I think I told you that Rickey and I recently spent some days in Mason, Texas so that I could do some research. (Thank goodness I married a history buff!) While we were touring old Fort Mason, I was reminded that the old fort was Robert E. Lee’s last post before the Civil War.
Of course, the role that Texans played in the Civil War is ignored by almost every history book ever written. However, long before the first shot was fired, the soon to be famous Robert E. Lee was well aware of the prowess of Texans as well as of their courage. It would be to these Texans that Lee would look to give him and his Army of Northern Virginia the first victory.
On June 27, 1862, Union Soldiers were threatening Richmond, the Confederate Capitol. Their army was 100,000 strong, and General Robert E. Lee was considering his best move when suddenly he saw a ragged column approaching. Lee could barely believe his eyes when he realized it was the Texas Brigade led by Brigadier General John Bell Hood. Hood and Lee had served together on the Texas frontier and knowing Lee, I’m sure he believed it was the hand of Providence that brought Hood to him in time to break the Federal lines.
This was only the first of six major battles in which Hood’s Texans would play a major role. In fact, Robert E. Lee was so impressed with the Texans that he requested on more than one occasion that more Texas troops be sent to him.
Lee was not the only commander impressed with the performance of the Texans. Stonewall Jackson referred to them as the “gallant Texans,” and General W.H. C. Whiting, in his official report, wrote that “The battle was very severe,…and won [by] the Forth Texas Regiment.” Even Jefferson Davis himself was heard to exclaim that most troops had reputations to earns but that the “the sons of the defenders of the Alamo” had theirs to maintain!
Probably one of the biggest compliments given the Texans came from General Lee when he was reviewing the troops in front of Colonel Garnet Wolseley, an observer from the British army, who made a remark about the ragged seats of the Texans pants. General Lee, who would take no criticism of “his” Texans, quickly told the Brit that the ragged seats were immaterial since the enemy never saw the backside of the Texans! General Dorsey Pender certainly agreed with Lee. He confided in his wife that Hood had “the best material on the continent.” (James M. Day et al., Soldiers of Texas. Texian Press, 1973, 47-69.)
Before the war was over, there would be battles in Corpus Christi, Galveston, Sabine Pass, Laredo, and at Palmito Ranch located near Brownsville. The Texas shoreline would sustain numerous naval bombardments, and Texans would fight border raiders, frontier raiders, as well as Union blockades as they tried to protect their state.
Before the war was over, John Bell Hood would have one arm shattered beyond repair and one leg amputated. However, he would refuse to leave active duty and continued to fight until his horrible loss in Nashville in 1864, finishing at least his part of the war riding strapped to his faithful horse, Jeff Davis.