Monday, December 12, 2011

Atascosa County and The Civil War - Part 6

The 36th Texas Cavalry Moves to Camp Clark

In mid-1862, after about three months of organizing and training, and rounding up victuals and supplies, the 36th Texas, including the men of Company E, abandoned Camp Woods on the Salado and marched off along the Austin road to a new encampment about 62 miles to the northeast on the San Marcos river. There may have been two reasons for the move: military and sanitary.

On May 30th, Union armies had forced the evacuation of Corinth, the junction of the Confederacy’s main north-south and east-west railroads in the Mississippi Valley. And the Federal navy was making great headway in the eventual dominance of the vital waterway. On June 4th, the Confederates abandoned Fort Pillow above Memphis and two days later, after a mighty naval battle on the river, the grand anti-bellum city itself, the fifth largest in the Confederacy, fell to Union forces. This move eastward of the 36th Texas would have brought them closer to any potential field of battle.

And then there might have been the practical considerations of fresh water and grass. Carl Duaine notes that Salado Creek wasn’t always a running stream, even in those days, and the San Marcos River is fed by strong springs. Also, perhaps less important, there may have been fresh grass for the horses thereabouts, though this would not have been a primary condition because the troop was still buying or being issued fodder for their mounts. And although they would not be close to the great quartermaster depot of San Antonio, for minor supply needs they would be 18 miles from New Braunfels and about six miles from San Marcos.

The last week of June 1862, the companies got on the road. With the pretty solid body of military experience in Company E, they would have known how to break camp and get to their place in the line of march with a minimum of confusion. The junior officers of the company would have been responsible for seeing that the wagons were loaded properly (with the tents, cooking utensils, etc.) and that their men were moving out on time and in order.

It probably felt good to the men to get out of that well-worn camp and on the road – at least to those men, like the ex-Rangers in the company, to whom it felt more natural to be out in the open. The companies would have camped however they might along the Cibolo that night. After taking care of their horses, the usual suppers would have been followed by songs and stories around the campfire afterwards.

The next day’s leg passed them through the largely German town of New Braunfels – right down the main street. This would have been exciting for the families of Company E’s 69 soldiers from the town, plus the 20 from out and around Comal County.1 It was probably not as exciting for the town’s merchants and those who lived along the street – we can imagine what some 800 men on horseback and 20 wagons pulled by mules would do to the dirt main street of the little town. It stirred up a huge roiling pall of dust that hung over every- thing. Before long most all of the adults had gone inside and maybe even covered their mouths against the grit. But the children, naturally, were too excited to miss anything. Tom Smith of Company G wrote:

This town is mostly inhabited by Germans and the principle productions are dust and children. . . . Went through this town and crossed the river; here we camped for dinner. . . . The river here is clear and swift, the bottom being smooth hard rock. Had a fine bathe in it. We are to Camp here tonight. After dinner went to town but found it worse than camp for dullness.2

Yes, those stolid German burghers and farmers and hausfraus lived in a world apart from the bright seƱoritas and melodious saloons of San Antonio.

The next morning Colonel Woods may have led his columns up the San Marcos road – or did he veer off to the right a bit when he cleared the camp and lead his cavalrymen cross-country while sending the wagons on up the road? His destination was a training camp in Guadalupe County (near the little town of Martindale, seven miles from San Marcos), one of a number established by Texas governor Edward Clark in 1861.3

Duaine quotes an article printed in the Confederate Gazette of Sequin in 1861: “The camp is located in a grove of thickly foliated elms, whose overhanging boughs afford an ample shade.” And a few miles upriver the San Marcos is joined by the Blanco, so there was water aplenty for the men and horses of the 36th Texas Cavalry.4

The Pleasanton boys rode in to Camp Clark several days after Company G did (probably in the first week of July), found their camping site, and settled in. It is likely that they took welcome baths in the cold, clear San Marcos.

A two-month muster roll for Company E was recorded at the end of June. It was dated “Mch 29th to June 30” and shows the station of the company as “Camp Clark Texas.

Friday, the 4th July 1862; Tom Smith:

Today dawns the glorious 4th! Yes Glorious to us as much as the North. This is the day on which the independence of our Forefathers was declared and thus I trust we will also soon celebrate the day on which our independence is declared. The Confederate States of America will ere soon show to the nations of the world that they are an independent nation.5

It would not surprise me if some of the older, wiser heads in camp didn’t see the irony, not to say absurdity, in celebrating the birth of a nation they were in rebellion against.

Next time: Camp Life on the San Marcos . . .

Purgason, Howard. Calvin Turner, Texas Ranger
1. Duaine, Carl L.. The Dead Men Wore Boots, 27, 96-109
2. Smith, Thomas. C.. Here's Yer Mule, 15
3. Handbook of Texas Online, s.v.,
4. Duaine, 27
5. Smith, 16

1 comment:

Barbara Morris Westbrook said...

I can just imagine this ride through New Braufels!