Friday, August 10, 2012

Union Germans In A Confederate State

A confrontation between German Immigrants in Texas and Confederate soldier would turn deadly August 10th 1862, and become known as the Nueces Massacre.

The Hill Country of Texas was heavily settled by Germans who fled their country in 1848 when a revolution there failed.  These “Forty-Eighters” opposed slavery as practiced by their neighbors, but for the most part stayed out of Texas politics.  That is until Texas succeeded from the Union.

Confederate troops under the command of Captain James Duff were sent into the Texas Hill country in April 1862 to disband groups of Union loyalist and enforce the Confederate draft laws.  Duff ordered that all men must take an oath of allegiance to Confederacy or they would be considered traitors.  When very few of the German men took the oath, Duff had dozens arrested, their homes burned and as many as 20 men hanged.

68 Germans following Fritz Tegener decided in August 1862 to go to Mexico, where they hoped  to travel to Union territory.  Duff’s men learned of the groups move and pursued them.  The Confederates caught up with the Germans near the Nueces River in Kinney County on August 10th 1862.  In the fight that followed 19 of the German were killed and 15 wounded.  As the Germans retreated to the hills 9 of their wounded had to be left behind.  At first the Confederate cared for the wounded Germans, along with their own wounded, but at some point during the afternoon the nine wounded Germans were taken outside of camp and killed.

An account that was written by one of the Confederates stated that, “Some of the more humane of us did what we could to ease the sufferings of the wounded Germans. They had fought a good fight, and bore themselves so pluckily I felt sorry I had taken my part against them. We bound up their wounds, and gave them water, and laid them as comfortably as we could in the shade. Poor creatures, how grateful they were!

I hurried over to where we had left the German wounded to see how they were getting on, and was surprised to find them gone. Asking what had become of them, I was told they had been moved to a better shade a short distance away. With this answer I was quite satisfied, and never dreamed the brutes with whom I served would be guilty of foul play, especially after the gallant fight the enemy had made.

Just then one of our wounded called for water, and I brought him some from the cool spring. As I was giving it to him, the sound of firing was heard a little way off. I thought at first they were burying some of the dead with the honors of war; but it didn’t sound like that either. Then, possibly it might be an attack on the camp; so I seized my rifle and ran in the direction of the firing. Presently I met a man coming from it who, when he saw me running, said, “You needn’t be in a hurry, it’s all done; they shot the poor devils, and finished them off.”

“It can’t possibly be they have murdered the prisoners in cold blood!” I said, not believing that even Luck [a villainous -- to the diarist's mind -- lieutenant] would be guilty of such an atrocious crime. “Oh, yes; they’re all dead, sure enough — and a good job too!” Feeling sick at heart, though I hardly even then credited his report, I ran on, and found it only too true.

It seems they were asked if they wouldn’t like to be moved a little way off into better shade. The poor creatures willingly agreed, thanking their murderers for their kindness. They were carried away, but it was to the shade and shadow of death, for a party of cowardly wretches went over and shot them in cold blood.”

If you are interested in reading more about the The Nueces Massacre, also known as the Battle of the Nueces is a good web site.

No comments: