Texas Military Forces Historical Sketch

Civil War

As in all other conflicts in which fighting manpower was needed, Texas furnished more than its share during the Civil War. The State was predominantly on the Confederate side and the majority of the men donned the grey uniform to fight for Jeff Davis.

The Secession Convention in February, 1861, commissioned Colonels John S. Ford and Henry E. McCulloch, both old Indian fighters and Rangers, to each enlist a regiment for border service for short periods, six or 12 months. McCulloch's and Dalyrimple's forces were consolidated and afterwards reorganized and enlisted for 12 months in the Confederate service as the First Texas Mounted Rifles.

This command was succeeded by an organization first known as the Frontier Regiment organized as State troops in 1862, and afterwards known as the 36th Texas Cavalry in the Confederate service. In the spring of 1864, Governor Murrah transferred the regiment to the Confederate service and it was sent to the coast. In 1863-64, another regiment was on the frontier commanded by Colonel James Bourland, which had several engagements with Indians. The last State troops on the northwestern frontier during the winter of 1864 and the spring of 1865 were some 200 men under Major John Henry Brown. This force was disbanded in May, 1865.

The number of troops furnished by the State of Texas to the Confederate Army included 45 regiments of cavalry, 23 regiments of infantry, 12 battalions of cavalry, four battalions of infantry, one regiment of heavy artillery and 30 batteries of light artillery, which passed beyond the control of the State authorities. Besides these, the State maintained at its own expense, five regiments and four battalions of cavalry and four regiments and one battalion of infantry. Figuring on the usual allotment, this would give a total of 89,500 soldiers furnished out of an adult population of 120,000.

One full regiment and another partially recruited, with two or three independent companies, are all the regularly organized commands of Texans that were in the Union Army, but it is believed that half as many more left the State and joined organized commands from other States. The most conservative estimates place the whole number of Texans who served in the Union Army at 2,000.

The days of the Civil War in Texas were ones of confusion and struggle, filled with the ever present problem of keeping the ranks of the army filled with fighting men. Every exertion was made to fill the ranks of the army. Besides the men already in the field, Governor Lubbock, on July 26, 1861, called for 14 additional regiments. On November 29, General Magruder made a call for 10,000 more. At the close of Governor Lubbock's administration in 1863, the Adjutant General reported 90,000 Texans in the Confederate service, besides minute companies not then liable to duty at the front.

This showed that there were more Texas troops in the army than votes cast at any general election ever held in the State up to that time. By the close of 1861, most of the original Union men (who had not left the State) had joined the army or were otherwise engaged in the service of the Confederacy. They held that while they had opposed disunion as unnecessary and inexpedient their allegiance was due primarily to the State, and, it having withdrawn, it was their duty to acquiesce in its commands and fight for the success of the new Confederacy to which it had linked its fortunes.

Legislative action by both the State and the Confederate Union added to the general excited conditions of the time. The legislature on January 13, 1862, passed a law providing that if any person within "this State should maliciously and advisedly discourage people from enlisting in the service of Texas or of the Confederate States or dispose the people to favor the enemy, every such person shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not less than three years nor more than five years, at the discretion of the jury."

In 1862, a conscription law was passed by the Confederate States Congress. Under its provisions all males from 18 to 45 years of age were to be placed in the service, except ministers, state, city and county officers and certain slave owners. All persons holding 15 slaves, or over, were exempt. This provision gave rise to the saying that the struggle was the "rich man's war and the poor man's fight." It caused much discontent and severe criticism.

It was only natural that certain men should not want to go to war. One newspaper commented on this situation as follows: "William N. Hardeman, enrolling officer for Travis County, published in the Gazette the names of deserters. They were mostly young men of Union proclivities who had been conscripted and enrolled but had left the country to avoid service."

In another newspaper, a business man of Austin, subject to conscription, advertised that he would give $1,000 for a substitute to take his place in the army. This is just a sample of how some men managed to escape actual fighting and remained at home.

But even at home, there were several military companies organized for duty, from time to time during the progress of the war. These companies performed such services as guarding prisoners, protecting the town and county, drilling recruits for the regular army, etc. These companies were composed of elderly men, too old for active service in the field.

Most of these companies were mustered into the service of the Confederate States, subject to the orders of the commanding general of the Trans-Mississippi department. They were in the home service from their organization to the close of the war and were called on for special duties several times. They received no pay, receiving rations only.

The military spirit pervaded all classes and nearly everyone was attached to the service in some manner, either at home or in the field. Many, known to be Union men, joined these companies for various reasons. In fact, some of the most devoted of them went into active field service. With the vast majority of its adult population enlisted in the army, either in active or home service, the State of Texas was more or less a military camp during the Civil War.

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