Fannin County Museum of History

   

One Main Street, Bonham, Texas

"Proceed as Rapidly as Possible to Bonham"

Bonham Daily Favorite, June 13, 1993


Bonham and Fannin County were far removed from the scenes of any battles of the Civil War, but such detachment in no way lessened the contributions and the importance of the area. Located within the confines of the county were two training camps, a hospital, a major commissary, and most importantly the headquarters of the Northern Sub-District of Texas of the Confederate Army.

Soon after the onset of the war, military commanders in Texas provided for two lines of defense for the western frontiers of Texas which was to also include the region stretching partly along Red River. The first line was garrisoned by the First Regiment of Texas Mounted Rifles and Edgar's battery of artillery with the line commanded by Colonel Henry E. McCulloch. Within a few short months McCulloch was to be a key player in the effect of the war on the people of Fannin County.

Henry E. McCulloch, a Tennessee native, followed his older brother Ben to Texas in 1835 but was sent back to his father's for another two years. Returning to Texas in 1838 he joined his brother in surveying lands in the Republic.

With an increase in Indian attacks McCulloch enrolled in Captain Matthew Caldwell's company of Indian fighters and distinguished himself with exceptional bravery against the Comanches at the famous Plum Creek incident. He later became a lieutenant in Capt Jack Coffee's Texas Rangers and again proved his mettle at the battle of Salado.

After his marriage he was elected sheriff of Gonzalez and later moved to Seguin with a mercantile business. At the outbreak of hostilities with Mexico he returned again to military service and captained a volunteer company under Captain Shapley P. Ross. In 1850 he was recalled to service as captain of a Ranger Company to protect the area southwest of San Antonio from Indian attacks.

Returning to civilian life, McCulloch served in the House of Representatives and the State Senate. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War he received an appointment as U.S. Marshal for the eastern district of Texas.

After the approval of the Ordinance of Secession, McCulloch again joined forces with his brother Ben. The two working in concert with a group of volunteers forced the surrender of the Federal troops garrisoned at San Antonio.

Henry McCulloch received a commission as Colonel of the Confederate army in early 1861 and by the next year achieved the rank of Brigadier General. He first saw action at the battle of Millican's Bend on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg in the late fall of 1852.

McCulloch had demonstrated his organizational abilities and firmness of command in his varied military career so his superiors decided that he was the man to head up a newly created unit to be located in the county seat of Fannin County. The exact date creating the Northern Sub-District of the Confederate Army of Texas is unknown but some efforts at organization were underway by the summer of 1863.


In August of 1863 some activity of the Northern Sub-District was underway. On August 29th, Samuel A. Roberts wrote to Edmund Turner, Assistant Adjutant General, informing him that he had assumed command of the Sub-District on August 28th. No orders exist in the official records of the Confederacy which might indicate that Roberts was actually appointed to the post or whether he assumed command on his own.

Roberts went on to say that he had received a dispatch from General Bankhead that the Union forces were on the march in Indian Territory and requesting Roberts to assist in every way to strengthen and subsist Bankhead's army.

After receiving the dispatch, Roberts ordered commanders of 5 battalions to have one company in each group ready to march at a moments notice. He also ordered the local ordnance officer to gather guns of every description put them in order for immediate use, and to prepare all the necessary cartridges. Roberts further stated that he had secured control of all the ferry boats on Red River.

Roberts also informed Turner that he had received information on a suspected plot to murder indiscriminately all whites, except for known Abolitionists, in Denton, Dallas, Grayson, and Cooke Counties. The information also stated that authorities in Denton County had arrested and had under close guard some twenty or more men suspected in the plot.

The same day that Roberts was communicating with Assistant Adjutant-General Turner, orders were issued at Millican Bend that General Henry E. McCulloch was In August of 1863 some activity of the Northern Sub-District was underway. On August 29th, Samuel A. Roberts wrote to Edmund Turner, Assistant Adjutant General, informing him that he had assumed command of the Sub-District on August 28th. No orders exist in the official records of the Confederacy which might indicate that Roberts was actually appointed to the post or whether he assumed command on his own.

Roberts went on to say that he had received a dispatch from General Bankhead that the Union forces were on the march in Indian Territory and requesting Roberts to assist in every way to strengthen and subsist Bankhead's army.

After receiving the dispatch, Roberts ordered commanders of 5 battalions to have one company in each group ready to march at a moments notice. He also ordered the local ordnance officer to gather guns of every description put them in order for immediate use, and to prepare all the necessary cartridges. Roberts further stated that he had secured control of all the ferry boats on Red River.

Roberts also informed Turner that he had received information on a suspected plot to murder indiscriminately all whites, except for known Abolitionists, in Denton, Dallas, Grayson, and Cooke Counties. The information also stated that authorities in Denton County had arrested and had under close guard some twenty or more men suspected in the plot.

The same day that Roberts was communicating with Assistant Adjutant-General Turner, orders were issued at Millican Bend that General Henry E. McCulloch was assigned to the command of the Northern Sub-District with headquarters at Bonham. The orders were issued by acting Assistant Adjutant-General Stephen D. Yancey under command of Major General Magruder.

On September 5th, Edmund Turner dispatched a short, urgent letter to McCul1och: "General : I am instructed by Major General Magruder to say that you will at once proceed as rapidly as possible to Bonham, Texas, and assume command of the Northern Sub-District. Please reply."

Two weeks later, on September 18, 1863, McCulloch wrote in reply to Turner's directive:

"I have scarcely been here long enough to look around me, but at a casual glance am forced to report things in bad conditions generally. No district quartermaster or commissary has yet reported... There are no funds in the quartermaster's or commissary departments, and certified accounts have been given out until people are sick of them, and unless funds are sent here very soon, everything we obtain for man or beast will have to be impressed except that received from the tax in kind. I have received letters from different portions of the district urging me to take steps to arrest deserters and conscripts that have gone into the brush in large numbers. These men live off the property and produce of the people near their camps and are a terror to the country about them.

In short there is nothing here, comparatively speaking, to defend the country with, and if both men and means are not supplied, I cannot do it, nor will I be held responsible for its defense."