J. B. (Joseph Benjamin) Polley.

Hood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements online

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done, and that he had surrendered the army only when every
avenue of escape was closed and to struggle longer was to in-
vite destruction. Of what followed, little need be said. Some
of the scenes that occurred are indescribable, and many are
too pathetic to have place here. And while all were sad at the
thought of the end that had come, and of speedy partings
with the comrades who had shared their dangers and toils,
something of humor crept into their conduct and language.
Many members of the Fifth Texas declared that even if they
had surrendered to General Grant, he should not have a gun
from them that would be serviceable, and to make their threat
good, they commenced bending the barrels of their guns, and
otherwise injuring them. My attention called to this work of
destruction, I told the men engaged in it that no parole would
be granted by General Grant to any Confederate soldier who
did not deliver his arms in good condition. Convinced that I
was right, those engaged in the work of destruction said : ' If
that is the case, we'll straighten them back again.' But they
made signal failures in their efforts ' to straighten them back
again.' Nevertheless, all got their paroles, for there was no
inspection of the arms delivered. All that our men did, as
they halted in front of a line of armed Federals, was to lean
their guns up against huge stacks of those already there. Our
color-bearers did the same with the flags they surrendered.

" Official records show that the First Texas surrendered at
Appomattox, 133 men — the Fourth Texas, 145 — the Fifth
Texas, 149 — and the Third Arkansas, 130; making, in the
aggregate, 557 officers and privates, as the number of the
Texas Brigade who surrendered. The three Texas regiments
surrendered 427 officers and privates. Estimating their entire


enlistment, from the beginning to the close of the war, to have
been, in round numbers, of officers and privates, 4000, it will
be seen that 3573 are not accounted for. Of these, some were
dishonorably absent, many hundreds were dead, and many more
hundreds were sick or disabled.

" All the formalities of the surrender over, the question of
how we should get back to our homes came to the front. To
the Third Arkansas, as brave and noble a regiment as was
ever mustered into the Confederate service, this was not as
difficult as to the Texans, for it could return to Arkansas by
way of Chattanooga and Memphis, which it did. The Texans,
though, had further to go, and what route was best to take
was a problem that required much discussion. Although many
of them stayed in Virginia, and others chose to go to York-
town and avail themselves of transportation by water, offered
them by the Federal government, the majority decided to stay
together and, as a command, march to Danville, and there
taking passage on a railroad train, go by way of Atlanta,
Montgomery and Mobile to New Orleans, where they could
find conveyance by water to Galveston, Texas.

" On the 12th of April, after bidding farewell to the Third
Arkansas, such of the Texans as had chosen to travel as a
command fell into line, and under command of their officers,
marched in the direction of Danville. But they stayed to-
gether only a day or two. Food was difficult to obtain for
as large a party as we were. Many of the men were both
weak and footsore, and finding it easier to secure needed pro-
visions by scattering out, they soon began to straggle. Wrong
roads were taken, long stops were made, and it was several
days after the main body reached Danville, before everybody
caught up with it.

" Railroad transportation not to be secured at Danville —
Sherman's troops having wrecked all railroads leading to the
South — we footed it to Greensboro, N. C. There we were joined
by the Texans of Johnston's recently surrendered army, and
with them proceeded to Montgomery — footing it most of the
way, in couples and squads, all effort to retain organization
having by this time ceased. At Montgomery, the Federal pro-
vost officer assigned us quarters in a large two-story building,
located near the artesian well. Major W. H. Martin, the ' Old


Howdy ' of the Fourth Texas, shared with me the responsi-
bility of assuming command of the Texans that came in, what-
ever their regiment or brigade, and we had our hands full —
the major in securing rations as needed, and I in attending to
official matters,

" It was seven days before we secured transportation to Mo-
bile, and then we had to work for it. A steamboat arrived,
loaded with supplies for the Federal troops in and near the city,
and the provost told us that if we would unload it, he would
send us to Mobile on it. Informed of the offer, the Texans
went to work with such energy as, in six hours, to unload and
place in piles on the wharf, a mass of freight that it would
have taken the negroes employed for the purpose and working
in relays of fifty men, full twenty-four hours to unload. When
the job was done, one of our boys, noticing the large quan-
tities of bacon, hard tack, sugar, coffee, pickles, canned goods,
wagons, picks, spades and other military necessities, exclaimed:
* Boys, we never could have whipped the Yankees. Look at
all them good things to eat, and handy things to work with,
and compare them with the little we had ! '

" The boat unloaded, we were ordered to report that after-
noon at the office of the provost, to have our paroles counter-
signed. The order was obeyed, and next morning we boarded
the steamboat we had worked for, and were soon steaming
down the river. But at Selma our boat was halted, we were
invited to disembark, and a regiment of negroes, destined for
service at Mobile, was ordered on it. We protested, of course,
and bitterly, against what some of our men denounced as ' a
regular Yankee trick,' but our protest was unheeded, and we
had to wait at Selma until the next day. Then another steam-
boat came along, and taking us on board, carried us to Mo-
bile, where we were assigned to comfortable quarters, fur-
nished with rations, and had our paroles again inspected.

" Six days later, we boarded a steamboat for New Orleans,
and landing there, were assigned quarters in a large cotton
shed. To offset their kindness in not requiring us to have our
paroles again countersigned, the military authorities detailed
a company of negro soldiers to guard us. The next morning,
every Texan wearing brass buttons, whether of Confederate or
foreign make, was accosted by one or the other of these blacks


with the order, ' Stop, dah, suh, tell I cuts dem buttins off yer
clo's ! ' But the Texans were quick to ' catch on,' and by
cutting off their brass buttons themselves, denied the negroes
the great satisfaction of doing so.

" During the nine days we were compelled to stay in New
Orleans, awaiting transportation to Galveston, the better
classes of the citizens treated us with kindness and courtesy ;
from people in the lower classes only came incivility. Guarded
though we were, we went and came at our pleasure. The Irish
ladies of the city could not do too much for us. They visited
us at our quarters, and not only insisted on having our cooking
done for us, but on our coming to their homes and taking our
meals there. In addition, they furnished every one of us with
a suit of good clothes.

" On the last night of our stay in New Orleans, Colonel
Henry, a grand old ' rebel,' gave the rank and file of the
Texans an elegant supper at his house, and Dr. Greenleaf en-
tertained the officers in like manner. Next morning, we went
aboard the steamship Hudson, at 10 a. m. An hour later a
fire broke out in the neighborhood of Colonel Henry's resi-
dence. The Texans rushed to the rescue, and not only re-
moved from the old Colonel's house everything of value, with-
out damage to a single article, but placed a watchful guard
over it, and when the fire was subdued, carried everything back
into the building, uninjured. Then they returned to the steam-
ship, which at 4 p. m. got under weigh.

" All went well until, just before day the next morning, the
boat reached the mouth of the Mississippi River, and stuck her
nose so deep into the mud that she could neither go forward
nor back out. Here we lay an exceedingly long forty-eight
hours, under a broiling sun, suffering both with impatience
and the discomforts of the bad ventilation and the foul-smell-
ing odors of the bilge-water in the hold of the vessel, where
for lack of room on the upper deck more than half of our
crowd were compelled to stay. On the second day, two tugs
lashed to the Hudson but failed to drag her from the mud.
At ten o'clock of the third day, much to our relief, a freight
steamship came down the river, and taking us on board,
steamed for Galveston — arriving there and coming to anchor
near the blockading fleet, just after daylight next morning.


She was kept at anchor until noon ; then only did General E.
J. Davis, commanding Federal troops in the city, give his kind
consent to our approaching and landing on the wharf, and
that we lost no time in getting ashore, you may well beheve.
" Notified in advance of our coming, the good people of
Galveston and Houston had arranged for us to take a Buf-
falo Bayou boat at Galveston, and journeying to Houston
in comparative comfort, there partake of a sumptuous ban-
quet. But General Davis had taken no shots at ' rebels ' when
the bullets were flying, and it was time, he thought, to begin
fighting. Having already shown his loyalty to the Union by
keeping us out at anchor until noon, he gave another evi-
dence of it by prohibiting the employment in our service of
the Buffalo Bayou boat ; rebels, he said, were entitled to no
courtesies. The only chance of getting us to Houston, the
railroad, the Galveston people patched up an old engine until
it could be depended on foy the fifty-mile run, and hitching
to it a lot of seatless flat cars, which the Irish women of the
city, God bless them, had swept clean, placed the train at
our service. Boarding it about sunset, by midnight we were
in Houston partaking of the banquet tendered us by its hos-
pitable people. The next day, rejoicing that we had been
spared to again set our feet on Texas soil, and feeling that
we had done our duty, our whole duty, and nothing but our
duty, we separated, each of us going home."



