1863: James Wyatt Cooper to Martha Mann

How JW might have looked

How JW might have looked

This letter was written by Pvt. James Wyatt (“J.W.”) Cooper (1825-18xx), Co. B, McCord’s Frontier Regiment Texas Cavalry. Most of the men from Company B came from Bexar County. Confederate Service records indicate that J.W. was discharged in February 1864. Sometime prior to 1850, J.W. and his younger brother or cousin, Isaac Newton Wyatt (1825-Aft1880), came to Bexar County, Texas, from Kentucky. They were enumerated together in the same household in Bexar County (San Antonio River & Mission St. Juan) in the 1850 Census.

The Frontier Texas Cavalry was organized by order of the Texas State Legislature in order to “constitute a command for the special protection of the frontier against Indian depredations.” The unit was organized in late 1862 and accepted into Texas state service on January 1, 1863. It remained in state service until finally mustered into Confederate service on May 25, 1864. From that date onward, the regiment was sometimes incorrectly known as the Forty-Sixth (46th) Cavalry. This numeric designation was unofficial and it had no standing with the Confederate War Department in Richmond. Even though the regiment spent more than a year and a half in state service, it nevertheless was assigned to various Confederate higher commands. Authority over the regiment was complex and difficult at best during this period and, on at least two occasions before the unit actually entered Confederate service, Trans-Mississippi authorities requested that state authorities turn the regiment over to them. It was formed with 1,240 men and in April, 1865, totaled only 102. The few remaining men disbanded prior to the surrender in June, 1865. The field officers were Colonel James E. McCord, Lieutenant Colonel James B. Barry, and Major W. J. Alexander.

J.W. wrote the letter to his friend, Martha Mann (1846-aft1920) of Bexar County though the letter is addressed to Helena in Karnes County, Texas. Martha is buried in the Samuel Mcculloch Cemetery near Mann Crossing in Bear County next to her brother, J. B. Mann (1844-Aft1920). She died unmarried. Martha’s father operated a ferry at Mann’s Crossing as late as the 1880s. Mann’s Crossing is part of the land granted to Sam McCulloch, Jr., a free black soldier in the Texas Revolution who settled in the area in 1852.

Helena is near the intersection of State Highway 80 and Farm Road 81, on the east side of a bend of the San Antonio River in Karnes County. Although it is practically a ghost town today, its beginning was most auspicious, and for many years it was the most important city between San Antonio and Goliad. During the Civil War, Helena had a Confederate post office with its own stamp and mustered a company called the Helena Guards on May 4, 1861. Much cotton destined for Mexican ports passed through town. During its heyday, Helena had a courthouse, a jail, a church, a Masonic lodge, a drugstore, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, and several saloons and general stores. Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches were organized in town.

Addressed to Miss Martha Mann, Helena, Texas

Camp Verde [Kerr County, Texas] ¹
October 1st 1863

Miss Martha,

Your letter of the 28th ultimo, __ of August, has been received. I received it on the eve of starting to Gonzales County to the association, and for this reason have not written before. I hope you will excuse the delay.

I had rather a pleasant trip to the association. Heard some of the best preaching I have ever heard in the State the meeting was of much more than ordinary interest. Some twenty were enquiring for the better way. I also formed some very pleasant lady acquaintances. Indeed, I am almost smitten. You are aware I am rather susceptible to the influences of bright eyes and sunny smiles. I hope I may not live to see the time when I can look on beauty without emotion or contemplate it with indifference. No, I cannot look on the most timid wild flowers that blushes to the kisses of the evening breeze without sensations of pleasure. How much more then, those creations of beauty formed in the image of perfections self. I have not seen any of the Fair since my return to camp but shall avail myself of an early opportunity to do so.

Today there is a wedding in the neighborhood but I am so unfortunate as not to have a stool. There was another in Bandera week before last. The boys say I was loser by that. So you see the Ladies here don’t care for war and they are, as usual, right in this. I heard you was going to marry at Helena. Don’t deny it. I would like to hear of your doing well but I don’t know if I would like to hear you was married. I had thought our acquaintance had been of sufficient duration and of sufficient intimacy to have shielded me from the imputation of the meanness of flattery. I have ever regarded flattery as dishonest and false; but the honest impression of an honestly entertained opinion is not flattery and can never be made so. But if you take objections, I promise in the future to behold your beauty and feet its power but no word of acknowledgement shall ever pass my lips. Do you forgive me? I ask that you do so. I can’t bear to live under your displeasure.

When do you return home?

Yours most truly, — J. W. Cooper

¹ A second Camp Verde, located two miles below (downstream) from old Camp Verde in Kerr County, was established on March 31, 1862, by James M. Norris as a ranger station for the Frontier Regiment. This site is known today as Camp Verde C.S.A. and is not the site of the original U.S. Army post of Camp Verde U.S.A.. Camp Verde C.S.A. was located near today’s Verde Creek Road, approximately one mile east of today’s Camp Verde Store, at the crossing of Verde Creek – Dr. James Crispin Nowlin’ s old house. This was located on what would later become the site of the Camp Verde schoolhouse (29°53.816’N x 99°5.671’W). It was garrisoned by members of Charles S. DeMontel’s Company and served as a frontier outpost, probably until the consolidation of the regiment in March 1864.

Company D of the Texas Rangers, commanded by Captain Charles S. de Montel was stationed at Camp Verde in March of 1862. In May 1863, command was transferred to Major W. J. Alexander until May 1864.

At Camp Verde C.S.A., Captain John Lawhorn commanded Company C of the Frontier Regiment from May of 1863 through March of 1864. This unit may also have been designated as Company B. Company K was at Camp Verde in January 1864, under the command of Captain William G. O’Brian. Company I, under the command of Captain James J. Callan was at Camp Verde in March of 1864. Captain Callan was reported as a deserter.

Camp Verde and Camp Ives had been abandoned at war’s end. Local minutemen and vigilantes patrolled the county and stood guard at Bandera Pass.

Camp Verde was reopened and repaired in 1866 and garrisoned by troopers of the US Fourth Cavalry.


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