Thursday, August 4, 2011

Atascosa County and the Civil War - Part 2

The Men of Company E of the 36th Texas Cavalry

In addition to the indispensible authority of the National Archives, we have another of those strokes of good fortune that inform these pages. In Carl Duaine’s book there is muster roll for Company E. It was prepared in 1890 and provides information not found in the official documents.

And Duaine himself probably compiled, but certainly published in his book a muster roll for the entire regiment. His roster shows each soldier’s home town (when available), his date of enlistment, rank, age, and company. This muster roll of 109 volunteers shows that about half the Company E men (51) were from Pleasanton and a few more (58) were from elsewhere: two from somewhere in the county, eight from San Antonio, a lot from Wilson and Karnes Counties, a number from Blanco County, and a few from farther afield, such as Lavaca, Kerrville, Houston, and way eastern Hardin County.1

The Officers are Elected

Though the initial mustering place was Pleasanton, the official “enlistment” would not take place until the company reached San Antonio. But it is likely that the election of its officers happened in Pleasanton. We see that after the captain there were initially two first lieutenants and two second lieutenants.

Benjamin F. Dye, a San Antonio man, was elected First Lieutenant. He was probably Lewis Maverick’s man from the beginning, and was promoted Captain after Maverick’s promotion to a general’s staff later in the war.

The other First Lieutenant was Edward Walker, a resident of Pleasanton. Walker appears to have been one of those volunteers who arrived too late at San Antonio de BĂ©xar in 1842 to take part in any of the real fighting, but in time to participate in the ill-advised and ill-fated Somervell expedition.2

John Eckford of San Antonio was one of the Second Lieutenants, but on June 14th he was promoted by Colonel Woods to captain and Adjutant Quartermaster of the regiment. His name is on seemingly all of the early pay vouchers and other documents.

And the other Second Lieutenant was 36-year-old Calvin S. Turner of Pleasanton, a former Ranger who had fought at the Battle of Salado Creek, had ridden with Jack Hays and Ad Gillespie, had gone to Mexico with Ben McCulloch, and served on extended frontier duty with Henry McCulloch’s Texas Mounted Volunteers.

Of the non-commissioned officers, there were five sergeants (four of them from Pleasanton) and six corporals (one from Pleasanton). There were two buglers (one from Pleasanton), a blacksmith, a farrier, and there were 92 privates: 43 from Pleasanton and 49 from the other counties.3

The Company Prepares to Campaign

For the last week or so before the departure of the volunteers, the town would have been raucous with blacksmiths banging away, saddle makers busy with repairs and custom fittings for carrying extra gear, merchants selling and packaging supplies and foodstuffs the soldiers wanted to take along, and a dozen other enterprises that had to be seen to. As usual for Texas volunteers, the men were required to provide their own equipment: horse, tack, and weapons. In addition to these, a soldier needed to bring a variety of clothing and accessories to make his life in camp and on campaign tolerable. A sergeant in another company listed his kit. As he packed up his “clothes trinkets etc etc ad infinitum” he “took memoranda of them,” to wit:

Writing paper, envelopes, etc. lead pencils, pens & ink, shoe strings, wrapping twine, Bible, coarse comb, needles, scissors, buttons, etc. fine combs, soap, matches, tooth brush, 4 Pr. socks-yarn, 4 Pr. socks-cotton, 2 towels, 5 under shirts, 5 Pr. drawers, 5 check shirts, 4 Pr. pants, 2 neck ties, fish line & hook, shoes and hat & spurs, saddle, bridle and blanket.4

For most of the Pleasanton men, uniforms were a departure from the days when the Rangers hit the trail in the most wildly individual and sometimes rakishly colorful costumes imagin-able. The town’s wives and mothers would have been busy these past weeks working up sets of clothing for their men. A visiting British officer reported that “Woods’ Regiment wore practically the same clothes throughout the unit, so that they were a uniformly dressed body of troops.” Their pants and shirts were homespun. Besides cattle, Atascosa County would have had sheep; no doubt their wool was the basis for the grey homespun these Confederate soldiers wore. The Britisher said that they wore cowhide boots and high black felt hats ornamented with the “lone star of Texas.” (Probably this was a high-crowned cowboy-type hat.) He noted that other Texas cavalry regiments he met were all dressed in this manner. Regulation C.S.A. buttons and buff-striped cavalry pants were not to be found in these Texas units.5

Farewell to Pleasanton for Awhile

Finally the day of departure came, probably in mid-March 1862. All the Pleasanton men (and boys, a few were later sent home because they were too young) said their goodbyes to wives and children, parents and loved ones. The families and friends probably lined Main Street, some waving and shouting farewells, some mothers and sisters smiling through their tears. The troop, riding tall, trying to look as brave and military as they could for the proud townsfolk, rode off to the Alamo town, the designated gathering place for the regiment. Maybe some of the younger men were the new Hotspurs, ready to ride to glory – and maybe some of the older, ex-Rangers and Indian fighters, those who had been in combat or seen death up close, were more sober in their expectations and properly apprehensive in their hearts. How many of these brave lads would not come back?

When the last of them splashed across Atascosa Creek and disappeared up the San Antonio road, the little hamlet of Pleasanton must have seemed pretty quiet – and empty.

Next time: March to San Antonio; the 36th Texas Gets a Colonel . . .

Purgason, Howard. Calvin Turner, Texas Ranger
1. Duaine, Carl L.. The Dead Men Wore Boots, 96-111
2. U.S. Census, 1860, Atascosa County, Texas; Texas State Library and Archives Commission
3. National Archives, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Texas. Roll M323; Duaine, Carl L.. The Dead Men Wore Boots, 96-111
4. Smith, Thomas. C.. Here's Yer Mule, 1, 32
5. Duaine, Carl. The Dead Men Wore Boots, 96-111; Oates, Stephen B.. Confederate Cavalry West of the River, 61

1 comment:

Barbara Morris Westbrook said...

Another great article! Thanks, Howard!