Fannin County Museum of History

   

‚ÄčOne Main Street, Bonham, Texas

We Must Meet the Enemy Advancing Toward Texas

Bonham Daily Favorite, June 20, 1993


When General Henry McCulloch arrived in Bonham to take command of the Northern SubDistrict of the Confederate Army, he found the headquarters in a state of chaos. Officers who had been assigned to duty had not arrived, the commissary was being required to supply the troops in Indian Territory but had scarcely enough supplies to issue to the troops stationed at Bonham, and transportation for the supplies was in short supply.

After a survey of the situation, McCulloch reported that there were no tents on hand or garrison equipment for the troops and he saw no way to obtain such from the area. The hospital which was already established was in need of both hospital stores as well as medicine. McCulloch also was faced with having only one surgeon, a civilian who had been hired for the post. McCulloch reported that he had selected a local physician whom he was planning to appoint as chief surgeon, and delegate to him the responsibilities as medical director and purveyor of the district.

Unfortunately the record of the general's recommendation and appointment has failed to survive and no other source has been found to suggest the name. There were a number of physicians in the area who had worked with the local militia units which were organized at the beginning of the war and any of these could have filled McCulloch's requirements for the post.


Acting Assistant Adjutant-General Yancey issued a directive to McCulloch on September 1, 1863. The date he received the message is unknown, but it possibly was awaiting his arrival in Bonham. The directive informed the general that General Bankhead had notified headquarters that Steele was falling back before Blunt's Union forces. Orders were immediately dispatched to Colonel Gould to push to Bonham as rapidly as possible and all organized State troops were directed to assemble at Bonham under the command of Brigadier General Gano.

Yancey also reassured McCulloch that ammunition and stores were being sent to his command. Considering the dates of Yancey's directive and McCulloch's first report on the conditions in Bonham, it seems likely that the two messages crossed each other.

Colonel Samuel Roberts, on September 13, wrote to Captain Edmund Turner at Houston, and reported on information he had received concerning these same troop movements. Roberts stated that he had had only one message from General Bankhead since he left Bonham and that stated that he had been unable to ascertain the position, force, or movement of the enemy troops.

Roberts also included a report which had been given to him by a man who had been at a camp on the Fort Smith road north of Boggy Depot on September 9th. The report, forwarded by the Colonel read, "Bankhead's command at or near Riddle's, on Fort Smith road; Steele's command with Cooper. Cooper says his scouts report without doubt that Quantrill had entirely destroyed both Fort Scott and Leavenworth, with large amounts of military stores; that many Missouri Militia were joining Quantrill."


Turner sent a terse message to McCulloch on September 19th, "I am instructed by Major-General Magruder to say that the State is seriously threatened by an invading force of 15,000 men. The Major-General commanding has only 2500 to meet a force of 15,000."

McCulloch's initial report finally reached command headquarters and on September 28th a reply from General Magruder was drafted answering some of McCulloch's concerns. Magruder replied that he hoped to have some available funds in a few days. As to the matter of supplies from the commissary, Magruder's suggestion was one that was to cause considerable rancor among the citizens of Fannin County which lasted for many years.

Magruder, on advice of the Chief of Commissary stores, suggested that needed supplies could be raised from tithes to support the army without purchasing them. Magruder suggested to McCulloch that, "This will be doubtless so, after a short time, particularly in your district, where flour and beef, as I am informed, are abundant."

In addition to this "tithe," the citizens were also subjected to a war tax, neither of which was too popular along the Red River Valley. Over twenty years after this program was implemented, W.A. Carter, editor of The Bonham News, wrote "Under a military order, one tenth of what the people had and made, other than real estate, was taken by the General (McCulloch) and his tithe gatherers, for army purposes, which, as it afterwards turned out to be, was only a legalized system of robbery."


Magruder told McCulloch that he had ordered the shipment of 5,000 pounds of powder, some ammunition and thirty to forty wagons sent to Bonham in preparation for the threatened invasion from the North. In Magruder's words, "At whatever cost, we must meet the enemy now advancing toward Texas, and if you are stripped of all your troops excepting General Steele's command, and the Northern Sub-District is invaded from Indian Territory by a superior force, you will have to operate upon his communications and flanks, if possible, keeping him in a body, or cutting off parties, should he send them out, avoiding a general engagement, thereby saving as much country as possible."

As these communications shot back and forth between McCulloch and various members of command headquarters rumors of the impending invasion spread quickly throughout the county. General McCulloch had scarcely had time since his arrival in Bonham to become aquainted with community leaders, but undoubtedly he apprised certain persons of the situation, particularly men such as Samuel Roberts, Henry Hoffar, and other community leaders.

The Fannin County Commissioners decided to contribute to the defense of the county and upon learning that percussion caps were available at Austin, appropriated $756 for Samuel J. Galbraith to go to Austin and purchase 30,000 of the caps. They also later ordered that 100 of the caps be delivered to Captain Davis and Captain Hobbs for their company of "minute men."

By early October the panic subsided. The impending invasion never occurred. McCulloch, writing to Captain Yancey on October 11th said, "I am glad from my heart to learn that 30,000 Yankees have in all probability gone away from Texas."