THE CALVARY OF THE WEST

To check the Confederate advances in the South, Magruder called upon Colonel John Salmon Ford to raise a troop to take the field along the Rio Grande. While Ford went about trying to raise a force in a Texas with few men of military age left, Magruder kept contact with the Federals in Louisiana.

It was December of 1863 when Magruder secretly asked Ford to raise the force to defend South Texas. Secretly, because Ford did not hold a commission in the Confederate service.When Ford made arrangements, before the start of the conflict, to transfer much of South Texas' property to Mexico to protect the cotton trade and other avenues of commerce, he angered the establishment in South Texas that became the cadre of officers for the Confederacy in the area.

His successful devious dealing with the Mexicans of all persuasions (Imperialists, Conservatives, Juaristas, Liberals, Tejanos, those who crossed over to other sides and gray area Mexicans) was also something not appreciated by the Confederate staff hierarchy. In fact, Ford was furloughed from Confederate service in late 1861. Magruder, and others in Texas, saw to it Ford retained his Colonel's pay during the period.

Ford agreed to undertake the task. Magruder told him he would attempt to obtain a commission for him, but he was never able to bestow it.

"Old Rip" accomplished what he did with the sheer force of his history, experience and personality. In thirty days, Ford assembled 1,300 boys and men into a unit he called the "Calvary of the West."Since the unit was unofficial, it had no official designation, General Magruder asked some militia units to join with Ford. One of the unit commanders refused to serve under an uncommissioned officer. Magruder replaced him immediately. Three of the milita units which helped Colonel Ford were commanded by Celts, James Dunn of San Patricio; Matt Nolan of Corpus Christi and another group from San Patricio called Ware's Battalion.

The First Texas Union Cavalry under Colonel E. J. Davis, pictured to the left, moved from Rio Grande City and boxed in a Confederate unit under Santos Benevides at Laredo.The Calvary of the West surprised the First Texas Cavalry laying siege to Laredo and pushed them back toward Brownsville. Pursuing Davis south toward Brownsville and the superior Union force that lay there, Ford decided to reconoiter. General Herron, who had replaced Dana, had 6,479 men, 12 field pieces and 16 heavy guns defending Brownsville. It would take a major effort to dislodge him.

Ford decided to determine the status of his exposed flank.The Mexican border area was locked in a war of its own between the Imperialists of Maximillian and the Juaristas of Benito Juarez.

Matamoros changed hands several times in the Juarista - Imperialist struggle. In 1861, it was taken by General José Cobos for Maximillian. In a matter of hours Cobo's second in command shot him in the head and declared the city for Juarez.The second in command was Juan Nepomucena Cortinas. Cortinas was made the Governor of Tamaulipas by Juarez.

In the summer of 1864, Cortinas intercepted a coach carrying Addie Ford, Colonel Ford's wife, enroute to Matamoros using the overland cotton route from Eagle Pass. In Matamoros, she planned to cross over into Brownsville and visit her mother. Cortinas told Mrs. Ford that U. S. Federal authorities were on the lookout for her in Brownsville. He then told her that he and his soldiers would stay out of any fight between Confederate and Union forces at Brownsville. This was remarkable, considering the Confederacy, for the most part, supported Maximillian.

The reason was money. The Confederates and their cotton gave Matamoros a boom economy. The pre-war arrangement Ford was instrumental in setting up of exporting Texas cotton for goods coming into Matamoros' ocean port at Bagdad (also called Boca del Rio), had been very good for Matamoros and north Tamaulipas. Even though the presence of Union troops in Brownsville had caused the trade to be slowed and more costly by using the overland route from Laredo and Eagle Pass, it was still a boon.They wished to continue it.

Somewhat assured of his southern flank, Ford and his Calvary of the West took Rio Grande City unopposed. He then met with Cortinas to test the information he had recieved from his wife. Cortinas allowed Ford to purchase supplies including weapons, ammunition and cannon from Mexico. This was a necessity to Colonel Ford as official Confederate supply lines were not open to him.

Ford harassed E. J. Davis' cavalry and continued to pressure them closer and closer toward Brownsville. On June 21, 1864, resistance stiffened from Davis at the Las Rucias Ranch 30 miles outside of Brownsville. Captain James Dunn led a charge into the Union cavarly that was too successful. He pushed right through the center of their forward line and found himself so deep into the Union lines that he was surrounded.

He rallied his troops about him, prepared to fight it out to the bitter end. The rest of the Cavalry of the West came in from the flanks and sent Davis and and the Union Texas First Cavalry fleeing for the protection of Brownsville. Only eight men of the two companies of the First Texas Calvary survived the encounter to warn General Herron in Brownsville that Ford was coming. There were only three Confederate dead. One of these was Captain James Dunn.

