Turning and Twisting in the Gyre

I am currently torn three ways, between the start of the holiday market season for myself and my daughter’s various enterprises, my own blogging and writing, and a book project for a Watercress Press client. The book project is to do with local history, and a particularly contentious event during the Civil War – in Texas. Even as far west of the Mississippi as Texas was, from the main theater of war, some comparatively minor skirmishes in the first Civil War took place in Texas. And the final battle, and surrender of the last hold-out Confederate command took place down on the Rio Grande, and the very last Union Army casualty fell in that Texas fight. But that is stuff for history trivia contests. (The answers are, FYI, the battle of Palmito Ranch, and Private John J. Williams, of the 34th Indiana.)

The book project has a fair amount of my attention, as it touches on a local history matter featured in my own books – but in the interesting coincidence of the Tiny Publishing Bidness having published some of the local history books noted as sources, or citing local historians whom I have met or have had something to do with; the late Rev. Ken Knopp, James Kearney, and Jefferson Morganthaler, most notably – and referring to many of the sources that I read as research for the Adelsverein Trilogy. This book that I am working on now caps a series which can only be produced by a writer/researcher involved to the point of intense – yea, even fanatical interest – in a specific Civil War event. Seriously, Colonel Paul Burrier (USA, Ret.) has gone back into the archives of various establishments and re-published at his expense just about every relevant document there is to find in national and state archives regarding the locally infamous incident memorialized by the True to the Union monument in Comfort, Texas.

I’ve written here and there about the Nueces Fight/Battle/Massacre here, here, and there…and how the peculiar situation in the Hill Country of Texas – well-stocked with Abolitionist, pro-Union inclinations – generated a bitter civil war-within a civil war.

You would think that the Confederacy, after establishing the principle that if you don’t like the results of an election, you can take your marbles and secede, had little ethical grounds for persecuting those elements within Texas who didn’t like the results of the secession convention, and wished to take their marbles and rejoin the union – but they did, anyway. “It’s only OK when WE do it” has a longer-than-suspected-history in the Democrat Party, it seems. Colonel Burrier’s thesis is that influential elements among the Texas Hill Country Germans were organizing an all-out, balls-to-the-wall armed and political resistance movement, with the aim of breaking off from Texas, establishing a separate and free state, and rejoining the Union, just as West Virginia did. It’s liable to be a controversial one, since it is contrary to the accepted opinion, which tends more to the concept of relatively innocent non-participants in the peculiar institution generally, and disinclined to participate in the Confederacy’s war specifically – being brutally persecuted for exercising their rights of free speech and association. Repression bred resistance, and violence on both sides.

As in all civil wars, this one split families, friends and communities. One of the most heartbreaking that I can imagine, from reviewing and formatting Colonel Burrier’s assemblage of chapters and notes is that Fritz Tegener, who was elected leader of that party of militant German Unionists who went south towards Mexico together in 1862, was a married man with a small daughter and a two-months-pregnant wife, Susan Benson Tegener. When his party was ambushed by pursuing Confederates, he was badly injured, to the point of incapacitation in the resulting fight, but managed to survive and spend the remainder of the war south of the border in Mexico. Susan Tegener, whose two older brothers were members of the Confederate militia unit assigned to keep order in the Hill Country was taken into custody, along with the families of other suspected Unionists, but eventually released. Assuming her husband dead, Susan married twice more – to Confederate sympathizers. After the end of the war, when Fritz Tegener turned up alive and well, her divorce from him was, as might be assumed, spectacularly ugly. Fritz Tegener never acknowledged the second child as his … and Colonel Burrier suspects that Susan Tegener may have spilled all to the Confederate authorities about her husband’s planned departure with sixty other Unionists in 1862 anyway. Fritz also had two brothers; Gustaf, summarily hanged at Spring Creek later in 1862 by Confederate authorities (or vigilantes – hard to tell which, sometimes), and William – also lynched by pro-Confederate vigilantes the previous year – apparently for his disinclination to embrace the Confederacy.

The other sobering element is how swiftly things turned, and turned again, for many of the well-established and respectable men in the German community. The elected sheriff of Gillespie County, one Philip Braubach, was taken to San Antonio in the indignity of chains with a heavy cannon-ball weight attached. His companions in miserable captivity included two Hill Country store owners – one a former justice of the peace, and the other a former officer in the local militia. They all three were charged by a military tribunal and found guilty – fortunately they escaped shortly thereafter. Others coming under suspicion and persecution were just as well-established in their respective communities. They held responsible offices – state representative, justice of the peace, surveyor, militia company officer, ran profitable businesses, had the absolute trust of their friends, neighbors, communities … and for a season of madness, were branded traitors, plotters, brigands and revolutionaries. And for that, they spent three or four perilous years, hunted as outlaws and traitors until the wheel turned again …

17 thoughts on “Turning and Twisting in the Gyre”

  1. I’m reading Grant’s Memoirs again after 50 years and enjoying it. Now on Volume II. He reports that Lincoln was very concerned about Texas, and sent Banks there, because he feared European interference was most likely there. Maximilian in Mexico, etc.

    Mark Twain actually published them after Grant’s death and the two volume set sold 500,000 copies.

  2. Business trips have taken me past many of the historical markers in the areas between Okla City and Shiner, San Antonio, or Austin TX. I had some inkling of the German presence from the markers and subsequent ‘net research. And from your posts, Celia. Because of speaking German, having been in Germany, and having German friends, the N American German story of great interest.

    Winds of War often blow not only very hard, but very unpredictably tornadic, with the vortices bringing the same astonishing results one sees after, well, a tornado. All that once hooked together now lies in patterns that have no traceable connection to their past.

