Site hosted by Build your free website today!

American Civil War West of the Mississippi

Home | Articles | Bibliography | Maps | Links | Contact

Recollections of the Twiggs Surrender

by Caroline Baldwin Darrow

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War
p. 33-39

Early in December, 1860, a rumor reached San Antonio, Texas, that Captain John R. Baylor, well known throughout the State, was organizing a company of one thousand men for a buffalo-hunt. 1 As Captain Baylor's secession sentiments were well known, this was believed to be a mere pretense, and his real design to be to surprise and seize the arsenal in San Antonio, in time to prevent any resistance on the part of the United States, should Texas go out of the Union. The Union citizens, alarmed lest the few soldiers stationed there should prove insufficient, appealed to General David E. Twiggs, then commanding the Department of Texas, to increase the force. He accordingly furnished several hundred men, consisting of Knights of the Golden Circle (a secret secession organization), the Alamo Rifles, two other citizen companies, and an Irish and a German company. This quieted apprehension for a time, but in January these troops were quietly withdrawn. At this time General Twiggs's loyalty to the United States Government began to be questioned, as he was known to be often in consultation with prominent secessionists, some of them ladies. Toward the end of January the Union men again appealed to General Twiggs, but nothing was accomplished, whereupon they armed themselves, waiting with undefined dread for the next move. Meanwhile no one trusted his neighbor, since spies and informers abounded, and to add to the terror, there were fears of insurrection among the negroes, some of whom were arrested; while all of them were forbidden to walk or talk together on the streets, or to assemble as they had been accustomed to do.

Late in January was held the election for delegates to a State convention which should consider the question of secession. San Antonio was crowded. Women vied with each other in distributing the little yellow ballots, on which were printed in large type, "For Secession," or "Against Secession." Many an ignorant Mexican received instructions that the ballot "with the longest words" was the right one. The carteros from New Mexico, who were in town with their wagon-trains, were bought by the secessionists, and some were known to have voted three times. It was well known that the Federal civil officers were loyal; the French and German citizens were emphatically so; and [*34] yet against the will of the people, "by superior political diplomacy," secession triumphed in San Antonio by a small majority. Many Germans gave up their business and left the town, taking refuge in New Braunfels, 31 miles away. Many of these men were political refugees of rare culture and scholarly attainments.

On the 1st of February, the ordinance of secession was adopted by the Texas Convention, 2 and on the 4th commissioners were appointed "to confer with General Twiggs, with regard to the public arms, stores, munitions of war, etc., under his control, and belonging to the United States, with power to demand [them] in the name of the people of the State of Texas." To meet this commission, which consisted of Thomas J. Devine, P. N. Luckett, 3 and Samuel A. Maverick, 4 on the 9th of February Greneral Twiggs appointed a commission consisting of Major David H. Vinton, Major Sackfield Maclin (secessionist), and Captain R. H. K. Whiteley. By this time the news of Greneral Twiggs's disaffection had reached the Government, and Colonel C. A. Waite was sent to supersede him.

One day, accidentally overhearing parts of a conversation between General Twiggs and a prominent Southern lady, I felt no longer any doubt that he was about to betray his trust, and reported the matter to Major Vinton. He sought an interview with Greneral Twiggs, and told me that he could find no suspicion of disloyalty, and that I was entirely mistaken. Getting information a few days later, which led me to believe that the day for the surrender was fixed, I again informed Major Vinton. He then decided to remove at once from his safe all papers that would give valuable information to the State authorities, and the moneys belonging to the Government, and he intrusted them to his confidential clerk, Charles Darrow. They were sent at midnight to his wife, 5 who was waiting to receive them, and who buried part of them in a deserted garden; the rest, secreted in the ashes of an unused stove and in the tester of a bed, were guarded by her till the information was no longer valuable.

General Twiggs had succeeded in completely blinding his brother-officers as to his plans; but he now had no time to lose before Colonel Waite's arrival.

On the 15th news came that some of the passengers on the mail-coach had alighted at the crossing of the Salado and joined a large company of Texas Rangers who, under the command of Ben McCulloch, had been encamped there for several days. Captain Baylor's buffalo-hunt had at last assumed a tangible shape.

