THE CALVARY OF THE
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
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
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
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
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
Mexican border area was locked in a war of its own between
the Imperialists of Maximillian and the Juaristas of Benito
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Spaight's 11th Battalion, who left the Sabine Pass area to serve under
General Richard Taylor in Luoisiana, were now known as the
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
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
The Battle of Calcasieu Pass from Harpers
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
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
from other fronts was not as good. The campaign in the East was going badly for
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
Union forces, meanwhile, began to move troops forward toward
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
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
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
reported response was that if he could get the brand name he
would send some to all his generals.