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Last forlorn hope of the Confederacy. [from the Sunny South , November 80, 1902.]

By Wallace Putnam Reed.
When the tidings of Lee's surrender at Appomattox reached the Confederates in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, they swore that they would die in the last ditch rather than stack arms under the Stars and Stripes. Kirby Smith was in command of the department, and under him were Generals Buckner and Magruder, 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. [118]

Their equipment was superb. They had not been reduced to rags and starvation, like their comrades east of the Mississippi under Lee and Johnston. They had not felt the federal blockade. After Appomattox 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. Arkansas, 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 and silver 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.

Texas was able to furnish the whole Confederate army with a brand-new equipment. Only the blockade east of the Mississippi stood in the way.

General Shelby 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.

Shelby 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.

Buckner agreed to the plan, everybody favored it. The next thing was to get rid of Kirby Smith.

Shelby hunted up the old man, and told him all about the conference.

“The army has lost confidence in you,” he said. [119]

“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 the Confederates 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.

At Austin there was a Confederate sub-treasury with over $300,000 in gold and silver. Shelby'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, Hindman, Magruder, Lyon, Clark, Prevost, Bee, Watkins, Price, Governors Reynolds and General Parsons, Commodore Maury, and a lot of colonels, congressmen and soldiers. [120]

Crossing the river the little army had many bloody encounters with Mexicans and Indians, coming out victorious in every fight.

Shelby'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.

Maximilian heard Shelby with close attention, and Bazaine was evidently very much interested. In fact the marshal was not unwilling to support Shelby's scheme.

The Emperor, 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.

Maximilian 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?

Bazaine 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 murderers.

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. [121] Sooner or later the fragment of Dixie, protected by the bayonets of Shelby and Bazaine, 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.

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