It is from well-meaning but careless friends that we must
often pray to be delivered. No man had a greater admiration
for the Texas Brigade, or ever stood higher in the esteem of
its members, living and dead, than did the late John H.
Reagan, and jet, in his memoirs, published after his death,
he has unintentionally made a number of mistakes with refer-
ence to that command. Coming from one less noted for the
truth and accuracy of all his statements, they might be safely
left uncorrected ; coming from Judge John H. Reagan, Post-
master General of the Southern Confederacy, it is imperative
that attention should be called to them in this History of
the Texas Brigade. In his " Memoirs," beginning on page
143, appears the following:

In the course of the seven days* fighting around Richmond,
there occurred, at, the battle of Gaines' Mill, a struggle which has
few parallels for heroic courage and valor in all the annals of war.
Because of the part taken in it by Texans, I shall relate some of
the circumstances.

A part of the Federal force occupied a very strong position
on a hill on the east side of Gaines' Mill Creek, with three lines
of infantry; one was stationed about a third of the distance from
the foot of the hill, the second about half way up, and the third
between that one and the top of the hill, which was probably 300
or 400 feet high. Their lines were protected by fallen trees, with
a swamp and abatis one or two hundred yards wide in their
front. The crown of the hill was occupied by the field batteries
of the enemy. In order to attack this position the Confederate
soldiers had to advance through a gradually descending open
field. Two assaults had been repulsed, when, in the general
movement of the forces, Hood's Brigade was brought to its front.
General Lee inquired of him whether he thought he could take
it. Hood's answer was in the affirmative.

It so happened that the First Regiment of Texas Infantry,



commanded by Colonel John Marshall, was launched against the
Federal stronghold. Colonel Marshall was soon killed; the lieu-
tenant-colonel was very seriously and the major mortally wounded
before the advance reached the creek, and many others of the
regiment were killed or wounded before they got through the
abatis. This regiment, with no officer above the grade of cap-
tain, drove the three lines of infantry from their defenses, and
captured the artillery which crowned the hill, and which had
been pouring a deadly fire into the charging columns. A few
hundred yards further on the Texans saw two field batteries across
a depression of the field. Before they had gone far, however,
they were assailed by a brigade of Federal cavalry under Gen-
eral McCook. This was put to flight, and then the Texans again
rushed forward and captured the batteries.

The Fifth Texas Regiment, commanded by Colonel Jerome B.
Robertson, had also broken through the Federal lines and come
in view of what was left of the First Regiment. Robertson's
statement made afterward to me was that when he saw General
McCook's cavalry moving rapidly to the attack of the First Texas
Regiment, and saw the small remainder of that regiment, it made
his heart ache, as it seemed out of the question for them success-
fully to resist such a force. But he said the men quickly aligned
and stolidly awaited the attack, and that when the brigade got
within range he never saw saddles emptied so fast.

The cavalry recoiled, defeated, and as soon as this was accom-
plished, and the field batteries taken, the Texans started for a
Federal siege battery, nearly a mile further on. General T. J.
Chambers, who had followed them, as a looker-on, hastened after
them and got them to stop, saying that the enemy was then in
their rear, and that if they went forward they would certainly
be captured. Colonel Robertson's regiment then joined the re-
mainder of Marshall's, and on their return they found that the
gap they had made in passing through the Federal line had been
occupied by a New Jersey regiment, which on demand sur-
rendered. The beautiful silk banner of this regiment was sent
as a trophy to Austin, Texas, and was after the war returned to
New Jersey by the military governor, Hamilton.

The First Texas Regiment went into the battle with more than
eight hundred men; but came out of it, after this brilliant ex-
ploit, with a roll-call of a little over two hundred. After that
on different occasions General Lee urged me to aid him in get-
ting a division of Texans for his command, remarking that with
such a force he would engage to break any line of battle on earth
in an open field.


