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Moss Bluff Rebel

A Texas Pioneer in the Civil War

By Philip Caudill

Publication Year: 2009

So wrote Texas pioneer cattle drover William Berry Duncan in his March 1862 diary entry, the day he joined the Confederate Army. Despite his misgivings, Duncan left his prosperous business to lead neighbors and fellow volunteers as commanding officer of cavalry Company F of Spaight’s Eleventh Battalion that later became the 21st Texas Infantry in America’s Civil War. Philip Caudill’s rich account, drawn from Duncan’s previously untapped diaries and letters written by candlelight on the Gulf Coast cattle trail to New Orleans, in Confederate Army camps, and on his southeast Texas farm after the war, reveals the personable Duncan as a man of steadfast integrity and extraordinary leadership. After the war, he returned to his home in Liberty County and battled for survival on the chaotic Reconstruction-era Texas frontier. Supplemented by archival records and complementary accounts, Moss Bluff Rebel paints a picture of everyday life for the Anglo-Texans who settled the Mexican land grants in the early nineteenth century and subsequently became citizens of the proudly independent Texas Republic. The carefully crafted narrative goes on to reveal the wartime emotions of a reluctant Confederate officer and his postwar struggles to reinvent the lifestyle he knew before the war, a way of life he sensed was lost forever. Moss Bluff Rebel will appeal to history lovers of all ages attracted to the drama of the Civil War period and the men and women who shaped the Texas frontier.    

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce

Title Page

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pp. ix

List of Figures and Maps

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pp. xi-xii

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Series Editor's Foreword

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pp. xiii

Since its inception, the Sam Rayburn series on Rural Life has sought to present works that examine all facets of the communities in and around East Texas. Encompassing an expansive geographical...

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Chapter 1 Pioneer

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pp. 1-10

William Berry Duncan rode into town from his house on the east bank of the Trinity River south of Liberty, Texas, on March 1, 1862, to nominate officers for a unit of Texas Volunteers in the army...

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Chapter 2 Character

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pp. 11-21

Entrepreneur William B. Duncan built a respectable portfolio of assets centered in Liberty County on the southeast Texas gulf coast during the quarter-century between formation of the Republic...

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Chapter 3 Adjustment

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pp. 22-27

While Federal blockaders patrolled to prevent Confederate States' exports, William Duncan remained true to his identity as a businessman. Early on Thursday, December 3, 1861, he agreed to a..

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Chapter 4 Duty

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pp. 28-35

Duncan was back in camp at Grigsby's bluff on Monday, June 30, when a thunderstorm arrived with the day's mail. It carried a letter from Celima telling Duncan that Chessie, their seven-month-old baby...

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Chapter 5 Disgust

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pp. 36-40

Federal gunboats on patrol outside Confederate river mouths and port cities numbered approximately three hundred vessels by midsummer 1862. Th ey had tightened the Union's economic grip on...

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Chapter 6 Morale

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pp. 41-46

Even though Farragut's reinforced union armada sailed close to Sabine Pass and posed an imminent threat of invasion, Duncan would ride a mile for music. Several miles, in fact. On Sunday, February...

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Chapter 7 Mumps

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pp. 47-52

Despite feeling out of sorts, Duncan did his best to celebrate his forty-fifth birthday on March 2, 1863. He asked seventeen year- old Sabine to prepare a birthday meal and proclaimed it a very good dinner,...

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Chapter 8 Oysters

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pp. 53-57

During his first five days at Eagle Point, Duncan ate oysters twice. After supper on the fi fth day-the one on which he confronted the sergeant major-he felt the onset of their revenge. He went...

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Chapter 9 Louisiana

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pp. 58-62

colonel spaight's executive officer arrived at Eagle Point the next morning with orders to break camp and prepare to leave in two days for Louisiana. Hampered by a nasty headache, Duncan ordered...

