Thursday, October 6, 2011

Atascosa County and the Civil War - Part 4

Regimental Elections are Held

As the men of Company E of the 36th Texas Cavalry and the others who were gathered on the Salado in March 1862 were volunteers (conscription would first go into force on April 16th), they continued the old practice of electing their own officers. Carl Duaine declares that “The Confederates elected even the sergeants and corporals.”1

The elections were probably conducted in the manner that Ranger and militia companies had always been – the proposed leaders standing at some distance from each other and at the cry “march,” the men would choose their leader by congregating to his side.2

After all the companies had chosen their own leaders, the regimental election was held. These were probably voted on by the officers of the gathered companies – or maybe only by the ranking officers.

The men of the 36th Texas would elect as their officers only men who could command their loyalty and respect. One of the Atascosa County privates of Company E said later, “I never wanted no man over me, but if I had to have one, I wanted the hair on his chest as thick as pencil lead.” That the men had good judgment and chose well is shown in the fact that, excepting resignation, promotion, death, or absolute incapacity, the officers they elected were with them all the way to the end.

Even though there were in camp veterans of the Mexican and Indian wars, Dr. Peter Woods was chosen to be Colonel Woods, commander of the 36th Texas Cavalry Regiment (his old company becoming Company A). The site on the Salado officially became Camp Woods. The new commander was a much-respected and in time even beloved leader of men - it is reported that he was called the Colonel-Doctor.3

Five days after Captain Woods submitted a muster roll for his Company A, Lewis Maverick swore into service his Company E. On that date, March 29th, 1862, the Captain would have formalized the enlistment by administering the oath of allegiance that was almost certainly standard across the southern armies. Thomas Smith of Company G described the process. The men were assembled and the roll was called.

We . . . answered to our names and the following oath was administered to us: viz: “You and each of you do swear that you will bear true allegiance to the Confederate States and serve them faithfully against all their enemies whatsoever and do swear to obey the order of the President of the Confederate States and other officers appointed over you according to the articles of war for the term of 3 years or during the war so help you God.

Horses and Equipment

After being administered the oath of office, Tom Smith wrote of his company that:

All then saddled up and mounted our horses taking guns, arms, etc. . . . Each man then rode up and had his horse gun and saddle rigging appraised so if we lose either in battle or forced march we are entitled to receive the appraised value thereof from the Confederate Government.

Perhaps typical of an enlisted man, Tom’s horse was valued at $85.00, his shotgun at $25.00, and his saddle and rigging at $25.00, for a total of $135.00. 4

Duaine points out that the reimbursement for loss on march really meant forced march; if the men lost something in normal march or camp life they had to replace it themselves. And on a private’s pay of $11 per month (the colonel’s was $300) this might take awhile. And you really did not want to lose anything especially your horse, because you might be reimbursed in “Old Confed,” commonly referred to as “shinplasters” (C.S.A. currency worth less and less as time wore on). Of course, one’s own family could help out if they were willing and able. But if you lost your horse and failed to obtain a new one within 40 days you’d be transferred to one of the infantry units in your state! 5

These Texas cavalrymen were obliged to provide their own horses, tack, and arms, but Duaine notes that everything else: tents, clothing, cooking equipment, blankets, and so on, were also the men’s own responsibility and in the Trans-Mississippi remained so throughout the war.

Camp Woods, because of its proximity to San Antonio, probably had a good commissary system. The men of Company E would have eaten well enough while there. Acquisition of food in the long run, though, became somewhat dicey, and clothing was even harder to come by. There was little or no garment or textile manufacturing west of the Mississippi. During the first two years of the war, families, private citizens, and the troopers them-selves furnished their own clothing. The Ladies’ Southern Aid Society (these were organized in a number of areas) in San Antonio made uniforms and collected what other supplies they could for the soldiers who needed help.

In the Trans-Mississippi, unlike the other parts of the Confederacy, the regiments had all the horses they needed. Texas had more horses per fighting man than did Arkansas, Missouri, or Louisiana. Besides the compensation for loss mentioned above, the volunteers were to receive forty cents a day for the use of their horses. The mounts were branded with the initials “C.S.” even though they were still considered the soldier’s own property. The Quartermaster was to supply grain and “long forage,” that is, hay and fodder.

According to the Confederate Ordnance Manual, the full set of “accoutrements” for a cavalryman’s horse was usually:

two bridles – the regular riding bridle, equipped with a bit, and a watering bridle; a halter; a saddle, usually the Spanish horn type if furnished by the men, or [two other types] if supplied by the quartermaster bureau; one or more pairs of spurs; surcingle; saddle blanket; currycomb; horse brush; picket pin; and lariat.” 6

Next time: Life in Camp Woods – and San Antonio . . .

Purgason, Howard. Calvin Turner, Texas Ranger
Gallaway, B.P., ed. Texas: The Dark Corner of the Confederacy, 248;
Duaine, Carl L.. The Dead Men Wore Boots, 26
Ford, John Salmon. Rip Ford’s Texas, 35
Windle, Janice Woods. True Women, 261-262
Smith, Thomas. C.. Here's Yer Mule, 1-6
Duaine, 25-26; General Order No. 29 cited in Oates, Stephen B.. Confederate Cavalry West of the River, 44
Oates, 66, 58, 74-75, 77-78

1 comment:

Barbara Morris Westbrook said...

As always, Howard, well written and really interesting. Thank you so much for posting this series!