That Judge Reagan was in fact writing of the Fourth
Texas instead of the First Texas, is evident from his mention
of Colonel John Marshall, who commanded the Fourth, and
not the First Texas. But Judge Reagan makes a number of
other mistakes. It was east of Powhite Creek, and not east
of Gaines' Mill Creek, that the Federals were stationed — it
was but a regiment of cavalry, and not a brigade, that
charged the Fourth Texas — that charge was made, not before
the Fourth Texas captured the batteries, but immediately
afterwards — it was the Fifth Texas, alone, that captured the
New Jersey regiment — and if any Texans " started for a
Federal siege battery nearly a mile further on " it was the
First or Fifth Texas, and not the Fourth.

On page 194 of the same " Memoirs," Judge Reagan gives
Field's division credit for a battle occurring on August 29,
1864, which did not in fact take place until September 29, and
then, the Texas and Benning's brigades were the only brigades
of Field's division that took part in it, until late in the after-
noon, when the enemy had been whipped back. Again, on
page 187 of the same " Memoirs," he gives an account of a
voluntary charge made by the Texas Brigade between Rich-
mond and Petersburg that is not at all in accord with the ac-
tual facts, which are given in Chapter XIV of his history.

In the Richmond Dispatch, of some date in February, 1865,
appears the following account of the presentation of gold
stars to members of the Texas Brigade selected by their
comrades as most worthy of them. It is to be regretted that
the modesty of the fair donor forbade the mention of her name
by General Lee, and has continued to withhold it. It was a
tribute of Beauty to Valor, that should never be forgotten,
and for which no commendation is too great. The Dispatch

We learn that a very interesting scene occurred some days ago
in the camp of the Texas Brigade (Senator Wigf all's old com-
mand), the occasion being the presentation of some golden stars,
designed for the brave men of the brigade by a lady of Texas,
and forwarded through the hands of General Lee.

After brigade inspection the men were addressed by Senator
Wigfall in a stirring speech. He said that he would be more
than man if he did not, and less than man if he could not, feel


deeply and solemnly the changes that had taken place, and the
absence of the familiar faces of his former companions in arms.
It was not to be considered when or where soldiers die; but how
they die. Better a thousand times fill the grave of a brave man
than be the slaves of insolent knaves and unprincipled tyrants.

The Senator reminded his old command that the roads were
drying up ; that a few days would bring the familiar sound of
the battle, the roaring of artillery and the rattling of the rifles.
There was more bloody work to be done, and they were to prepare
for the fray.

Senator Wigfall also took occasion to dispose of the tiresome
though oft-repeated story, " rich man's war, poor man's fight."
The final reverse to our arms, he said, should it ever come, must
certainly fall upon the poor man, the man in moderate circum-
stances, leaving him no chance to escape. He would inevitably be
crushed, whilst the man of wealth and talents and the distinguished
officer would buy or demand protection in any part of the world.
There would be no refuge for the poor man. The vengeance of the
enemy would be poured upon his head and those of his posterity
unless he carved out his liberties with his sword and bayonet.

At the conclusion of Senator Wigfall's speech the following let-
ter was read from General Lee:

" Headquarters Army Northern Virginia, Jan. 21, 1865. — Com-
manding Officer of Hood's Texas Brigade: Sir — I have received
from * a young lady of Texas ' some golden stars which she desires
may be presented to the brave men of your brigade. Where all
are so meritorious and have done so much for the honor of their
State, I know it will be difficult to select the most worthy, but
from your intimate knowledge of their deeds and conduct in action,
you can with more certainty than any other bestow them in ac-
cordance with the wishes of the donor. I therefore commit them
to you. They are nine in number and said to be made of gold
too precious for common use.

" As a gift of a lady from their State, who has watched with
pride their gallantry on every field and off'ered daily prayers to
the throne of the Almighty for their happiness and safety, I feel
assured they will be highly appreciated and long preserved. I
have the honor to be your obedient servant,

" R. E. Lee, General."

