Monday, May 30, 2011

The 36th Texas Cavalry - or Was it The 32nd?

Even before the big guns opened up on Fort Sumter on April 12th, 1861, the Texas Secession Convention set up a Committee of Public Safety, which authorized two regiments of volunteer cavalry for the Army of Texas. During the rest of the year, the War Department commissioned over twenty colonels to raise cavalry regiments to add to that basic force. Most were intended for service west of the Mississippi, but some were slated for combat in the eastern theatres.

A local “captain” or “colonel” would issue a call for volunteers, and when enough would-be horse soldiers rallied, the troop would report to one of the mustering areas. Unit names were surely assigned by the Adjutant General, either in advance or after the fact. Requests for assignment and designation were probably being processed through the War Department with more haste than order. (Ultimately there were 45 regiments of Texas cavalry in the C.S.A.) And it must be remembered that in those days communication between Austin and outlying commands was the same as in Caesar’s time – by horse. The hectic work load would have resulted in some mistakes, and slow communications would have made turn-around of corrections frustrating and tardy.

What’s more, by mid-May of the following year, all the state organizations had been dissolved and transferred to Confederate service – more name adjustments probably took place. Given all that, it should not be surprising that in those early, hectic days, there was some confusion and overlapping of names for military units.

Clearly, in the ongoing rush to form up units for the war, something of the kind happened to our local regiment. It was obviously intended at first to be named the 32nd, but very soon was re-designated the 36th. That happened, in fact, even before Captain Peter C. Woods, who would become Colonel of the regiment, created the first muster roll for his company at the rallying place on Salado Creek near San Antonio. The regiment was officially organized and mustered into Confederate service on June 1st, 1862 at Camp Clark near San Marcos.

Though reference to its previous designation was made on many, if not all, of the regiment’s documents (some carried this notation: “Tex Cav 36/32”), there is no doubt that Wood’s Regiment, from mustering-in to disbandment, was named the 36th Texas Cavalry.

What explains the confusion of its sometimes being referred to as the 32nd?

One of the earliest and most lasting consequences of the original lack of organizational clarity is to be found in the Memoirs of Mary Maverick of the prominent San Antonio family of the time. (Samuel Maverick was a lawyer, land speculator, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and member of Congress.) One of their sons, Samuel Jr. (age 25), served in Terry’s Texas Rangers, fighting throughout the south and distinguishing himself in the battle for Fort Donelson in Tennessee.

Probably sometime in the middle of 1862, Mrs. Maverick wrote this of her younger son, the 23-year-old Lewis (who was the first Anglo-American child to be born and reared in San Antonio):

When the war commenced, Lewis was attending Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina—he immediately enlisted for six months in the 1st North Alabama Regiment, and was at Big Bethel, the first battle of the war. . . . Lewis returned to us at the end of his first enlistment, and raised a company [that would become] Company “E”, for the 32nd Texas Cavalry commanded by Colonel Woods.

In 1921, members of Mrs. Maverick’s family published a collection of her writings: notes and memoranda she had jotted down during her eventful early years; a legacy invaluable to Texas historians. But when they compiled the book, they either didn’t know the accurate designation of her son Lewis’ regiment – or they did, but decided not to tamper with their matriarch’s work. In either case, that error has gone into the literature.

Another major reference using the wrong designation for the regiment is a book familiar to some students of Texas history, by Carl L. Duaine: The Dead Men Wore Boots: An Account of the 32nd Texas Volunteer Cavalry, CSA.

There is no readily available knowledge as to when this book was written (nor does it contain any source citations which might provide a clue). When the private publisher, San Felipe Press at Austin, printed Duaine’s book in 1966, they violated one of publishing’s canons: they didn’t note when and where the book was originally published. (There is the possibility that this was its first printing.) We know it was written after 1890 because Duaine included the reunion of that year of the Regiment’s Company E (made up of Pleasanton and other men) in the book.

Granted, there were no Internet searches in those days, no ready access to the National Archives, the Texas State Archives, and so on. In the absence of any good research capability, you pretty much had to go with whatever came into your hands, or accept what you had been told by someone who may or may not have known the absolute truth.

Carl Duaine’s book is notable for two things at once: it is a treasure of information about Woods’ Regiment: its personnel, its movements, and its admirable commander – and, because of his incorrect designation of the regiment, the agency of a graphic error that has persisted(widespread by the Internet) down through the decades.

Besides these two, other books and web sites have picked up the error and passed it along. But the good news is that the most reliable sources have got it right and the hope is that future researchers and genealogists will find and accept those. Premier among them is the irrefutable touchstone, the National Archives, viz., Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Texas. Roll M323.

For those interested, the 32nd Texas Cavalry Regiment (Andrews’), also incorrectly called the Fifteenth Texas Cavalry Regiment (and there was another unit by that number), was organized in May 1862 at Corinth, Mississippi. For an excellent description of the formation and history of the 32nd, see the webpage Military History of John Henry Brigance.

---Duaine, Carl Laurence. The Dead Men Wore Boots: An Account of the 32nd Texas Volunteer Cavalry, CSA. Austin: The San Felipe Press, 1966.
---Maverick, Mary. Memoirs of Mary Maverick. c1921. (Arranged and edited by her family.) Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
---Oates, Stephen B.. Confederate Cavalry West of the River. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961. Pages 5-11.
---Purgason, Howard. Calvin Turner, Texas Ranger: The Apple That Didn’t Fall Far from the Tree. Privately published book, 2011.

1 comment:

Barbara Morris Westbrook said...

Thanks for posting this, Howard!