  3. “the N American German story of great interest.”

    At the time of the Civil War, the Herman community was very important and part of Lincoln’s election coalition, especially in Missouri.

    “Team of Rivals” has quite a bit about out. I’m reading Grant’s Memoirs and he mentions the German antipathy to slavery and has some interesting insights about the South.

    My uncle has told me that Chicago public schools had a portrait of the Kaiser when he was in school, which would have been the 1890s.

    World War I changed all that and was a disaster for German-American citizens. Wilson led a worse propaganda campaign than FDR with the Japanese.

  4. Yes, indeedy, Roy – a veritable tornado, and I very greatly fear that it will blow again, very soon.

    I spent today at the market day in Johnson City – about three dozen vendors of various items (woodwork, jewelry, hand-made wooden puzzles, gourmet salsas, plants and wrought-iron plant standards) with our pop-up tents and appealing merchandise in a small square city park just off the main road which goes through town – a road which is also the terminus for the Texas Hill Country Wine road – lots of traffic on weekends; people from San Antonio and Austin exploring the wine country, heading to Fredericksburg. Our sales were … mildly disappointing, just as they were last week at a similar market in Blanco — also on a main weekend tourist road. Not just us — but other vendors, some of whom have done local markets for years. The general consensus – because we all talked to one another, in lulls – is that this is partly because of people not quite into the Christmas shopping mode, and because of nervousness about the election. Believe me, market vendors gossip among themselves. The late-summer markets in Blanco were terrific, so were the markets in San Marcos … but now I think buyers are getting nervous. Winter is coming.

  5. I got two deliveries of ammunition this week. A case of 0.50 calibre and a case of .223 today. My wife says “This is enough !”

    The California election has a series of lunatic ballot measure to ban ammunition. We are going to Tucson in two weeks to look at more houses. Still, it pays to be cautious.

  6. Mike, you can never have TOO MUCH AMMUNITION! If all turns out well – have some lovely afternoons at the range.
    If not – well with a stash of chocolate, cigarettes and bottles of Scotch, you will be fitted up for the Zombie Apocolypse! :-)

  7. You can never have too much ammunition, because you can bet your glucose infused specimen of Equus africanus asinus that if the organic waste impacts the rotating airfoil, economically or politically; ammunition and components will also be currency.

    You can never have too many guns, because of the First Rule of Combat:

    Have a gun.

    Preferably, have at least two guns.
    Bring all of your friends who have guns.

    You may have more friends than guns.

  8. ” the First Rule of Combat:”

    The Second Rule of Combat is that when you are done, the enemy is down and your gun is empty. I think that’s a Marine rule.

  9. The first rule of combat is to keep that thing loaded. It should never be empty.

    Hell with the tactical acumen displayed here, I’m pretty sure I could arrive with nothing, and leave victorious.

    In combat there is a lot of running involved. If you are badly out of shape, like nearly all North Americans, you will not be able to even come close to hitting anything after serious exertion.

    You would probably be farther ahead with a serious weight and cardio exercise routine, than buying more ammo. What’s the .50 for Mike K?

  10. “What’s the .50 for Mike K?”

    For my Colt 1911 in the bedside drawer.

    My cardio exercise routines are behind me now.

    I may have to get one of those tee shirts that say, “I’m too old to run away and to wrestle with you so I’ll just shoot you.”

    I use “Luckygunner” for ammo.

  11. Mike K Says:
    October 23rd, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    “What’s the .50 for Mike K?”

    For my Colt 1911 in the bedside drawer.

    I find the concept of a .50 BMG model 1911 both thrilling and disturbing.

    The reason for the .45 1911 is to make sure that any bugger hit goes down and stays down. A .50 BMG version may be a tad excessive on that score, and kick like a b*st*rd. But I would love to see one.


    [I’m assuming a typo, but an interesting one, to put it mildly.]

  12. “A .50 BMG version may be a tad excessive on that score”

    I guess I don’t know what that is. My 1911 shoots .50 ACP.

    My AR 15 shoots .223 or 5.56 NATO round. I just got 1000 rounds of 223. I have learned that the 5.56 has a higher chamber pressure but .223 is just fine.

    My grandson, who is 10, has fired the AR 15. The 1911 kick is a bit much for him but he has fired my Walther PPK .380.

    I also have a small collection of black powder guns I look forward to firing in Arizona when we move there. The open air range here was closed a few years ago by the Irvine Company which opposes all guns. There is one about 50 miles away but a bit far for casual shooting. Th local indoor range used to let me shoot black powder on weekdays when they were not busy but thay are busy all day every day now and no black powder.

    I first fired a Colt 1911 when I was 10. My father and I and Frank Flanagan were walking in the Joliet Ammunition plant south of Chicago one time and I got to fire Frank’s 1911. I appreciated the recoil. That was about 1948.

  13. WOW. I had never heard of the .50 GI (12.7×23mmRB) before. Or the Guncrafter Model 1 version of the 1911. I am impressed. Can’t afford one, and the logistics would be problematical, but as a way to put someone down it would be hard to beat. .50 usually refers to the .50 Browning Machine Gun round, which was the basis for my comment.

    It is a hell of a way to follow the USMC’s 25th rule of combat:

    Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a “.4.”

  14. I dunno, a 1911A should be a .45ACP, it’s just right. ;) If I wanted to make big holes, stop cars, etc, a nice .44 magnum is just perfect.

  15. Maybe it was a hangover from seeing the movie “The Accountant” in which the guy shoots a Barrett .50 most of the movie,

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