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March 1, 1861: Sec. of War Cameron dismisses Gen. David Twiggs

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Blessmag, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. Blessmag

    Blessmag Captain

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    The Sec. of War dismisses Gen Twiggs for surrendering miltary posts in Texas

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    After the Mexican-American War, Twiggs was appointed brevet major general and commanded the Department of Texas. He was in this command when the Civil War broke out. Twiggs's command included about 20% of the U.S. Army guarding the border of the U.S. and Mexico. As the states began to secede, Twiggs met with a trio of Confederate commissioners, including Philip N. Luckett and Samuel A. Maverick, and surrendered his entire command to them. At the time of his surrender, Twiggs was in San Antonio with approximately 200 Union soldiers, the remainder of his troops scattered along the border between the United States and Mexico. 2,000 Secessionist militia entered the city, intent on capturing the Union arsenal there. Outnumbered five to one, Twiggs surrendered on February 19, 1861.
    Twiggs subsequently was dismissed from the U.S. Army for treason and accepted a commission as a major general from the Confederate States. He was appointed to command the Confederate Department of Louisiana, but his advanced age and health kept him from pursuing an active command. He was replaced by Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell in the command of New Orleans.[1] and retired on October 11, 1861. He died of pneumonia in Augusta, Georgia, and is buried at "Good Hope".
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_E._Twiggs

    Or a different article from Harper's Weekly:
    http://www.sonofthesouth.net/mexican-war/david-twiggs.htm

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  3. MikeyB

    MikeyB Cadet

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    I realize this is an 8 year old post, but as good as any to ask this.

    After reading a little about Twiggs, I wanted to do a little more digging and I don't recall the source offhand, but I read a more sympathetic interpretation of Twiggs actions.

    That, even if he was a full blooded Unionist, there was really no alternative to surrender given numbers and the situation. (As stated above- "2,000 Secessionist militia entered the city, intent on capturing the Union arsenal there. Outnumbered five to one, Twiggs surrendered on February 19, 1861.") Was wondering which interpretation holds? David Twiggs, pure treachery and villain to the Union cause? Or, David Twiggs, southern sympathizer, but really didn't face a lot of choices in the end, and had he been from the North, would just be another footnote with the other smaller forts and installations that were captured by CSA authorities in 1861?

    Mike
     
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  4. Joshism

    Joshism Sergeant Major

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    I wasn't aware US military were supposed to surrender to insurrectionists if the odds were against them.
     
  5. Twiggs turned around and became a Confederate general. He should have been shot or hanged before he had the chance to join the Confederacy.
     
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  6. The surrendered Federal soldiers became prisoners of war. Those who took an oath to not take up arms against the Confederacy were released. It is my understanding that over a year later there were still hundreds of Federal soldiers who refused to take the oath still being held as prisoners.
     
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  7. MikeyB

    MikeyB Cadet

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    I understand this, but does that mean Harper's Ferry and Robert Anderson were wrong to surrender, with the odds against them against insurrectionists?

    I'm not trying to defend Twiggs here, and let me phrase the question differently.
    Replace Twiggs with a Unionist commander - does he get a better outcome than Twiggs did? Or, when you're surrounded 5:1 with no chance of relief or support, in hostile country, is surrender going to be the final outcome even if US Grant was calling the shots?

    I guess what I'm trying to answer is, while Twiggs' heart clearly wasn't in this fight, does it necessarily translate into outright villainy, or was the ultimate outcome (surrender) the best anyone was going to do?

    Thanks to everyone for the thoughts!
     
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  8. Rebforever

    Rebforever Major

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    Fort Sumter did.
     
  9. Rebforever

    Rebforever Major

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    I personally don't know the answer but I would think waking up one morning in a new country may be a little unnerving.
    Then there is always choices.
     
  10. Rebforever

    Rebforever Major

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    Wonder why there was no negotiations for their release or exchanged?
     