VIDAL

The First Texas Cavalry of Colonel E. J. Davis was made up of mostly Tejanos and Mexicans. There were some Germans in the unit, survivors of the Battle of the Neches, and other immigrants including some Irish. One of the more interesting members of the unit was Adrian J. Vidal, stepson of Mifflin Kenedy. He is pictured to the left from a mural on the Kenedy family ranch.

Kenedy's stepson was a member, in succession, of the Confederate, Union, and Mexican armies. Vidal originally joined the Confederate service as a member of Duff's Partisan Rangers in October of 1862. He was then placed in a Confederate cavalry militia unit made up of mostly Tejanos at Boca Del Rio. After an engagement with the enemy in July, 1863, Vidal was officially commended for directing the seizure of a Union gunboat at the mouth of the Rio Grande River.

Vidal swiftly rose from Private to Captain. In the official Confederate correspondence one can read Vidal's growing discouragement. There was open discrimination by the Confederate soldiers against the Mexicans in Vidal's unit, against him and the unit as a whole. As other units got needed supplies and equipment, Vidal and his Mexican unit got little or nothing.Vidal wrote his commanders for explanations and received none.

In October of 1863, fed up with the discriminatory treatment from the Confederates, Captain Adrian Vidal and 100 of his men crossed enemy lines to join Davis' unit in the Union Army.

That same month, Vidal and 89 of his men were formally inducted into the United States Army into a unit known as Vidal's Independent Partisan Rangers which was attached to the First Texas Union Calvary. In February 1864, nineteen year old Adian Vidal was married in Brownsville to Ana M. Chavero. His military duties had him conducting guerilla warfare up and down the Rio Grande. He found he was being asked to be away from Brownsville and his wife for longer periods. He also found the Union Army treated him and is Mexican unit with the same negative prejudicial treatment they had received at the hands of the Confederate Army. In May of 1864, Vidal indicated he wished to resign from the Union Army along with his men.He cited the language problem and the constant requirement for paperwork. The resignation was forwarded without objection up the chain of command and approved in July. By then Vidal and his men had already left the Union side and joined with Cortinas in Matamoros. Union officials revoked the approval and the honorable disharge that went with it and issued orders for the deserters to be shot on sight. As you will learn below, Cortinas found it necessary to survive by switching sides and joining the Imperialists when they took control of Matamors. Vidal did not and fought with the Jauristas. Vidal was captured by the Imperialist forces of Maximillian and shot in 1865. In the short span of two years, Vidal had gone from care free and single in a well to do family to married with a child on the way, rancher to soldier, from Private to Captain, served as an officer in three different national armies and was killed by soldiers in the army of a fourth (France).

Mifflin Kenedy was allowed to recover the body and bring it back to the family ranch in Texas.

BACK AT BROWNSVILLE AND OVER ON BAYOU TECHE

Colonel Ford pushed the reduced Texas First Calvary out of the little town of Ebonal just outside of Brownsville on July 22, 1864. He then marshalled his forces there preparing to attack Brownsville. Meanwhile, the Federal forces in the Rio Grande Valley withdrew to a point of concentration on Brazos Santiago Island not because of pressure from the Cavalry of the West, but because of General Banks' new plan to push up the Bayou Teche from New Orleans and cut off all Confederate forces west of the Mississippi. General Banks' planned to join with Grant's advance from the north down the Mississippi. Some of the units in Brownsville were shipped back to New Orleans including the First Texas Union Cavalry. Once again E. J. Davis' unit was on a boat leaving Texas waters.

The First Texas Union Cavalry participated in theBayou Teche campaign. They were in the action at Vermillion Bayou. This was one of the rare occasions of the war where organized Texas units fought against one another outside of Texas. The First Texas Union Cavalry also saw action at New Iberia and Carrion Crow Bayou. Davis' unit fought well in the campaign and he was promoted to Brigadier General.

Spaight's 11th Battalion, who left the Sabine Pass area to serve under General Richard Taylor in Luoisiana, were now known as the "Swamp Angels."Writings in the diaries of some of these men tell of the hardships they endured from disease, terrain and weather while they were having more success fighting the enemy.Things went well for these Confederates at the Battle of Fordoche Bayou although O'Brien's company lost Privates Sam McKee and J. A. McFaddin both from Beaumont.Another succes was at Bayou Bourbeau seven miles south of Opelousas where Sergeant Connor wrote in his diary that his company helped chase the Union calvary all the way back into the town of Vermillionville (present day Lafayette).

