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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Forgotten Period of Texas Civil War History Comes Back to Life

By Cody Mobley, Fort McKavett State Historic Site

Living historians from 13 states traveled to Fort McKavett State Historic Site to commemorate the six months during the winter of 1861-62 that Fort McKavett was used as a temporary prisoner-of-war camp. On the weekend of November 18-20, 2011, participants in the event represented members of Co. E, 1st Texas Mounted Rifles and members of the 8th U.S. Infantry captured at the Battle of Adam’s Hill north of San Antonio in May 1861.

Daily life at the frontier fort was recreated based on period accounts and military protocol. The prisoners spent their time mending their worn clothing, visiting Sam Wallick’s sutler store, sleeping, or looking for a source of entertainment.

The Texans spent the event doing fatigue details, standing guard, visiting the sutler’s store, and trying to keep out of trouble. It wasn’t easy for everyone: a Texan private was brought up on charges during the event for disorderly conduct toward officers, profanity, insubordination on work details, shooting at fellow soldiers, and discharging a firearm in the barracks. He was sentenced to be hung by his thumbs for two hours on the parade ground to serve as a warning to the Texans and prisoners.

The rations for the event were based on what was seasonal and what was historically being shipped to Fort McKavett from San Antonio. The diet consisted of locally foraged venison, cabbage, potatoes, beans, canned tomatoes, and hard tack. Some of the participants gathered watercress from the springs.

Samuel Wallick was the post sutler during this period and was represented during the event by site staff. The stock of his sutler’s store was specially recreated for this event based on his ledgers and antebellum accounts from soldiers stationed at Fort McKavett during the 1850s. Each participant had $3 in sutler chits to purchase items from Mr. Wallick, gamble away, or to keep as a memento from the event.

For more information about the history behind this event, please visit the event website. Fort McKavett is located west of Menard on FM 864 in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

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