Robert E. Lee in Texas, by Carl Coke Rister

Robert E. Lee in Texas

BY
CARL COKE RISTER

NORMAN
UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS
1946


COPYRIGHT 1946 BY THE
UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS
PUBLISHING DIVISION OF HTE UNIVERSITY
FIRST EDITION

SET UP AND PRINTED
BY THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS
AT NORMAN, OKLAHOMA, U.S.A.


TO MY FRIEND
Eugene C. Holman
WHO WAS REARED IN THAT PART OF TEXAS
OVER WHICH LEE PROJECTED HIS
COMANCHE CAMPAIGN OF 1856


Preface

FOR twenty-five months of the four turbulent years just before the Civil War, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Edward Lee saw service in Texas—at Camp Cooper, watching the federal governments “humanizing” experiment with the wild Comanches; at San Antonio, commanding the Department of Texas; and at Fort Mason, headquarters of the Second Cavalry. Not only for the nation but for Lee were these critical years. To move from West Point, steeped in American military tradition, a setting of culture and refinement, to Camp Cooper on an Indian frontier, where isolation, rawness, inconvenience, deprivation, and even death were commonplaces, was indeed revolutionary. Lee had never before known primitive life, and to be catapulted into it now staggered his whole being. That he made the necessary adjustment and that on a lonely frontier he found peace, strength, and wisdom proved his qualities of greatness.

Three positive results came from Lee’s Texas services. First, he worked with, and for the most part commanded, the famous Second United States Cavalry, most of the officers of which a few years later became either Northern or Southern field commanders. To know these officers, their points of strength and points of weakness, their whims and caprices, and their likes and dislikes served him well in military crises. Second, he found the frontier so primitive that he must adjust himself to elemental circumstances, must adapt himself to outdoor life and adverse conditions such as he would meet on Civil War battle fields. And third, absence made his heart grow fonder of his family, his home, and Virginia. Lee loved the Union dearly, but when he was faced with the choice of remaining in it and serving as its military leader or of going with Virginia in secession, he felt compelled to defend Virginia, his family, and his home.
While camping in the silent wastes of Texas, while at San Antonio or at a border post, he had opportunity to consider his dilemma; and there is little doubt that these Texas experiences helped him to make his decision. They gave point to his wisdom and brought self-mastery, qualities which his junior officers admired and of which they stood in awe. When he came from the Texas wilderness to report to General Scott in Washington, he was prepared to assume the role of the South’s peerless leader.

The author feels grateful for services rendered him by others in the assembling of materials for this study. A grant-in-aid was given by the University of Oklahoma Faculty Research Committee for study in Washington, D.C. The staffs of the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Texas State Library, the University of Texas Library, and the University of Oklahoma Library were courteous and helpful in making available bodies of manuscript and documentary and out-of-print materials. Mrs. Hanson Ely and Mrs. Hunter DeButts graciously consented that the author examine the restricted Lee family papers in the Division of Manuscripts, Library of Congress. Others who furnished materials or who gave expert advice were Harriet Smither, Austin, Texas; Henry Sayles, Jr., Abilene, Texas; Richard H. Shoe-maker, Acting Librarian, Cyrus Hall McCormick Library, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia; C. L. Greenwood, Austin, Texas; Colonel M. L. Crimmins, San Antonio, Texas; and Dr. George Bolling Lee, New York City. The author feels particularly indebted to Douglas Southall Freeman, editor of the Richmond News Leader, not only for the wealth of detail and bibliography found in his definitive biography of Lee but also for his encouraging advice.

CARL COKE RISTER

Norman, Oklahoma February 3, 1946


Contents

I:“America’s Very Best Soldier”
II:Lee’s “Texas Home”
III:Reconnaissance
IV:Along the Rio Grande
V:From Pillar to Post
VI:“A Desert of Dullness”
VII:“That Myth Cortinas”
VIII:  “A Rough Diplomatist”
IX:Camels and Comanches
Farewell to Texas
Bibliography
Index [Omitted]


Illustrations

Lieutenant Robert E. Lee
Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee
Map of Lee’s journeys in Texas
Military Plaza, San Antonio
Drawing of Camp Cooper
General George H. Thomas
Brownsville, Texas
Officers’ Quarters, San Antonio
Nimitz Hotel, Fredericksburg, Texas
Drawing of Fort Mason
Arlington