The stars were presented to the following named men: William
Durram, Company D, First Texas; James Knight, Company H,
First Texas; Corporal James Burke, Company B, Fourth Texas;
Sergeant James Patterson, Company D, Fourth Texas; Corporal
W. C. May, Company H, Fourth Texas; Sergeant C. Wilborn,


Company F. Fifth Texas; Sergeant J. Hemphill, Company H,
Fifth Texas; Private J. D. Staples, Company E, Third Arkansas;
Private J. W. Cook, Company H, Third Arkansas.

Modesty denies to the individual the privilege of repeating
and boasting of the compliments paid him by distinguished
men. The same rule is not applicable to a military com-
mand, and Hood's Texas Brigade is glad that it is not. Proud
of its achievements, its survivors delight to recall and repeat
the praises bestowed on its gallantry, its pluck and its en-
durance, by the great military leaders and men in high civil
position who witnessed its conduct on the field of battle.

In a letter written to Hood's Texas Brigade Association a
few years before his death, Judge John H. Reagan said:

" I would rather have been able to say that I had been a
worthy member of Hood's Texas Brigade than to have en-
joyed all the honors which have been conferred upon me. I
doubt if there has ever been a brigade, or other military or-
ganization in the history of the world, that equalled it in the
heroic valor and self-sacrificing conduct of its members, and
in the brilliancy of its services."

The following excerpts from a letter written August 6,
1907, to General W, R. Hamby, of Austin, Texas, by Gen-
eral Stephen D. Lee, are too flattering to be omitted :

" If any brigade in the Union or Confederate army should
have its history written describing their skirmishes and bat-
tles. Hood's Texas Brigade is the one, and if no survivor of
that brigade can do this, some brilliant Texan should take
the record as found in the Government publications, read it
carefully both sides. Union and Confederate, and then con-
verse with the survivors and write a full and complete history
of that immortal brigade.

" There were very many splendid brigades in the army on
the Confederate side, and while I would not say that Hood's
Brigade surpassed them all, still, if I were to select a brigade
to do honor to the average fighting Confederate brigade, I
would select this brigade.

" It was my fortune to hear the volleys of Hood's Brigade,
one of the first volleys in the war, between Richmond and West
Point on the York River, when McClellan tried to turn the


flank of Johnson's araiy by getting in his rear with a corps
from the West Point landing. That volley of five thousand
or more muskets, answered by five or ten thousand in reply,
is still ringing in my ears, and I heard no other volleys to
equal it till I heard it again at Second Manassas in front of
Longstreet's corps in their magnificent charge on that field.
I saw them pierce the Federal line at Gaines' Mill ; I saw their
magnificent charge at Second Manassas, and I witnessed the
glory the brigade won at Sharpsburg. They were under my
eyes all the time. I saw them go in on the evening of the
16th ; I saw them come out to get their rations when they were
relieved ; I saw them go in again a little before day, on the
17th. I saw them sweep the enemy from their front ; I saw
them almost annihilated, and even then, I saw them contribute
the greater part to the repulse, first of Hooker's coi'ps, then of
Mansfield's corps of the Union Army. I saw them hold off
Sumner's corps until reinforcements came. I saw them de-
livering volley after volley lying on the ground not 150 yards
from the muzzle of my guns to the east of the Dunker Church.
I saw them rise, and pursue the enemy ; I saw them broken,
shattered and falling back before overwhelming numbers ; the
few who were left giving the rebel yell with more spirit than
the hurrahs of the Union troops."

At the date of the battle of Gettysburg, Dr. Sam R. Bur-
roughs, now a leading physician and surgeon residing at
Buffalo, Texas, was one of the wildest and woolliest of the
many " wild and woolly " young fellows in the First Texas.
Writing of his observations and experiences during the fight-
ing on July 2, 1863, Dr. Sam says :

" Mrs. Wigfall, you know, gave the First Texas a beauti-
ful Lone Star flag made from her wedding dress. When Saint
Andrew's cross was adopted as the battle flag of the Con-
federacy, the unfolding of State flags in action was pro-
hibited. Nevertheless the First Texas carried along with it
the flag given it by Mrs. Wigfall. Its bearer was a young
fellow under twenty whose name has escaped my memor}^ but
he never unfolded it in battle after the order mentioned was
given, until the battle of Gettysburg.

Online LibraryJ. B. (Joseph Benjamin) PolleyHood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements → online text (page 26 of 32)