier posts in the northwest portion of Texas, and without difficulty secured the surrender of the Federal garrisons and had their places filled with detachments of Texas troops. The Federal troops proceeded to San Antonio, and thence to a point near the coast above Indianola at Green lake, where they awaited transportation to leave Texas. Col. Ben McCulloch, when he came to Texas, during the session of the convention, brought with him a commission to raise a regiment, and was accompanied by a young man vested with authority to muster in troops for the Confederate service. [43] This commission he turned over to his brother, Henry E. McCulloch, who, after performing his duty at the frontier posts, returned to Austin and raised companies for his Confederate regiment. He was stationed with them at San Antonio and did service there in securing the surrender of Federal troops, and was the highest officer in command until Colonel Van Dorn arrived in Texas and took command on the 26th of March, 1861. The style of the regiment was ‘First McCulloch's Regiment Mounted Rifles,’ and its field officers were Col. H. E. McCulloch, Lieut.-Col. Thos. C. Frost, and Maj. Ed Burleson.

Governor Houston, while governor of Texas, had sent two companies to the northwestern frontier, one commanded by W. C. Dalrymple, aide-de-camp to the governor, and colonel commanding, and another under Capt. J. W. Wilbarger. Colonel Dalrymple, having received authority to act for the State, and being reinforced by a number of volunteer citizens, on the 18th of February demanded of Capt. S. D. Carpenter the surrender of Camp Cooper, garrisoned with 260 Federal soldiers, which was finally complied with on the 21st of the same month, the action being reported to the convention on the 23d.

Captain Wilbarger's company, being taken into the Confederate service by Col. H. E. McCulloch, had several skirmishes and fights with the Indians, who made raids to steal horses and cattle, before he was ordered to Houston in the spring of 1862. He was sent back to Fort Belknap with a number of companies before the end of the war, and found, as he has stated in his published history, that the withdrawal of troops from that part of the frontier encouraged the depredations of the Indians to such an extent that the frontier counties of Stephens, Jack, Wise, and Montague were almost entirely deserted by their inhabitants. Indeed, a like condition in some degree attended most of our western frontier during the war, partly because those persons seeking service preferred to go to other States where the Northern armies could be met. [44]

On the 5th of March, 1861, the convention having ratified the provisional Constitution of the Confederate States, and the government at Montgomery having received notice of said action, the military jurisdiction of the Confederate States was extended over the State of Texas. On the 16th, Earl Van Dorn was appointed colonel, and on the 26th he arrived at Indianola and assumed command in Texas, reporting that he anticipated no great trouble in the removal of the troops of the United States from the State. Indianola was then and long had been the principal port on the Gulf through which troops and their supplies were transported by water to western Texas. The Federal troops as they surrendered had been quartered at the fresh water 20 or 30 miles north of that port preparatory to their embarkation. Colonel Van Dorn made his headquarters at San Antonio, with Maj. W. T. Mechling, acting assistant adjutant-general.

Other preliminary dispositions to prepare Texas for a crisis were now rapidly made. On the 11th of April Gov. Edward Clark was formally notified by the Confederate government that Colonel Van Dorn was in Texas to organize troops for the army, and on the 16th Colonel Van Dorn was ordered to station Capt. John C. Moore at Galveston in command of a battery. On the 23d, with an armed force of thirty soldiers, Colonel Van Dorn called at the quarters of Colonel Waite and requested him to go with him to the office of Major Mechling, which Waite refused to do until force was exhibited that he could not resist. Upon his arriving there Major Mechling demanded his surrender as a prisoner of war. After many words of controversy, he with his inferior officers, including Lieut.-Col. Chandler, surrendered, and were paroled and furnished transportation to the coast. On May 3d Lieutenant-Colonel Reeve, with his officers and 270 soldiers, arrived in camp near San Antonio from military posts in New Mexico, and a messenger with a white flag was sent to him with a demand for unconditional surrender. [45] After the usual controversy about the right of Colonel Van Dorn to make such a demand, and the exhibition of overwhelming force by Colonel Van Dorn's troops, which had been hastily collected, including many citizens in volunteer companies enlisted for the occasion, the surrender was effected. There was a point of military honor entertained by all of those Federal officers that induced them to refuse to surrender upon a mere demand, until a military force was exhibited against them.

Colonel Van Dorn, with Major Mechling, continued to aid in the embarkation of the Federal troops on the coast, and other military operations, until he was ordered to Richmond for other service, and Paul O. Hebert was appointed brigadier-general and assigned to the Texas department on the 14th of August, 1861.

In order to show the manner in which these formal surrenders of the Federal troops were accomplished, Colonel Van Dorn's report is inserted: Headquarters Troops in Texas.

