Battle of the Nueces River
A minor, yet significant battle in Texas during the Civil War
When civil war broke out among the states, newly immigrated Germans in Texas had only recently pledged their loyalty to the United States. As a result, when the Union dissolved and these new Texas-Germans found themselves living in Confederate States, they chose not to become citizens of the Confederacy. For the most part, these Germans were very community oriented, organizing themselves into groups where they could speak their native tongue and practice their own customs and traditions. When the war broke out, German towns and communities linked many of the rural areas together and voiced their opposition to the Confederacy. By 1862 they realized they had little future in Texas, so they decided to emigrate back to the Union. Unionists of all types joined these Germans as they attempted to head southwest to Mexico, where they hoped to catch a boat ride back to northeastern ports. Confederate soldiers, on orders to intercept these men, went looking for them and caught them at the Nueces river. On August 10, 1862 a large battle ensued whereby the Confederate soldiers massacred about thirty men. Some Germans that surrendered were lined up and summarily shot.
Scattered, the survivors continued south, but were once again caught by the pursuing Confederates. As the Unionists tried to cross the Rio Grande river on 18 October 1862 the rebel soldiers opened fire, killing some fifteen men. In both skirmishes, the Union dead were left unburied. After the war, many citizens of Comfort went to the Nueces battle site and gathered the bones of their loved ones. They interred their remains and erected a monument. The monument, a monolith made of native Texas limestone was dedicated to those soldiers who remained loyal to the Union. The inscription, written in German, reads Treue der Union. (Loyal to the Union). Engraved on each side are reminders of the Germans who died at various times in the battles. On the eastern side of the monument is the title, Treue der Union. On the northern side are the names of the nine Unionists who were captured and then murdered. The western face of the monument contains the names of the nineteen men who were killed on the Nueces river. Finally, on the southern portion are engraved the seven Germans who were killed on the Rio Grande.
Rebuilt in 1994, it retains its historical importance. The twenty foot tall obelisk is the only monument in the south where the flag is allowed to fly in perpetuity at half-staff. Today, this story and monument still incurs emotions. Many people in the small town of Comfort are very proud of their German heritage. In fact, Comfort’s economy is based on tourism and its German roots and history are the main attractions. One can still find many old German style homes and businesses. On the other hand, many citizens of this conservative small town consider these Germans to be traitors. It is a fascinating juxtaposition, pride of heritage versus historical perceptions about the Civil War. This small battle proves that emotional scars incurred during the Civil War are far from vanished. The ghosts of the Nueces Battle continue to haunt us to this day.
Did you know?
The United States flag at the Treue der Union monument is flown at half-staff in perpetuity. Plenty of rumors abound about other places in the United States where this is found. Many people believe that there are only a few places that allow this practice, and that this is the only place in the south that has the flag flown at half-staff in perpetuity and has a pro-Union monument.