Colonel James Reilly, the former Minister from the Republic of Texas to France and England, died in one of the many engagements fought along the Bayou Teche.One of the larger fights was fought near Franklin, Louisiana, at a place known as Irish Bend.By May, Banks reached Alexandria.

THE BATTLE OF CALCASIEU PASS

The Battle of Calcasieu Pass from Harpers Weekly

On May 4, 1864 Colonel William H. Griffin ferried seven companies of infantry, one battery of artillery and thirty cavalrymen from Sabine Pass to Johnson's Bayou, Louisiana. From there they marched 38 miles to Calcasieu Pass where two Union ironclad warships were anchored.At daylight on May 6th the Confederates surprised the gunboats. Being anchored with no steam up, the Union troops had to withstand a withering, constant, accurate and telling fire from the Confederates. After ninety minutes of this, they surrendered. The Battle of Calcasieu Pass thus resulted in the capture of the two Union ironclads:the Granite City and the Wave.

< Painting of the battle

For more detail on the Battle of Calcasieu Pass
 go to:

http://library.mcneese.edu/depts/archive/
FTBooks/jones-victory.htm

While the Bayou Teche campaign was underway, Colonel Ford's Calvary of the West occupied Brownsville in July 1864.The Union troops seemed content to await reinforcements while they occupied Brazos Island.

After Colonel Griffin's raid at Calcasieu Pass, General Magruder was unable to move additional Texas troops across the Sabine to support the Red River defense effort. The politicians of Texas would not allow any more Texas forces out of Texas while there were Union forces in Texas. This was also true for the Mexican company in the Confederate service. The company of Mexicans raised in Mexico now had among its members John Parker, the brother of Cynthia Ann Parker. He, and the others in the unit, felt Texans should fight only to defend Texas.

The news from the Red River campaign was not good for the Yankees. Tom Green's cavalrymen along with other Texas and Louisiana units were able to delay Bank's advance. This allowed the Confederates to concentrate a force as was done in 1863. Confederate General Dick Taylor decided to harass Bank's rear echelon. In June, General Taylor was able to seize Brashear City and many Union supplies. Leander McNelly was very active in this battle that saw 40 Confederate men capture 800 Union soldiers. Banks attempted to make an overt push to the Red River.The result was the Confederate victories under General Edmund Kirby Smith at Mansfield, Sabine Crossing and Pleasant Hill, Louisiana.

In the battle at Mansfield, Louisiana.The "Peach Orchard Charge", which many Civil War historians say was an important part of that battle, was led by Captain John Lafayette Lane. He was related to the Fitzgeralds and was from Lockhart, Texas. Another important part of the battle was the accuracy of the McMahan's Battery of artillery. One of its officers was Lieutenant Sam Houston, Jr.

Another unit with a Celtic name participating in these actions was McNiell's Cavalry. General Green was killed in the pursuit of the Union retreat. He was replaced by Brigadier General R. P. McCay. The Union retreated all the way to the Mississippi. News from other fronts was not as good. The campaign in the East was going badly for the Confederacy.

Things began to heat up in the Rio Grande Valley. Cortinas was hardpressed from all sides at Matamoros by Imperialist forces.It would only be a matter of time before the city fell and Cortinas faced Imperial justice. The Union commander on Brazos island, Colonel H. M. Day, sent a proposition to Cortinas. Cortinas would be given protection by the United States, allowed to cross the river safely into Texas and be made a Brigadier General in the United States Army, if - when he crossed the river, he attacked the Confederate Calvary of the West in a maneuver to squeeze them out of Brownsville. Cortinas agreed and sent 600 Mexican troops and some artillery batteries across the river where they set up positions on the west side of Brownsville. The Union forces, meanwhile, began to move troops forward toward Brownsville.

ODDS AND ENDS

On September 29, 1864, the Imperialist soldiers of Maximillian took Matamoros. Cortinas renounced Juarez and was allowed to stay. General Tomás Mejia took control of Matamoros for the Imperialists. He declared, however, the cotton portal was again open for the Confederacy. Cortinas declared himself Governor of Tamaulipas.

In the presidential elections of 1864, the Democrats nominated General McClellan for President on a platform calling for a negotiated settlement of the war. The Republican Convention chose Andrew Johnson, whom Lincoln had appointed the military governor of Tennessee, to be Lincoln's running mate. The North was in a war weary mood and might well have gone with the Democrats but; Sherman's victory in Atlanta, Admiral Farrugut's capture of Mobile and General P. H. Sheridan's victory in the Shenanadoah Valley assured Lincoln another four years in the Whitehouse.