San Antonio, Texas, May 10, 1861.
General: I have the honor to report that I met the last column of the United States troops in Texas yesterday, at noon, on the El Paso road, about 13 miles from this city, and that Colonel Reeve, the commanding officer, being satisfied of my greatly superior force, surrendered unconditionally. There were 10 officers and 337 men, including 30 men who were captured some time since in San Antonio by Capt. James Duff, which I have heretofore neglected to report. My command consisted of Colonel McCulloch's cavalry, viz., six companies, Captains Pitts, Tobin, Ashby, Bogges, Fry, and Nelson; a squadron of Colonel Ford's State troops, under Lieutenant-Colonel Baylor's command, viz., Captains Walker and Pyron, a battery of light artillery, Captain Edgar, a section of artillery, Captain Teel; two small detachments of horse under Lieutenants Paul and Dwyer, and an independent detachment of cavalry, Captain Goode. All these troops I placed under the command of Col. H. E. McCulloch. In addition to these there was a battalion of infantry raised for the occasion in San Antonio, under command of Lieut.-Col. James Duff, Captains Maverick, Wilcox, [46] Kampmann, Navarro and Prescott, Maj. John Carolan, in all about 1,300 men. I have been actuated in this instance by the same motive which induced me to bring an overwhelming force against the United States troops at Indianola, viz., a desire to arrest and disarm them without bloodshed. All the arms and other public property are now being turned over to officers appointed to receive them, and the officers and men are in camp at the San Pedro springs, near this city.

Having in consideration the proclamation of the President of the United States declaring certain persons ‘pirates’ under the laws of the United States, for seizures of vessels or goods by persons acting by authority of the Confederate States, I have determined to hold these prisoners of war until I receive further instructions from you.

If the officers prefer it, I shall allow them to proceed to Montgomery on parole to report to you for your decision. I would not do justice to the troops under my command if I failed to report to you the admirable manner in which they conducted themselves throughout the expedition; the cheerful obedience to the orders of the officers elected over them; the discipline that was maintained in their camp, where judges, lawyers, mechanics, and laborers could be seen walking post as sentinels on the same rounds, all willing to do duty in a good cause; and at the close there was the delicacy of brave men, of soldiers, which checked everything like exultation over an unfortunate enemy whom a stern necessity had caused us to disarm. It was gratifying to me, as it is a pleasure to me to report to you, that the whole expedition passed off without one unpleasant incident.

The gentlemen who were at headquarters with me to whom I am indebted for services cheerfully and promptly rendered, for which I owe them my thanks, were Col. P. N. Luckett, quartermaster-general of Texas; Maj. G. J. Howard, Mr. J. T. Ward, Gen. Jas. Willie, Dr. H. P. Howard, Mr. R. A. Howard, Mr. D. E. Tessier, Judges Fred Tate and T. J. Devine, Capts. D. D. Shea and W. T. Mechling, and J. F. Minter and Lieut. J. P. Major, C. S. army.

Very respectfully, sir, I am your obedient servant,

Earl Van Dorn, Colonel Commanding. Brig.-Gen. S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, Montgomery, Ala.


Lieut.-Col. John R. Baylor, though elected with Colonel Ford, did not go in his command to the Rio Grande, but raised a number of companies and proceeded with them to the posts west of San Antonio and on to the Rio Grande at El Paso. Maj. H. A. Hamner was left to occupy posts on the route, and Lieutenant-Colonel Baylor went beyond the river into the Mesilla valley. He took a large number of prisoners and paroled them, and held possession of that part of New Mexico for a short time. He found the people opposed to the Confederates generally. His companies were merged into and became a part of Geo. W. Baylor's regiment in the Arizona campaign. Col. Wm. C. Young, under the appointment of Governor Clark, raised a cavalry regiment for the protection of our northern frontier on Red river. He crossed the river and captured Forts Arbuckle, Washita and Cobb, when the Federal forces under Maj. Wm. H. Emery retired into Kansas. This regiment was early next year (1862), with other Texas commands, in the battle of Elkhorn, Mo.

The Confederate Congress adjourned the latter part of May, 1861, to meet at Richmond, Va., on the 20th of July, and Texas, by the month of June, had removed from its borders the Federal troops, taken possession of the military property, and garrisoned the frontier posts. Thus the people and the State government were free to make arrangements for raising troops for the war. Governor Clark, therefore, on the 8th of June issued his proclamation announcing that a state of war existed.

The legislature having made such provision as was then thought necessary, adjourned sine die, on the 9th of April, leaving Governor Clark and other officers to carry on the State government, and to co-operate with the authorities of the Confederate government in military operations and otherwise as duty required, until the end of his term on the 1st of November, 1861. The governor, accordingly, on the 17th of April issued a proclamation proclaiming his plan for raising troops for the war, dividing the State [48] into six districts with an aide-de-camp to control and direct the organization of the companies, each district to be subdivided into sub-districts with an enrolling officer in them, and he called for 3,000 volunteers to inaugurate the plan. On the 25th of April he made a call for 5,000 volunteers for infantry service to repel the threatened invasion of the Federal army. On the 8th of June he issued his proclamation ordering the establishment of camps of instruction. On August 26th he called for 2,000 men to be organized into companies, in response to a request from the secretary of war. These companies were organized and went to Virginia. [49]

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