  11. I'm not sure that there wasn't. I did find the following book that is a free download when I was trying to find any information on prisoner of war negotiations ( I think that the title is longer than the book ):
    Twenty-two months a prisoner of war. A narrative of twenty-two months' imprisonment by the Confederates, in Texas, through General Twigg's treachery, dating from April, 1861, to February, 1863

    https://archive.org/details/twentytwomonths00schwgoog
     
  12. Rebforever

    Rebforever Major

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    Thanks for the book. It seems Twiggs did negotiate a free pass for the most of his unit so far.
     
  13. connecticut yankee

    connecticut yankee Sergeant

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    You tell me wherein lies the truth...

    I'm getting the feeling there is soooo much more to the Twiggs surrender/treason story. Remember the Twigg surrender in Texas occurred prior to the war in mid-February 1861 . The Commander-in-Chief was outgoing and do-nothing Pres. Buchannan. The War Department was in chaos with the ongoing resignations of former U. S. officers (soon to be Confederate officers). Specific War Department orders and instructions to officers in the west regarding U.S forts and other property was minimal at best due to a shortage of policy. In addition, divisional politics created an atmosphere where fingers were being pointed at anyone, especially officers, who showed southern loyalty of any kind.

    Here a paragraph from a story on Historynet.com which adds further details to the Twiggs drama & intrigue:

    "...The Southerner whose actions brought the most opprobrium was Georgia-born David E. Twiggs. A superannuated brigadier general in 1860, the 70-year-old Twiggs had only been in command since December, an assignment he did not want in the first place. While the lame duck Buchanan administration dithered, Twiggs was left twisting in the wind in San Antonio without instructions. In mid-January he sent in his resignation letter and waited for his replacement to arrive. The War Department relieved him later that same month, but he did not receive the order for another two weeks. Meanwhile, his status was up in the air: Was he simply relieved of command or was he now a civilian? In the meantime, Texas had seceded on February 1 and moved quickly to seize all U.S. military property and forces in the state. Pro-secession state militia surrounded Twiggs’ headquarters and rather than make an Alamo of it, he meekly capitulated. Northerners and Southerners alike were shocked at his perfidy in handing over 2,600 men and 19 military posts without a fight. Twiggs went straight from U.S. service to Confederate service without the formality of his resignation being accepted, thus removing even that legal cover for his actions. President Buchanan cashiered him “for treachery to the flag of his country,” and he surely would have been tried for treason had he survived the war. Instead, Twiggs died on July 15, 1862."
     
  14. Carronade

    Carronade 1st Lieutenant

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    This is an episode I'd like to know more about - meaning I don't know much to start with :wink: I'm assuming the Army base in San Antonio was the Alamo complex, which history suggests was somewhat defensible against superior numbers..... It was well known that people were contemplating secession; 2000 secessionist militia didn't just pop up totally by surprise one morning. I wonder if a commander taking reasonable precautions might not have been able to put his command in a defensible state? As one popular speculation goes, suppose it had been Robert E. Lee instead of Twiggs?

    As noted, around 20% of the U.S. Army, around 3000 troops, were in Texas, mainly in some twenty posts along the border and frontier. That's a formidable force, especially while the secession movement was just getting organized. It might be difficult for the federals to coordinate, but they would likely try to consolidate. There was also considerable resistance to secession, including no less than Sam Houston, which might rally to government forces in the field.

    As we saw in Charleston, the rebels' counsels were divided about initiating major hostilities. In the first few months, in all the Deep South states, they seized forts or arsenals defended by caretakers, but even a company of United States regulars ready to fight might be a different story. Or the war might break out in some godforsaken outpost in the middle of nowhere.

    And of course this would all be happening while Buchanan was still President. Could make for some intriguing speculation.
     
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  15. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    I believe the Alamo chapel proper was nothing but a warehouse; all the surrounding plaza had been divided up for civilian use and was no longer a suitable fortress. Department headquarters were in a rented house a few blocks away. Of course Lee had actually been in command until Twiggs arrived. Former Texas Ranger and future Confederate General Ben McCullough was in command of the secessionist forces.
     