To be prepared for any emergency, for many nights we had kept our firearms beside us. On the night of the 15th, worn out with anxious watching, we fell asleep, to be suddenly roused about 4 o'clock by the screams of the negroes, who were coming home from market, "We're all going to be [*35] killed!" I grasped my revolver, and, springing to my feet, looked out upon the plaza. In the dim light I saw the revolutionists appearing, two by two, on muleback and horseback, mounted and on foot, - a motley though quite orderly crowd, carrying the Lone Star flag before them, and surrounded and supported by armed men. The nights had been cold, and a week on the Salado without comforts had not added to their valorous appearance. Some had coats, but others were in their shirt-sleeves, and not a few were wrapped in old shawls and saddle-blankets. Their arms were of every description. By daylight more had appeared, perhaps a thousand in all, and so great was the enthusiasm of two women who had aided General Twiggs in his arrangements that they mounted their horses, in male attire, and with pistols in their belts rode out to meet their friends. Coffee and refreshments had been provided, and blankets and clothing were lavishly distributed. All the stores were closed; men, women, and children armed themselves, and the excitement was intense. Companies of Union citizens, well drilled and well armed, were marching and countermarching, presenting an imposing contrast to the other party, and a conflict seemed inevitable. The arsenal building had been opened and was swarming with Rangers. Early in the morning General Twiggs drove down to the main plaza, where he was instantly surrounded by secessionists demanding the Government property, whereupon he went through the form of refusing their request. He then held a conference with Major W. A. Nichols, his assistant adjutant-general, and Ben McCulloch, and was given six hours in which to reconsider. By noon he had surrendered all the United States posts and stores in Texas. When the result was known there was great indignation against him among the citizens. Two or three hours later he left for New Orleans, where he was received with public honors.

Orders were sent to all the outposts to turn over the military property to the State. The officers and men were widely scattered, and many of them were taken completely by surprise. The Federal troops in town gave their parole "not to take up arms" against the Confederacy, and were ordered to leave the post in the afternoon. By this time the German company had refused to act against the United States, and the citizen companies had disbanded. The Irish company had twice torn down the Stars and Stripes from the Alamo, and had raised the Lone Star flag in its place. An attempt was made to disarm the troops, but they declared that they would kill any man who interfered, and marched away under Major Larkin Smith and Captain [*36] John H. King, with the stained and bullet-riddled old flag of the 8th Regiment flying over them, while the band played national airs. Strong men wept; the people cheered them along the streets, and many followed them to the head of the San Pedro, where they encamped. By 6 o'clock the Rangers had returned to their camp on the Salado, and the day ended without further excitement.

About 2 o'clock that afternoon, Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived in his ambulance from Fort Mason, Texas, on his way to Washington, whither he had been ordered by General Scott. As he approached the Read House I went out to greet him. At the same time some of the Rangers gathered around his wagons, and, attracted, no doubt, by their insignia of rank, the red flannel strips sewed on their shoulders, he asked, "Who are those men?" "They are McCulloch's," I answered. "General Twiggs surrendered everything to the State this morning, and we are all prisoners of war." I shall never forget his look of astonishment, as with his lips trembling and his eyes full of tears, he exclaimed, "Has it come so soon as this?" In a short time I saw him crossing the plaza on his way to headquarters, and noticed particularly that he was in citizen's dress. He returned at night and shut himself in his room, which was over mine, and I heard his footsteps through the night, and sometimes the murmur of his voice, as if he were praying. He remained at the hotel a week, and in conversations declared that the position he held was a neutral one. When he left it was my firm belief that no one could persuade or compel him to change his decision. 6

During the next two days the Rangers were drinking and shooting about the streets, recklessly shooting any one who happened to displease them. From this time on, Union men were in danger, and Northerners sent their families away. Some who were outspoken were imprisoned and barely escaped with their lives; among them, Charles Anderson, brother of Robert Anderson.

On the 26th of February a dozen men of the State troops were stationed on guard over the offices of the disbursing officers, and the occupants were ordered to leave, but forbidden to take away papers or effects, though allowed to keep the keys to their safes. Colonel Waite had now arrived and assumed command, and the secessionist commissioners made a second demand for [*37] "a statement of the amount of indebtedness and funds on hand and required a promise from each officer that he would pay outstanding debts with funds and turn the balance over to the State": it being very desirable to the enemy to possess the Government records, which exhibited the number of troops and the condition of the whole department. Imprisonment and death were to be the penalty in case of refusal; but Major Vinton of the quartermaster's department declared that he did not fear either, would do nothing dishonorable and would not comply. Major Daniel McClure of the pay department 7 and Captain Whiteley of the ordnance department also refused, but several officers did comply and were returned to their offices. The larger responsibilities of the quartermaster's department detained Major Vinton after the above-named officers had left, and thus he fought his battle almost alone. His office was transferred to his own house, where with the aid of Mr. Darrow he transacted his business. He soon became so ill that it was impossible for him to leave his bed. Both were afterward arrested and given ten days in which to surrender the papers and funds or be shot. These threats were not executed, for on the morning of the tenth day we were gladdened by the news that United States troops from the different outposts were within a few miles of the town, having been three weeks on the way. They were met at the San Pedro and paroled not to take arms against the Confederacy or serve in any capacity during the war. These troops, representing the army in Texas, were loyal almost to a man, while all but forty of the officers went over to the Confederacy. The commissioners had promised to furnish facilities for the transportation of these troops to the coast, but so great had been the confusion and so many supplies had been carried off, that the soldiers were left almost destitute. I visited their camp and found them cursing the man who had placed them in this position."