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Chapter 10 Insurance

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pp. 63-70

it was raining when the westbound train came through Liberty; there were only ten days left on Duncan's furlough. Several infantrymen from Spaight's Battalion climbed aboard, heading for Houston...

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Chapter 11 Escape

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pp. 71-77

The day after colonel major, general green, and Major Hunter overpowered Brashear City, Captain Duncan organized a detail of twenty men in Washington to move 111 Union prisoners to Alexandria...

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Chapter 12 Mission

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pp. 78-83

Duncan's insides erupted again, keeping him close to camp the next three days. He had his horse saddled one morning to go to Franklin but was too sick for the ride and stayed in bed cleaning his pistols...

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Chapter 13 Amnesty

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pp. 84-91

Under cover of darkness early on September 8, 1863, four Federal gunboats and nineteen troop transports carrying an estimated five thousand Union soldiers from New Orleans approached Sabine...

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Chapter 14 Disguise

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pp. 92-99

Captain Duncan met a colonel from another regiment on a Beaumont street who warned Duncan it would be next to impossible for him to make it across the Atascosito Trail in southern Louisiana. Too...

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Chapter 15 Texas

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pp. 100-107

Rumors they were headed home to Texas prompted Colonel Spaight to call on General Taylor to inquire whether Spaight would be ordered to take his battalion back to Magruder's command. The tide...

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Chapter 16 Spindletop

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pp. 108-112

During the flurry of activity back and forth to Beaumont and across the Sabine to Lake Charles, Duncan was thinking how best to pay his 1864 Texas state taxes. He told Celima, "I saw Charley...

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Chapter 17 Collapse

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pp. 113-116

New Year's Day fell on Sunday in 1865 and Duncan spent it updating the unit's muster rolls at Camp Lubbock.,sup>1 Th e latest war news to make it to Houston from across the Mississippi was personal for...

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Chapter 18 Resolve

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pp. 117-121

As the war crept slowly toward its end, the fl ow of reassigned Texas Confederate officers and men increased at Camp Lubbock. Among them was an old friend of Duncan's, Lt. Col. Edward Bradford...

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Chapter 19 Surrender

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pp. 122-129

Violence moved up the Confederate chain of command in Houston the next week. Duncan borrowed a horse at Camp Lubbock and rode into town on routine business where he discovered "Colonel Baylor...

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Chapter 20 Home

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pp. 130-137

Duncan was up early the next morning. he hitched a team to a wagon and headed for West Liberty to pick up his stored baggage. At the ferry dock on the Trinity River he "heard Lund's had been broken...

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Chapter 21 Struggle

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pp. 138-147

Despite missing Sunday mass occasionally to attend Protestant services, Duncan continued to supply food to the Ursuline convent in Liberty after the war, sending eighty-nine pounds of beef to...

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Chapter 22 Progress

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pp. 148-156

Duncan and Pryor Bryan were hunting the next afternoon when his friend gave Duncan an earful of disturbing information. "While we were out,"Duncan explains, "Bryan told me that Buckfield told...

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Chapter 23 Rest

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pp. 157-162

Duncan was troubled five days later after a day planting sugarcane with Sabine behind the plow, Duncan loaded his pistol and took it into the field. It was the first time he had fired it since he left..

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pp. 163-166

The Civil war robbed millions of nineteenth century Americans their last rations of Time, Talent, and Treasure. It was the end of Time for more than 620,000 from both North and South. For millions...


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pp. 167-186


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pp. 187-202


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pp. 203-211

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446150
E-ISBN-10: 160344615X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440899
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440895

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 7 b&w photos. 3 maps.
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Cavalry operations.
  • Duncan, William Berry, 1818-1867.
  • Confederate States of America. -- Army -- Officers -- Biography.
  • Pioneers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Drovers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Confederate States of America. Army. Texas Cavalry Regiment, 11th.
  • Texas -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Biography.
  • Texas -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Cavalry operations.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Texas.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Biography
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