Lincoln chose U. S. Grant, in 1864, to be Commander in Chief of all U. S. military forces. Critics questioned his choice and pointed out to Lincoln that Grant drank too much whiskey. Lincoln's reported response was that if he could get the brand name he would send some to all his generals.

BATTLE OF ADOBE WALLS I

In the west, the U. S. Army was fighting Indians as well as Confederates. Their stategy, against the Indians, was to assist certain tribes in battles against other tribes. In this way, the Indians would never be able to form a confederation of several tribes and challenge a war weakened U. S. Army. The U. S. Army of the West had to deploy many of its troops against the Confederates in the southern and eastern United States. One of the examples of the Union strategy in action was in a battle that took place in Texas near a place known as Adobe Walls. Adobe Walls had been a trading post since the 1840s.

In November, 1864, Kit Carson was leading elements of the Ute and Jicarilla Apache Indians of the Rocky Mountain area to attack Comanches and Kiowa Indians in the Plains. Carson had about 410 men counting the Indians and U. S. Army officers and troops. Carson's group, after three weeks and a 200 mile trek, found their quarry camped near the Adobe Walls trading post........................................Kit Carson >

The Comanches and Kiowas had hundreds of lodges in place. Estimates of the number of braves in the camp were in the 3,000 range. On November 25, 1864, using the buildings of the old trading post for cover, Carson unleashed a fusilade of bullets and howitzer rounds into the lodges. About 170 lodges were destroyed. In short order the Indians surrounded Carson and his men in the trading post. The fight lasted all day with mounting losses among the Comanche and Kiowa Indians. Between 60 and a 100 Comanche and Kiowa Indians died in the battle. Carson was able to extract his men under cover of darkness. He lost two soldiers, one Ute Indian and had 21 soldiers wounded and four of his Indians. It was the largest Indian battle in Texas history and it was won by a Celt named Kit.

MISFORTUNE OFF MATAGORDA

Dspite the difficulties of the war or because of them, Texans tried to carry on life as usual. In late December, 1864, the town of Matagorda prepared to celebrate the coming of the new year with a series of festivities capped by a big ball. To add to the event a group of Confederates decided to attack the Federal blockade ship that was anchored off the Matagorda coast.

The Confederate steamship John F. Carr, which had participated in the recapture of Galveston, and a couple of other boats were to engage the blockader from a set direction while skiffs loaded with some local men were to board the ship from another direction. The skiffs were loaded with men on December 30th and anchored 500 feet from shore in a position that masked their position from the Federal ship. As they awaited the cover of darkness and the assault led by the John F. Carr, there suddenly came up a blue norther that stirred up the water. The unexpectedly high waves began to quickly fill the skiffs. They all sank immediately. Several of the men drowned among them: D. A. McKinley, Thomas McKinley, A. D. Hines, George M. Bowie, J. N. Conner, N. M. Kenerly, E. Duggan and Julius Shaw. It took days to recover the bodies. All were young men. The McKinleys were brothers. D. A. was twenty-two and Thomas eighteen. They were found locked in each others arms.

Aboard the John F. Carr was Irishman Captain James Roger Marmion. His parents were from County Down, Ireland. Captain Marmion was second in command to Commodore/Major Leon Smith and Commander of the Matagorda Marine District. Captain Marmion was one of those rare officers in the Confederacy who held a Commission in both its army and navy. He later was the Postmaster of San Antonio. He is pictured left. He filed the report below:

The plan was to land our force, consisting of my own men and 15 from the gunboats, including officers, on the peninsula by the small boats; move up to within a safe distance, reconnoiter, and, if prudent, make the attack. The steamers Carr and Cora were lying at anchor about 1,000 to 1,200 yards from the peninsula. We left these steamers in the small boats for the peninsula about 10 o'clock p. m., and after running about half way to the shore a most terrific norther began to blow, which induced us to abandon the attack and order a return to the steamers.

Aboard our boat were Captains Marmion, Hall, Lubbock, and myself, together with Mr. Wilcox, of the Signal Corps, and three others, we succeeded in reaching the steamers. The two other boats filled and sank, and 18 of my men were lost, together with the 3 volunteers above mentioned, to wit: Sergeants Matthews and Jones, Corporal McKinley, Privates McKinley, Connor, J. and F. Secrist, Thomas Wadsworth, James Seaborn, May, Mcneley, Walton, A. C. Johnson, Hines, Gibson, Copeland, and Howell; George M. Bowie has not been found, but no doubt he was drowned; volunteers, James Rugeley, Duggan, and Lake.

Fifteen minutes longer and the whole party would have landed, and I believe we could have taken the enemy, as they numbered but few, if any, more than we did.