Major Vinton and family, with my husband and myself, were the last to leave. On the morning of our departure, the 11th of May, as the ambulances and baggage wagons stood at the door, to add to the gloom, a storm broke over the city, enveloping us in midnight darkness. The thunder and lightning was so loud and incessant as to seem like the noise of battle. For two weeks we journeyed over the park-like prairies, fragrant and brilliant with [*38] flowers. We forded streams and rivers, crossed the Brazos by a rope ferry, and, taking the railroad train from Harrisburg to Galveston, canght the last steamer before the blockade of New Orleans. We went up the Mississippi in the steamer Hiawatha, which was crowded with refugees, who made no sign until, in answer to a shot from shore at Cairo, the steamer rounded to and we found ourselves once more under the protection of our own flag.

[This is the end of Mrs. Darrow's account. Further material was added by the book's editors, below.]

On the 13th of December, 1860, General David E. Twiggs, of the United States Army, who had served with distinction in the war with Mexico, and who was at that date in command of the Department of Texas, wrote the following letter to General Scott from San Antonio:

"I think there can be no doubt that many of the Southern States will secede from the Union. The State of Texas will be among the number, and, from all appearances at present, it will be at an early day; certainly before the 4th of March next. What is to be done with public property in charge of the army? The arsenal at this place has some ordnance and other munitions of war. I do not expect an order for the present for the disposition of them, but I would be pleased to receive your views and suggestions. My course, as respects myself, will be to remain at my post and protect this frontier as long as I can, and then when turned adrift make my way home, if I have one. I would be pleased to hear from you at your earliest convenience."

At this time it took from ten to fifteen days for a letter to pass between San Antonio and army headquarters. December 2Sth, General Scott replied:

"In cases of political disturbance involving local conflict with the authority of the general government, the general-in-chief considers that the military questions, such as you suggest, contain a political element, with due regard to which, and in due deference to the chief executive authority, no extraordinary instructions concerning them must be issued without the consent of such authority. He has labored hard in suggesting and urging proper measures to vindicate the laws and protect the property of the United States without waging war or acting offensively against any State or community. All such suggestions, though long since made in good time to have been peaceably and efficiently carried out, have failed to secure the favorable attention of the Government. The President has listened to him with due friendliness and respect, but the War Department has been little communicative. [Mr. Floyd was then Secretary of War.] Up to this time he has not been shown the written instructions of Major Anderson, nor been informed of the purport of those more recently conveyed to Fort Moultrie verbally by Major Buell. Probably the policy of the Government in regard to the forts and depots within the limits of seceding States will have been clearly indicated before events can have caused a practical issue to be made up in Texas. The general does not see, at this moment, that he can tender you any special advice, but leaves the administration of your command in your own hands, with the laws and regulations to guide, in the full confidence that your discretion, firmness, and patriotism will effect all of good that the sad state of the times may permit."

December 27th, and January 2d, 7th, and 23d, General Twiggs wrote similar letters to army headquarters, making urgent requests for instructions. January 15th, after the receipt of the above letter from General Scott, General Twiggs wrote to him again, this time expressing sympathy with the secession movement, and asking to be relieved from command of the department on or before the 4th of March. The order relieving him, and appointing Colonel Waite as his successor, is dated 'January 28th, and was received by General Twiggs on the 15th of February. Meanwhile the secession party in Texas had made decided progress toward carrying the State out of the Union. Late in January an election had been held for delegates to a State convention to consider the question of secession. This convention had met on the 28th of January, at Austin, and on the 1st of February had passed an ordinance of secession which was to take effect on the 2d of March, if it should be ratified by the people on the 23d of February. General Twiggs did not wait till the ordinance was in operation, or even till its ratification, to surrender the military posts and public property under his charge. February 9th he appointed a military commission to treat with a commission from the convention, - as his order of that date announced, "to transact such business as relates to the disposition of the public property upon the demand of the State of Texas." February 16th, three days before the arrival of Colonel Waite, the actual surrender took place, nominally to superior forces under Colonel Ben McCulloeh, then in command of 1000 to 1500 men, and acting under the authority, not of the governor (General Sam Houston, a Union man), but of the commissioners appointed by the convention. 8 On the 17th the State Commissioners wrote to General Twiggs:

"In our communication of the 16th instant we required a delivery up by you of the positions held and public property held by or under your control as commander [*39] in this department. As no reply save your verbal declaration (which declaration was that you 'gave up everything') has been given to onr note, . . . we again demand the surrender . . . "

To this General Twiggs replied the same day:

"I have to say that youare already aware of my views in regard to the delivery of the public property of this department, and I now repeat that I will direct the positions held by the Federal troops to be turned over to the authorized agents of the State of Texas, provided the troops retain their arms and clothing, camp and garrison equipage, quartermaster's stores, subsistence, medical, hospital stores, and such means of transportation of every kind as may be necessary for an efficient and orderly movement of the troops from Texas, prepared for attack or defense" against aggression from any source."

The commissioners then wrote, making two further conditions: that the troops should leave Texas by way of the coast, and that t hey should there surrender all means of transportation as well as the artillery. General Twiggs responded, consenting to the first condition, but objecting to the second so far as it related to the guns of the light batteries, and it was to that extent waived by the commissioners. Thus the formal surrender was consummated on the 18th of February, five days before the ratification of the ordinance of secession by the people of Texas. In a letter to Mr. Davis, dated New Orleans, February 25th, 1861, General Braxton Bragg says: "General Twiggs was ordered to turn over the command to Colonel Waite, a Northern man, but preferred surrendering to Texas." March 1st, General Twiggs was dismissed from the United States army. He was appointed major-general in the Confederate service, and was placed in command at New Orleans. He died September 15th, 1862, at Augusta, Georgia, his own State.

On the 28th of January, General Twiggs's successor, Colonel Waite, was in command at Camp Verde, 65 miles from San Antonio. In a letter of that date to General Twiggs's assistant adjutant-general at San Antonio, Colonel Waite said:

"For the purpose of making some defensive arrangements, I have deemed it proper to order the remainder of Captain Brackett'a company to this place without waiting for further instructions from your office. . . . I respectfully request that 1 or 2 pieces of artillery . . . may be sent here as early as practicable. In making this application I assume that there is a probability, or at least a possibility, that a mob of reckless men may attempt to seize the public property here, the most valuable of which consists of 53 camels, . . . worth some $20,000. ... I hold it to be the duty of every commanding officer to be at all times, mid under all circumstances, prepared as far as possible for any and every emergency. To this end he must anticipate his wants and take timely measures to meet them."

February 12th, he wrote again:

"Being desirous of concentrating my regiment (the 1st Infantry) so as to bring the companies more under my control, I respectfully request permission to move out of the department with the live companies now serving here and join the remainder of the regiment which is in the Department of the West."

February 26th, in his report of the situation after he had assumed command, he says:

"To concentrate a sufficient number [of troops] to make a successful resistance after the Texans had taken the held was not practicable. Besides, we had no large depot of provisions to move upon, and the means of transportation at the posts were so limited that the troops could have taken with them a supply for only a few days. An attempt to bring them together under these circumstances would have no doubt resulted in their being cut up in detail before they could get out of the country. Under these circumstances, I felt it my duty to comply with the agreement entered into by General Twiggs, and remove the troops from the country as early as possible."

For this purpose Colonel Waite continued at San Antonio. The troops (except those mentioned below) marched to the coast, where vessels chartered by the United States awaited them.

Concerning the advantages which General Twiggs's surrender conferred upon the cause of secession, Colonel Charles Anderson says:

"Of its successes, the first was that it carried the so-called election five days afterward. Without this brilliant coup de main (the first victory of rebellion) the majority would have surely been in Texas for the Union cause. As it was, only 42,000 votes (less than half the total vote of the State) was polled, of which 13,000 votes were given by the now confounded and dismayed Unionists. [The exact vote was: for ratification, 34,794; against, 11,235. Editors.] And just here (a second and great success) was the beginning of that series of flockings pari passu, with every disaster to the Union cause, of our Douglas Democrats, and our Bell and Everett men to the winning side the Breckinridge Democrats. ... A third gain to the rebellion was the immense money and military values of the public arms and other war properties on the very verge of the coming war, which it hastened, if it did not determine. Fourthly, our national prestige lost was a vast and instant impulse to secession and rebellion in every slave State."

