Wenzel Ernst

Submitted by Fred Barber

 

Wenzel Ernst 1839-1863
Private in the Confederacy

Wenzel Ernst enlisted in the 30th Texas Cavalry, a.k.a.1st Texas Partisan Rangers, on 12 July 1862 at Camp McCulloch, near Buchanan, Texas. He patrolled the plains of Texas and the nearby Indian Territory for a year. He grew ill while serving near the Arkansas border in the Summer of 1863 and died in late August or September.

 

A German Partisan Ranger
by Fred Barber

The decision was inescapable: sooner or later, each Southern man had to choose between the Union and his state. Recent immigrants tended to side with the Union rather than forsake their newly adopted country. But Wenzel Ernst, a native of Germany, was one of the minority who chose state over country.

On July 12, 1862, 23-year-old Ernst mounted up and rode from his farm near Meridian, Texas --- leaving behind his wife, Mary, and five-month-old daughter, Matilda --- for Camp McCulloch, near Buchanan, about 30 miles to the north. There, he enlisted in the 30th Texas Cavalry, also known as the 1st Texas Partisan Rangers, and was assigned to Company E. This photo was taken in late 1862 in Palo Pinto County, north-central Texas. He is holding an 1844 Colt revolver and wearing a leather coat over his Sunday vest. Ernst's enlistment papers alternately misprinted his surname as "Earnst" and "Earnest," but Ernst apparently never bothered to have them corrected. Like many immigrants, he could neither read nor write english and he signed his papers simply with an X.

Assigned to the District of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, the 30th Texas Cavalry was sent out to patrol the wheat fields of northeastern Texas and the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). In early August 1863, Major General John B. Magruder, commander of the district, ordered the regiment to Fort Smith in east-central Arkansas, because "more danger of an invasion lay in that quarter."

Ernst never reached Arkansas. As the men of the 30th approached the border, Ernst became gravely ill. His condition worsened rapidly and he died sometime in late August or early September. Records do not name his illness or specify his date of death. They show only that he received his final pay on June 30. Ernst's body was never sent home. He was probably buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in northeastern Texas.

Ernst's widow later remarried, but received an unusual reminder of her first husband toward the turn of the century: a check arrived from the U.S. government in payment for Ernst's military service. Even today, his descendants do not know why a federal check was sent to a Confederate widow, and 30 years after the war.

[The above story was also submitted for publication in the March 1999 issue of Civil War Times.]


W. Ernst once lived near what is now Fort Worth as a child. About one mile south of what would be the center of town now and a couple of miles west.

The family moved to Meridian, TX and worked on a ranch between Meridian and Clifton. Clifton is north of Crawford and NW of Waco.

He also worked on ranches along the Brazos and in Parker County. His Father came from Bavaria and worked ranches and farms in east Texas near what is called "Big Thicket."

Ernst's wife was Mary Wallace. She appears in the Meridian Court House records of living near Meridian in the census of 1860. We don't know where she was born exactly, but believe it was near Fort Worth.

I gave a copy of his military CSA papers to Hillsboro College several years ago.

Fred Barber

 

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