Notes and Documents
The Boesel Letters: Two Texas Germans
in Sibley's Brigade
EDITED BY TERRY G. JORDAN-BYCHKOV, ALLEN R. BRANUM, AND PAULA
K. HOOD. TRANSLATED BY IRMA OHLENDORF SCHWARZ*
Two GERMAN IMMIGRANTS, FERDINAND BOESEL AND HIS UNCLE ERNST
Boesel, arrived in Galveston on Christmas Day, 1859, unaware they
were about to be caught up in the Civil War. Joseph Ferdinand Boesel
(born 1837) and Ernst Christof Boesel (born 1825) departed Bremer-
haven on October 18, 1859, aboard the sailing ship Iris and reached
Texas only after a long, stormy Atlantic passage.' They both came from
Liineburg, an old Hanseatic city in the Kingdom of Hannover, today
Germany's Lower Saxony State. Both settled at Latium, near Greenvine
in the blackland prairies of southwestern Washington County, not far
from Brenham and in the heart of the German-dominated region
between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers. 2
Their first two letters to relatives back in Germany describe the journey
to America and initial impressions of Texas. Ferdinand, always the more
diligent letter writer, sent the first letter scarcely a week after arriving.
* Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov holds the Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas in the
Department of Geography at the University of Texas at Austin; Allen Branum is Assistant Dean of
the College of Arts and Sciences at South Dakota State University, Brookings; Paula Kay Hood is a
student at the University of Texas at Austin; and Irma Schwarz is a retired graduate tuberculosis
nurse who lives in Edna, Texas. Branum, Hood, and Schwarz are descendants of Ernst Boesel.
SEthel H. Geue, New Homes in a New Land: German Immigration to Texas, 1847-186 (Waco:
Texian Press, 1970), 40,56.
2 Latium, pronouced "Latchum," was established about 1850 by educated Germans as a so-
called "Latin settlement," though eventually that element departed the place and its population
became dominantly Czech. Latium is in Washington County. Carole E. Christian, "Latium,
Texas" in Ron C. Tyler, Douglas E. Barnett, Roy R. Barkley, Penelope C. Anderson, and Mark F.
Odintz (eds.), The New Handbook of Texas (6 vols; Austin: Texas State Historical Association,
1996), IV, 103. Greenvine is a German hamlet in western Washington County. A German Baptist
SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. CII, NO. 4
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed May 5, 2015.