Texas in the Civil War: Battles & Soldiers

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Texas was one of the states to secede from the Union during the Civil War, but its experiences were unique amongst the Southern States. In this lesson, we'll talk about Texas' role in this war and explore some major battles.

Texas and the Confederate States of America

Did you know that Texas has been part of more nations that any other state in the USA? They were part of Spain, Mexico, and France, then became their own republic before joining the USA. There's also one other nation they joined. In 1861, a series of Southern states seceded from the Union in protest of the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, including Texas, forming the Confederate States of America (CSA). This division launched the USA into the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865. As no strangers to fighting to determine their own national identity, the Texans weren't about to sit this one out.

Texan Soldiers

In 1861, the Texan people left the Union and joined the CSA. Texans were already pretty used to fighting by this point (they had fought for years to secure independence from Mexico) so many eagerly enlisted. By the end of the war, over 9,000 Texans had fought for the CSA. What's interesting, however, is their role in the Confederate military. Texas provided few infantry soldiers, but was amongst the greatest supplier of cavalry. Being a remote region that relied on cattle ranching, Texas had developed a superior horse-riding culture both in its years as part of Mexico and the USA. Texans were famous for their horsemanship, and it was even remarked that no Texan would walk more than a few feet without use of a horse. So, while the Texans weren't too enthusiastic about becoming foot soldiers, they were more than willing to ride into battle.

Most Texans fought in cavalry units

Texan Battles

Since Texas was still pretty remote in the 1860s, it was actually fairly removed from the main fighting of the Civil War. That doesn't mean that there wasn't plenty for the soldiers to do. In fact, about 2/3 of the Texan troops spent the entire war in the American Southwest, and never made it to the main battlegrounds of the east.

Battles on the Frontier

We can categories the battles involving Texans in three types. The first, and one that many people forget about, are the battles not against the Union Army but against Amerindian nations. When Texas left the Union, federal troops pulled out, leaving the forts and outposts meant to defend Texan settlements from raiding Comanche and Apache warriors abandoned. For the first year of the war, the Texas Mounted Riflemen took charge of securing the state against raids. After 1862, a line of 16 permanent camps was established just west of the furthest lines of Texan settlements. The largest battle between the Texans and Amerindian warriors came in November of 1864 at the Battle of Adobe Walls. Roughly 3,000 Comanche and Kiowa warriors defeated the Texan forces under Colonel Christopher ''Kit'' Carson, reclaiming a piece of Texas which they held until after the end of the Civil War.

Texan forces not only had to fight the Union, but the Comanche as well

Battles in the Southwest

The Texan troops not involved in the massive efforts to protect Texan settlements from Amerindian raids were generally used by the Confederacy to conduct campaigns across the Southwest. Texan troops were particularly important in the attacks on Arizona and New Mexico. In 1861, Confederate commander Henry Sibley began forming the Army of New Mexico to fully claim that territory. His base of operations was San Antonio. The Texan force under Sibley's control marched into New Mexico, where they fought mainly against the Colorado militia for control of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. After prolonged fighting, they were forced to retreat, with many Texan soldiers blaming Sibley's command for their failure.

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