Search billions of records on

Letters of Duncan Carmichael

Written while in camp on Caney Creek in Matagorda County, Texas

Courtesy of Zia C. Miller


In the early part of 1864, the Texas coastline was the big target. Lincoln wanted to stop the supplies coming from and through the ports of Texas, the “Warehouse of the Confederacy,”


THE WAR OF THE REBELLION, Volume XV, page 80, pub. 1886.

JANUARY 8-9, 1864 – Bombardment of Confederate works at the month of Caney Bayou, Texas. Report of Col. A. Buchel, First Texas Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division. Camp near P. McNeil’s Farm, January 10, 1864.

    “Sir: I have the honor to report that on the 8th instant, at about 11 o’clock, a Federal gun-boat commenced shelling our works at the mouth of Caney, which she continued at intervals all day. At her first fire 1 man of Company E, Texas Cavalry, was killed. In the afternoon a transport was reported to be close in shore about 6 miles below the works, and the brigade was immediately sent to within supporting distance, where they remained all night. About noon on the 9th, the transport having left early in the morning in the direction of Decrow’s Point, the brigade returned to camp. The gun-boat, which lay at anchor off the works all night, commenced shelling them again on the morning of the 9th, firing during the day about 40 rounds. No casualties, except that previously mentioned, have thus far occurred. The work during the shelling has to be discontinued, but is immediately resumed whenever the gun-boat moves off, which she frequently does. About 10 a.m. on the 9th, a large transport, said to be loaded with troops, passed down in the direction of Decrow’s Point about 4 p.m.; another gun-boat came to anchor near the one previously mentioned off the works, and I ordered Colonel Likens with five companies of his regiment to within supporting distance, where they remained all night. One of the gun-boats having left during the night, Colonel Likens has been ordered to return to camp with his command this morning. Very respectfully, your obedient servant”

                                                                                                 A. BUCHEL. Colonel, Commanding


            Duncan and “the Boy” were there, as described by Colonel Buchel, during this attempt to come up the Caney Creek, located between the San Bernard River on the east, and the Colorado River on the west. The Confederate encampment of approximately 3,000 cavalry and 1,000 infantry was centered at McNeil (McNeel) Plantation near present day Cedar Lake, on the Matagorda and Brazoria County line. Camps by various names as well as the hospital were located on a fresh water stream on present day Sargent Ranch located east of the town of Sargent, Texas.


Texas January the 16th 1864

Camp on Caney Creek at Matagorda County

            Affectionate Wife, I once more write you a few lines to let you hear from me, I am not very well at present. I have cold & cough & c. I have just got into camps here. Fulton’s & Lane’s companies were sent after some militia that started home from Velasco. I went to Sandy Point with them & my health was so bad I had to come back. We have moved up about (page is gnawed into) …here in the country on account of getting corn for horses. I accidently met up with Uncle John, & William, & Andy Burleson, at Sandy Point & stayed with them two nights & heard from home by them. I was glad to hear you were well & had killed your hogs. I have not received a letter from you since Doc Allen came down. I have written you 4 letters since I came into this swamp. We have seen hard times down here in the cold & rain & mud but thank God, only few have died & …only few are sick as yet. I remained with Green’s men two nights & saw several of the men from your country. I saw Busby & Votaw & Hart & Zack Henry & c. They are generally well & our relatives are all well. There is no news of much importance here. The Yanks continue to throw bombs at our men as they cross the river with beef & corn, but they have killed only one man yet (paper gnawed in to)… they prefer horses & wagons & mules & things they need & the country will soon be destitute of provisions & no means to make any. I now consider that we are ruined, let things go as they may. They have taken all the men off from their homes & no one to make a crop, & we will soon starve out. We are whipping ourselves by bad management, & Texas will soon be laid waste like La. & Arks. The soldiers are discouraged & they are becoming reckless & desperate & c. I would be glad to see you & the children but I cannot tell when I will. I want to go home this spring but if I do, I will have to go without lief (leave). I wish you to let me know if you have to pay my taxes & c. I have some money & if you need any let me know. I drew a pair of pants the other day. My shirts & pants are giving way but they will do me until summer…I am warm & fine at present….You must take care of the little you, & you must try & make bread & I hope this horrible war will close this year some way & the poor men can get home. Write to me & direct your letters to Columbia Texas. Give me all the news. Kiss the children. Accept my love & respects. Yours Affectionately,   D. Carmichael 

The movement and action of the Yankees along this part of the central Texas Gulf Coast is not a well known part Civil War history. There was action along lower Caney Creek, and along the barrier island of Matagorda. These two surviving letters add to document this history.

January 23, 1864

Camp on Caney, Matagorda County, Texas

Dear Wife, I received your letter dated Jan the 3rd, 1864. Very glad to hear you were well & glad to hear that __ & Jim helped you get your hogs & c. I am now at the hospital but I am not sick except, I have had a cold & cough. I had to come to the hospital on duty & was not able to do duty well. My health having at present & I expect to return to duty in ___ days, or as soon as our company gets back. (We had) an alarm in camps last night & the night (before) & our brigade & Wood’s went down to the (mouth of) Caney & came back yesterday & then (again) last night. The Yanks came out on (land) but went back when they saw our men coming, our men are down there now but I don’t think they will have any fight there.  Fulton’s companies have been gone 13 days after deserted militias that run off. The weather has been warm for 10 days & some are beginning to plant here. There is considerable sickness in the Army at present. Several Negroes have had pneumonia & medicine is scares. The Army is eating up the corn very fast & they (are) very poor & we get no pork at all. I would like to be at home to get some pork. The newspapers said there is a large number of Yanks coming to Texas & if so, we will have hard times this year. They say we have 12,000 Cavalry in Texas & 6,000 infantry & 10,000 militia making 28,000 men in all. The greatest danger to us now is the danger of starving. There are no men at home to make crops & they are pressing all the Negroes, mules & wagons to service. Now tell Mr. Hopper, he may have to cultivate as much of my land as can & give you half. I expect to go home this spring if I can. I must see you & the children once more. If it was not for you, & them, I would not care to live longer but it is hard for me to leave you. Our country is overrun & devastated & unless all are slain & the country is veiled in mourning & the poor women & children will be left to endure & live in poverty & misery & still the war goes on & it will go on for years yet, I fear. The Country cannot & will not submit.  D. Carmichael


Copyright 2009 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Nov. 29, 2009
Nov. 29, 2009