Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lee in Texas


"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.

On Friday night, January 18, it was my pleasure to address the Marshall chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The occasion was the chapter's annual banquet, which was held at Pinecrest Country Club in Longview. The banquet was timed to coincide with the birthdates of Confederate icons Robert E. Lee (born on January 19, 1807) and Stonewall Jackson (born on January 21, 1824). The program was arranged by Liz Hedges, a longtime friend and former colleague of mine at Panola College, where she was head of the drama department. Liz asked me to provide a program on Lee and Jackson, which I was pleased to put together. And while relating Lee's background I happily pointed out that he was on duty in Texas on three occasions.

Bill with Liz Hedges.   Flags, L to R:  U.S.,
Texas, Stars and Bars, UDC
My interest in Lee began at age six, when I started school at Robert E. Lee Elementary in Corsicana. Inside the main entrance was a large portrait of Lee, resplendent in dress uniform, red sash, and sword. In later years I twice visited Stratford Hall, the magnificent colonial home where Lee was born. I've toured battlefields where Lee and Jackson led large numbers of men in combat. I've accompanied Panola College students to Appomattox, where Lee surrendered. And I've toured the Texas outposts - most on several occasions - where Lee served with federal forces.
Stonewall Jackson wore a kepi pulled low.

During the war with Mexico, Captain Lee marched into Texas with the U.S. Army. In 1846 Lee was at San Antonio, Rio Grande City, and Eagle Pass, before campaigning in Mexico. In 1855 he returned to Texas as Lieutenant Colonel Lee of the newly-organized Second Cavalry, which was formed to combat horse Indians of Texas, Comanches and Kiowas. During the next couple of years he was stationed at San Antonio, Fort Mason, and Camp Cooper, although patrols he led and six court-martial tours took him to many other outposts on the Texas frontier. He became friendly with pioneer cattleman Richard King, who asked the former member of the Corps of Engineers to select a site for his ranch home. An excellent judge of terrain, Lee found a site which still serves as headquarters for the King Ranch.

Lee wore a broad-brimmed hat with rolled
sides and acorn cords.
In 1857 Lee's father-in-law died, and the officer took an extended leave to settle the family estate. Lee still was in the East in October 1859 when John Brown raided the armory at Harper's Ferry, and he led the assault on Brown's position. Soon Lee was promoted to Colonel of the Second Cavalry, and in February 1860 he arrived in Texas to take command of his regiment. One year later, during the secession crisis, Colonel Lee was summoned to Washington D.C., where he was offered command of the Union Army. Declining to invade his home state, Lee resigned his commission, and within days he was commissioned a general in the Confederate Army. During the ensuing Civil War, General Lee always wanted as many "Texas boys" as possible under his command - in Mexico and in Texas he had witnessed the superb fighting qualities of Texans. 

During Lee's three tours of duty in Texas, he either was stationed at or visited Forts Brown, Ringgold, Phantom Hill. Chadbourne, Inge, Mason, Camp Cooper, as well as other posts. The oldest building at Fort Clark is a picket structure where Lt. Col. Lee conducted courts martial. At most of the other forts, buildings still stand which Lee once knew. In Texas it is possible to walk in the footsteps of Robert E. Lee of the United States Army.
Fort Inge (south of Uvalde) was built beside the
Leona River and astride a Comanche war trail
from Texas into Mexico.  Sentries were placed
atop "Mount" Inge, where they could see for
miles. The view is spectacular, and Lee
surely made the climb.




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