I Cannot See The Brighter Day
Bonham Daily Favorite, July 4, 1993
The waning months of the war must have been frustrating to a man of Henry McCulloch's military background. His removal from one sphere of action in 1863 to command an important district for the Confederate army in Texas, on the face of it, probably seemed to be a milestone in his varied military career. When he surveyed the shambles of his new command on his arrival in Bonham in September of 1863, he must have felt that perhaps he had been relegated to a backwater of the war.
After the threat of the potential invasion, of North Texas, by Union forces diminished, and his unsuccessful attempt to harness Quantrill's band of guerrillas McCulloch felt that he was called on to be little more than a storekeeper to fill the supply demands of the various groups under his command.
Despite his assurances to Adjutant-General Turner, the problem with deserters and conscript-avoiders was far from settled. Just a few months after Quantrill's escape, McCulloch was reporting, "many robberies, thefts, and murders have been committed in the country, principally by men with Federal overcoats on, some of which have been traced to Quantrill's company proper, and others to some of the men who came here with him last fall, and to renegade Missourians and Arkansans who have left our army in (those states). . . and I have never been able to control them because I have not had the troops that had the moral and physical courage to arrest and disarm them."
"With all my labors and efforts to redeem this country, protect our friends, and unite the people, I have failed, and I feel the effects of the failure very keenly."
A week later McCulloch again sent a dispatch to Turner enclosing copies of letters from Colonel James Bourland and Captain Scott. Both letters expressed the opinion that once again the Confederate forces in North Texas could expect to meet advancing Union troops in "the Indian Territory, on Red River, or Northern Texas, aided by a strong disloyal faction among our own people."
On the strength of the reports from Bourland and Scott, General McCulloch, as commander of the district, ordered Colonel Good and four companies of Confederate Cavalry, from Paris to Bonham. His intention was to use these companies to support Colonel Bourland. He also ordered General Griffith to Bonham with his entire brigade.
Bourland, in his report to Turner stated that L.L. Harris, chief clerk in McCulloch's office was sent to the area as a federal spy and that the spies who had infiltrated the area were instructed to be the "most rabid successionists."
McCulloch defended Harris in the same dispatch in which he sent Bourland's report. "Harris, alluded to in Colonel Bourland's letter is not clerk, but a boot and shoe maker by trade, shrewd fellow that I use as a spy both against Yankees and our disloyal citizens, and of course if he is useful he must appear to be a Federal . He has been very valuable to me and I send him now among those men west as the very best man I can get for that mission."
Despite McCulloch's defense, Harris was perceived among the civilian population of Bonham as a traitor and spy. In March of 1865, Harris and his son Cap were killed by Dan Myers in a gun battle on the north side of the Fannin County Courthouse.
In response to McCulloch's actions moving the army units, General J. B. Magruder gave his approval. What McCulloch was unable to do was to persuade the commanding general of the need for an additional supply of arms. Magruder justified his refusal by stating that some 5 or 6 thousand men under his command were still unarmed. He instructed McCulloch, "You had best receive all men as mounted troops who will be able to bring shotguns with them."
Through the spring and into early summer McCulloch continued to petition headquarters for additional arms, wagons, and other supplies with which to outfit the units under his command, all without success. He reported the possibility of an imminent Indian raid in the western areas of his district but each request went unfilled.
By the end of May, McCulloch despaired of being able to fulfill the mission of his command. He wrote General W.R. Boggs, Chief of Staff of the Trans-Mississippi Department, these words, "The means afforded me are entirely inadequate to the service required of me, and I am constantly called upon to render service which requires me to assume responsibilities and powers that do not belong to me or allow our army to suffer... and I am at least driven to mortification, for want of necessary means,to see our friends suffer for bread and bacon."
"It is exceedingly humiliating to me to ask to be relieved from the command of a district which I leave in no better condition than I found it... I have held on long and struggled hard to avoid this mortification but I cannot see far enough into the future to see 'the brighter day,' and I hope I will be relieved at once and sent wherever the department commander may think proper to send me."
McCulloch continued at his post until the end of the war. No records exist on the disposition of his request to be relieved of command of the Northern Sub-District.
Within a matter of days after the news of the surrender at Appomattox, McCulloch found himself a man without a command. Almost to a man the troops stationed at Bonham left for home when the news was received. The rations which were stored at district headquarters were gone almost as quickly.
In two weeks no Federal command appeared to take charge. McCulloch called the few remaining officers together to inform them that no orders seemed to be forthcoming and that each man was free to make his own decision as to the proper course of action. As for himself he was making plans to depart for his home in Seguin.
He then left as his only representative young Lieutenant Henry Askew with his final orders.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 12
1. Learning that the army of the Trans-Mississippi is certainly disbanded, all officers of the line and staff are permanently relieved from duty as officers of the Confederate Army.
2. Officers having charge of any public property will turn it over to the county court of the county it is to be held subject to the Governor of Texas.
3. Armed resistance to the Federal Gvt. having ceased, all officers and soldiers are advised to go to their homes, determined to remain good, quiet, orderly citizens of the country.
Henry E . McCulloch
Brig. G'l. Com'g.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas