Thursday, August 30, 2012

Atascosa County's Regiment in the Civil War - Part 14

A Tempestuous Ending for the 36th Texas
May 1st, 1863: The Vicksburg Campaign begins.
July 1st to 3rd: Gettysburg, the deadliest battle of the war, the end of Lee’s attempt to invade the north. Hood’s Texas Brigade suffers 597 casualties.
July 4th: Vicksburg falls; these two events mark the turning point of the war, but the killing would grind on for two more years. The Trans-Mississippi Department, including Texas, is cut off from the heartland of the Confederacy.
August 10-13th: The Third Texas Infantry Regiment at Galveston mutiny and refuse to drill; and civilian sappers and miners assigned to the Galveston garrison refuse to work.1

The 36th Texas Cavalry continued patrolling in Woods’ Triangle until the end of May 1863. On July 1st the “impregnable” Confederate redoubt on the bluffs above the Mississippi, Vicksburg, fell to the protracted, relentless onslaught of Union forces, prompting President Lincoln’s famous remark, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”2 The riverine highway was cleared of any resistance and Arkansas, half of Louisiana, and Texas were isolated from the rest of the Confederacy. No doubt many southern sympathizers and C.S.A. soldiers realized that they were effectively out of the war.

Nevertheless, in a sordid account of wartime greed and speculation in “white gold” – despite the opposition of President Lincoln and Generals Grant and Banks (commander of the Department of the Gulf), Union General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck pushed through a plan whose primary aim was strike up the Red River from the Gulf and secure vast quantities of Louisiana and Texas cotton for northern mills.

In June 1863 elements of [Woods’] regiment were moved up the coast as far as Indianola in response to the threat of invasion . . . On July 12 Woods was given command of the First Cavalry Brigade of Gen. Hamilton P. Bee's division. . . . On September 9, 1863 the regiment was ordered dismounted. It was to be moved by rail to Beaumont, and its horses, the personal property of the men, were preempted by the Confederate government. Woods protested the order and refused to obey it. After marching and countermarching the Texas coast for several months in response to invasion alarms, 157 of Woods's troopers deserted on the night of February 1, 1864. Granted thirty days leave, Woods followed his deserters to their homes and returned with them to his camp. On February 20 the highly unpopular dismounting order was finally executed, but on February 28 the regiment was ordered to Louisiana for the Red River campaign and remounts were hastily procured.3
There are literally hundreds of books about the Red River Campaign. One that seems to me informative is Ludwell H. Johnson’s Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War. Though it is an interesting part of Texas history (and Woods’ Regiment), it was peripheral to the great sweep of the Civil War.

On April 9th, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. The revered Southern general later said, “I surrendered as much to Lincoln’s goodness as I did to Grant’s army.”

As this news took a good while to disseminate to the far reaches of the Confederacy, the war went on for a while. That very same day, April 9th, the 36th Texas arrived at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, too late for the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, which resulted in the defeat of General Nathaniel Banks Union army. Then the 36th immediately marched for Blair's Landing in pursuit of the retreating Federals.

On April 12 Woods and his men received their baptism of fire at the battle of Blair's Landing . . . They skirmished daily with the retreating federals through Grand Ecore, fought a determined holding action at Monett's Ferry, and continued a running fight with the enemy until a spirited action at Yellow Bayou on May 18 in which Woods was wounded halted the chase. A rifle ball entered Woods's left hand and traversed his forearm, exiting his elbow. Although he returned to service after only two weeks of convalescent leave, he never fully regained the function of his left arm. . . . During the next seven months the Thirty-sixth Texas Cavalry remained in Louisiana, patrolling . . . In February 1865 the regiment returned to Texas, and at Houston on May 21, 1865, by order of Gen. John B. Magruder it divided its public property and disbanded.
Farewell to Company E

The boys were all back in Texas by the first of March 1865. Trooper Foster, a private in Company E, told of its final days:

We marched towards home, and when a man reached home country, he just shook hands all around, turned his horse down some country road, and was lost to us. The East Texas men left early, and the rest of us went ahead. At San Marcos, several companies stopped. Most of the rest of the men shook hands and parted at San Antonio. What was left of Company E went back to Pleasanton. First companies disappeared, then squads, and then a few men waved goodbye to each other, and that was all of Woods’ Regiment.4

This concludes the series.

Purgason, Howard.  Calvin Turner, Texas Ranger
1.       Gallaway, B.P., ed.  Texas: The Dark Corner of the Confederacy, Contemporary
       Accounts of the Lone Star State in the Civil War. 251;
2.       McPherson, James M..  Battle Cry of Freedom. 638
3.       Handbook of Texas Online, s.v.,
4.       Duaine, Carl L.. The Dead Men Wore Boots, 95

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