The number of posts surrendered was 10. The number of troops "to be removed, in compliance with General Twiggs's agreement," was reported by Colonel Waite, February 26th, at 2328. This agreement was not respected by the Confederate authorities, who, on the 11th of April, on the ground " that hostility exists between the United States and Confederate States," gave instructions to Colonel Earl Van Dorn " to intercept and prevent the movement of the United States troops from the State of Texas." Under these orders 815 officers and men were captured, including Colonel Waite and his staff, who accepted parole under protest. Many of the private soldiers were kept in confinement for nearly two years. The San Antonio "Herald," of February 23d, 1861, estimated the total value of the property surrendered at $1,209,500, "exclusive of public buildings to which the Federal Government has a title." Tins property included mules, wagons, horses, harness, tools, corn, clothing, commissary and ordnance stores.

In the main the authority for the foregoing statements is Volume I. of the "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies," issued by the War Department, under the editorship of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert N. Scott, U. S. A. This work will be referred to hereafter in these pages as "Official Records." - EDITORS.


1. August 2d, 1861, John R. Baylor, then Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding the Confederate army in New Mexico, organized that part of the Territory lying south of the thirty-fourth parallel, as the Confederate Territory of Arizona, the seat of government being at Mesilla, and the authority of governor being assumed by him. This action was approved by General Henry H. Sibley, then in command of the Confederate department. EDITORS.

2. The secession of Texas was not legally completed until the ratification of this ordinance by the people, February 23d, but the secession party considered the authority of the convention sufficient for the prior seizure of United States property. - EDITORS.

3. James H. Rogers, also appointed, was a commissioner, but it appears from the Official Records that he did not serve. - EDITORS.

4. From whom stray cattle were styled "Mavericks."

5. The writer.

6. On this point Captain R. M. Potter, U.S.A., says: "I saw General Lee (then Colonel Lee) when he took leave of his friends to depart for Washington some days after the surrender of Twiggs. I have seldom seen a more distressed man. He said, 'When I get to Virginia I think the world will have one soldier less. I shall resign and go to planting corn.'"

Colonel Charles Anderson, U. S. V., who is referred above, and who talked with General Lee on the same day, thus gives the substance of his parting (see "Texas Before and on the Eve of the Rebellion." Cincinnati, 1884): "I still think . . . that my loyalty to Virginia ought to take precedence over that which is due to the Federal Government, and I shall so report myself at Washington. If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is a sufficient cause for revolution), then I will still follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life. I know you think and feel very differently, but I can't help it. These are my principles, and I must follow them." Colonel Anderson, in the course of a high tribute to General Lee's character, gives General Scott as his authority for the statement that the command of the United States forces (under Scott) was offered to Lee, and was declined by him on the same ground, - that he must be guided wholly in his action by that of Virginia.

Colonel Albert G. Brackett, U. S. A., says: "When the civil war broke out, Lee was filled with sorrow at the condition of affairs, and, in a letter to me deploring the war in which we were about to engage, he made use of these words: 'I fear the liberties of our country will be buried in the tomb of a great nation.'" - EDITORS.

7. Captain Potter says: "The officers detained in San Antonio were much indebted to Major McClure for his successful efforts to raise money, on his own responsibility, for the pay of his brother officers, when no public funds were accessible. He, of course, had no office in which to transact business, and paid the officers covertly in holes and corners."

8. Captain Potter (before quoted), in a written memorandum to the Editors, says:

"It was on the evening before McCulloeh entered San Antonio, or, perhaps, two evenings before, that I met General Twiggs at a wedding party. He said to me: 'It is rumored that Ben McCulloeh has been in town; have you seen him?' I replied, no. After a few more words on the state of affairs, he said: 'There is no need of sending him to coerce me. If an old woman with a broomstick should come with full authority from the State of Texas to demand the public property, I would give it up to her.'" Captain Potter further says: "From the date of Twiggs's return from New Orleans [about the 27th of November] there was no doubt of his intention not to withstand any insurrectionary movement on the part of the state. He constantly said that the break-up was coming, and that there was no one living who could resist the secession movement successfully."

On the same point, Colonel Charles Anderson says: "It must be remembered distinctly, on this, my testimony, and that of very many others, that from the time of his. return, with increasing frequency and vehemence of his speeches, General Twiggs had not only declared that he 'would never fire on American citizens under any circumstances,' but that he would surrender the United states property in his department to the State of Texas whenever it was demanded." - ("Texas, Before and on the Eve of the Rebellion.")

Original Source for This Version

Home | Articles | Bibliography | Maps | Links | Contact