The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 65
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Battle or Massacre?: The Incident on the Nueces,
August io, 1862
STANLEY S. McGOWEN*
O NE OF THE MOST CONVOLUTED CIVIL WAR EPISODES IN TEXAS BECAME
one of the state's most controversial and contentious historiograph-
ical events as well. The incident, only a skirmish by Civil War standards,
occurred along the banks of the Nueces River on August 1o, 1862, when
a mixed detachment of Confederate and Texas state troops attacked a
group of German immigrant settlers sympathetic to the Union. Rumors,
innuendo, half-truths, and outright falsehoods about the engagement
led to a fractious division among descendants and historians of the fight.
Was it a battle or a massacre? Were unarmed German farmers ridden
down and murdered by bloodthirsty Confederate cavalrymen or, was this
a legitimate battle between armed combatants? For over a hundred years
those adhering to both views have ignored facts or revised events to sup-
port their arguments. Only by revealing the facts may the truth be
After Abraham Lincoln's election several communities of German set-
tlers, while not showing great support for secession, did not initially par-
ticipate actively in Unionism. In late 186o or early 1861 German
immigrants around Fredericksburg and New Braunfels sensed "politische
schwierigkeiten am horizont" or, political troubles on the horizon, and orga-
nized the Union Loyal League. Many Texans championing the Confeder-
acy considered these people traitors and insurrectionists. Because of the
myths and disinformation enveloping the organization of the league,
* Stanley S. McGowen is the author of Horse Sweat and Powder Smoke: The 1st Texas Cavalry in the
Czvl War (Texas A&M University Press, 1999). He has authored numerous journal articles and
has contributed extensively to various military encyclopedias, including Encyclopedia of the Vietnam
War, Encyclopedia of World War II in the Pac/fic, Encyclopedia of the Korean War, and Encyclopedia of the
American Civil War. He was an officer in the U.S. Army from 1969-1991, and most recently was
visiting professor of history at Sam Houston State University.
SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. CIV, NO. 1
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/93/: accessed March 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.