  16. Tin cup

    Tin cup Captain

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    A shame that he wasn't tried for his crime, he got off easy!

    Kevin Dally
     
  17. Joshism

    Joshism Sergeant Major

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    Twiggs surrendered without firing a shot.

    Sumter surrendered after an extensive bombardment.

    Harpers Ferry in 1862 is a whole can of worms involving possible incompetence by the commander abandoning the heights around the town without a fight then a further mistake not attempting to fight their way out.
     
  18. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    From the Texas State Historical Association:
    "On February 1, 1861, the state Secession Convention adopted an ordinance of secession, and three days later appointed commissioners to confer with Twiggs at his San Antonio headquarters. This committee was empowered to demand, "in the name of the people of the State of Texas," those United States arms, stores, and munitions under his control. Should Twiggs decline to surrender the government property to the commissioners, Benjamin McCulloch was commissioned to take the place by force. On February 8 the commissioners at San Antonio reported that Twiggs, momentarily expecting the arrival of his replacement, was willing to maintain his troops in their quarters until March 2 or until he was relieved. If, however, the state should ratify its secession ordinance before that time, he would "deliver all up" to the committee. He "expressed a fixed determination," however, to march the troops under his command out of San Antonio under arms and with all of their transportation facilities and extra clothing. The commissioners sent Samuel A. Maverick to obtain Twiggs's promise in writing. When Twiggs refused this demand, the commissioners sent a rider to McCulloch with orders that he "bring as large a force as he may deem necessary, and as soon as possible to San Antonio." Confronted with a situation in which he could not reconcile his duties as a soldier with his belief in the state's right of secession, Twiggs appointed a military commission on February 9 to meet the commissioners. The question of what his men could take with them when they evacuated Texas was close to settlement when, on February 15, Twiggs received the order relieving him of command. Col. Carlos Adolphus Waite of the First Infantry, next senior officer in the department, was named his successor. Waite, a New Yorker, was a strong Unionist, and the Texans reasoned that he would not surrender the federal property. The committee ordered McCulloch to move on San Antonio. If Twiggs's command "should express a desire to depart the country peaceably," McCulloch was instructed to allow them to do so under honorable terms.

    "McCulloch posted his men on the surrounding rooftops so as to command the buildings occupied by federal troops and picketed Twiggs's quarters, a mile outside of town, to prevent the federal commander from communicating with his forces in San Antonio. Near 7:00 A.M., McCulloch demanded the surrender of the troops in San Antonio. Without firing a shot, they capitulated. In the meantime, Twiggs was placed under arrest and escorted into San Antonio. There the commissioners required him "to deliver up all military posts and public property held by or under [his] control." Although willing enough to surrender the other public property, Twiggs repeatedly assured Maverick and his fellow commissioners Thomas Jefferson Devine and Philip Noland Luckett that "he would die before he would permit his men to be disgraced by a surrender of their arms." Wishing to avoid a bloody confrontation, the commissioners were willing to compromise on that issue. After "a stormy conference between the department commander and the commissioners," Twiggs agreed that the 160 United States soldiers in San Antonio would surrender all public property, an inventory estimated at $1.3 million in value. Twiggs and the commissioners further agreed that all forts in Texas would be turned over to Texas state troops, and their garrisons were to march from Texas by way of the coast."​
     
  19. Tin cup

    Tin cup Captain

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    Lets see, McCulloch latter found himself in the sights of a 36th Illinois skirmisher...actions do have consequences!

    Kevin Dally
     
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  20. Tin cup

    Tin cup Captain

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    Wrong, it wasn't a "new country", but a State in rebellion! They didn't earn the right to be a "new country".

    Kevin Dally
     
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  21. The sharpshooter was Peter Pelican. Sounds like a cartoon character.
     
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