Monday, November 14, 2011

Atascosa County and the Civil War - Part 5

The 36th Texas at Camp Woods on the Salado

Rain, sometimes quite heavy, fell intermittently over these late-March-through-April 1862 days and nights in camp. By April 11th, Tom Smith, that diary-keeping trooper of Company G, claimed there were seven companies at Camp Woods, a total of 560 men. The actual strength of the regiment may have been greater than that, but some of the men had made trips home for more or better equipment, and some had gotten leave to check on their families and farms, etc..1 The assembled men from many counties were going through a general shakedown, being whipped into a regiment. There were the usual incidents and messups that would occur with a bunch of men not yet accustomed to camp life, officers not yet used to command. Horses were lost, tents were blown down, bedding (and troopers) soaked in the rain (not all companies had tents yet).

A Trip to San Antonio

Some of the men were dispatched to San Antonio to requisition ammunition, and made both training patrols and did some actual guard duty in the town, which was nearly an anti-secessionist bastion before the war and still had many Union sympathizers.2

Tom Smith and some of his buddies in Company G made rode down to the Alamo town a pleasure trip. Maybe some of the Pleasanton boys of Company E did likewise.

Woke up soon by hearing the bugles of one of the Companies . . . Arose very early got breakfast, and then got ready to go to San Antonio. . . . Some 20 of [his company] started in; it is about 6 miles from camp. . . . Got within a mile of town, on a large hill and we had a fine view of the whole town. When we got to town we rode around and through seeing and being seen. . . . [After having their noon “dinner” they bought some needed items.] I got a “moral” which is a kind of bag or sack made of bagging used to feed horses in by fastening it over their heads; the corn being shelled, the horse does not lose any. We then got our horses and started back to camp. Pleasant weather.

The Regiment on Parade

On Sunday morning April 6th – as the first great bloodbath of the war was beginning near a small log church named Shiloh at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee – Maverick’s Company E participated in a time-honored military tradition. Tom Smith:

Got up and had breakfast by sunup. I washed and put on clean clothes yesterday so I am all ready this morning. Went down to the dress parade of all the companies except ours [Company G was still not organized]. They all formed in a row or line and the Ensign Bearers then marched [on horseback, of course] in front; then the Captains and Lieutenants then all the non commissioned officers and then all marched back. General review being over the bugle sounded for preaching and all that wanted to go went down by Captain Woods Co tents and seated themselves on their blankets on the ground. . . . The minister selected his text from the 37th Paslm [sic] and preached a very touching sermon he has two sons in this Reg’mt.3

San Antonio On Edge

As the regiment formed up, details of ten men (two each from five companies) were sent to guard the “Powder Magazine” near San Antonio, about a thousand yards southeast of the Alamo. The town, perhaps second only to Fredericksburg, had a significant number of citizens of Unionist sentiment.4 The Confederate military authorities were taking no chances. While some denizens were pacifists or Union-loyalists, some were merely indulging in unpatriotic price-gouging. And it seems the town had become a hiding place for draft dodgers and possibly even a magnet for brigands of one sort or another.

After these guarding patrols had gone on for a couple of weeks Tom Smith was surprised one night:

Late in the evening, the quietude of the camp was stirred up and awakened by an order for the whole company to clean their guns, and prepare to start to San Antonio on tomorrow morning 6 o’clock.

The next morning the regiment formed up in a column of twos and rode toward town. They halted “in the suberbs” for half an hour and then made a dramatically martial entrance:

Got into town & went by fours on a gallop through the City. Men women and children rushed to the sidewalk and windows looking on in wonder. . . . We finally brought up in the main Plaza and formed a hollow square. . . . Brigdr. Genl H.P. Bee [commander of the Sub-district of the Rio Grande] then came in and declared Martial Law through the City and County. . . . San Antonio is a town noted for extravagant prices and extortion on articles for necessary purpose. . . . Also for depreciating Confederate money when a soldier has got nothing else. . . . Will not change a Confederate note unless the soldier takes one half in goods at 3 times their price. . . . Our Regiment had to guard the blamed town for 2 weeks to keep the traitors from avoiding the authorities. Our Co. [as surely did Company E] had to stand about once every 6 or 7 days a day & night. Don’t think there are many good honest Southern people in the Town.5

Busy Days for the Troopers

The next two months were spent in organizing and training, and victualing and supplying the regiment. There was also guard duty and patrols to be carried out, more trips to San Antonio for food and munitions, deaths from accidents (one in Company E) and disease, and a number of necessary discharges. And more rain.6

Next time: The Regiment Moves to Camp Clark . . .

Purgason, Howard. Calvin Turner, Texas Ranger
1. Smith, Thomas. C.. Here's Yer Mule, 11
2. Duaine, Carl L.. The Dead Men Wore Boots, 25-26
3. Smith, 6, 7
4. Ford, John Salmon. Rip Ford’s Texas, 338
5. Smith, 11, 12
6. Duaine, 25-26

1 comment:

Barbara Morris Westbrook said...

..don't think they thought too much of my home town, Howard.