This is not a boring book. As a Texan, born and bred, I had misgivings about just how interesting military plans and movements by Yankee troops would be. Perhaps it is the places I’ve been that I could relate to, but it is much more than that – it’s our ancestors protecting their families, homes, their farms, crops, livestock and the very land itself.
Most of this story takes place along the Texas coast and the movements of the troops trying to stop the Confederate’s major source of financing the Civil War – Texas cotton. Texas cotton was a huge business, it was sold “up north”, to European countries, to Mexico and there had to be a way to be to keep it flowing through enemy lines. Here is where Mexico’s licensing of ships to Confederate’s and confederate sympathizers’ made a difference. They were very aware of Union orders regarding the commerce of Mexico.
The Yankees or “Federals” as sometimes called, found Texas and the Texas coast a hard place in the 1863-4 years. Cold, snow, ice, rain and having to build their own shelters – well, there went some of the abandoned, somewhat primitive, homes. They had to deal with shallow river places, tides, floods and all manner of weather situations.
Mr. Lincoln is not presented in a favorable light, some of his orders were as callous as some of his Generals; the President wanted the Texas cotton at any cost. He wanted it for the North for uniforms and the market to furnish the Civil War military needs. Some countries traded the tools of war; rifles, hand guns, ammunition, cannons, explosives and food stuff for cotton. Cotton was King! One happy note – it was Texas that gave Lincoln the most problems!
James A. Ware is mentioned on pages 74 and 78; A.J. Ware on page 95. There is not much written about the Ware’s. ”Capt. James A. Ware commanded the forces near San Patricio, and Maj. Mat Nolan was placed in charge of the troops near Banquete. Colonel John S. Ford instructed Ware to take into custody any deserters or Union sympathizers in the area. In late December Ware and his men visited Corpus Christi and arrested a man described as a “traitor and communicating with the Yankees’. (Quoted from the book)
Maj. William G. Thompson of the 20th Iowa Infantry Regiment was the garrison commander on Mustang Island was quickly notified of Wares visit to Corpus.
There are personal stories of families having a few of the “spoils of war” that had been seized in battles; once the story was known and the “Federals” became aware of the trophies – they were quickly confiscated as this was considered a personal offence.
Ford was organizing the Confederate Rio Grande expedition with the purpose of expelling the “Federals” from Texas. Monies and troops were being raised and besides the call to arms of volunteer citizens – Ford had under his command two ranger battalions, 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade (most were Texans). Once underway they were joined by Maj. Nolan of the Texas Calvary and Capt. A.J. Ware of San Patricio on the drive southward. There ends our Ware journey, nothing else is written about the Wares.
There are issues of “Federal” commands by Federalist officers being disputed; reputations that are on again, off again. Hero’s who are villains and villains who are heroes. There are chases, Yankee and Confederate forces seizing and fighting to hold coastal forts. There is intrigue and spies, some within their own forces.
The Texas coast was quite the busy place with Maximilian’s French army being in sympathy with the Texas Confederates (France and Mexico loved Texas cotton) but could not actively be involved as they didn’t want a battle outside the country as well as the one going on inside Mexico.
Historical note about Col. John C. (Rip) Ford: During the Mexican War, Ford served as a surgeon for a Texas Ranger regiment and there acquired his nickname “Rip”. During the campaign against Mexico City he signed death certificates putting “Rest in Peace” after the deceased soldier’s name and as the numbers increased he shortened it to “R.I.P.” – from that time on he was called “Rip.” This man has quite a history and it’s in the book.
Mr. Townsend has written a story that you follow as a mystery, not wanting to put it down and going headlong into history with a – “what’s next” vigor. The actions and characters are real, the story researched vigorously and brilliantly presented. You will care about the next troop movements of both forces and you will continue to read just one more page. The book jacket suggest that “this story of the Rio Grande Expedition by the Union troops and” the subsequent “withdrawal from most of Texas provides a vital link to understanding the Civil War west of the Mississippi”.
Review by Cleo Holden