COLONEL OF TEXAS CAVALRY AND MAJOR GENERAL ARTHUR PENDLETON BAGBY: BY LAND AND BY SEA!

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Item Code: 1138-1993

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Arthur Pendleton Bagby led his Texas cavalry troopers in fights on horseback, on foot, and on shipboard. He rose from Major to Major General, his last two promotions, to brigadier and major general courtesy of Kirby Smith, who had to run the Trans-Mississippi Department from 1863 on as a rather independent operation. This quarter-plate ambrotype shows Bagby in a regulation Confederate officer’s frock coat, with three braids of the “Austrian knot” rank insignia clearly visible on his sleeve, indicating his status as a field officer. His beard obscures the front of his collar, but it likely bore the single star of a Major, the rank at which he mustered into Confederate service in the 7th Texas Cavalry (“Mounted Volunteers”) on October 12, 1861.

Bagby was born May 17, 1833, the son of A.P. Bagby, Sr., an Alabama state representative and senator, Governor from 1837-1841, U.S. senator, and Minister to Russia. Educated in Washington, D.C., the younger Bagby was an “at large” appointment to West Point, entering in 1848 and graduating 39th in his class in 1852. He was appointed a brevet 2nd lieutenant in the 8th US Infantry July 1, 1852, and served at Fort Columbus in NY harbor and at Fort Chadbourne in Texas before resigning in September 1853, perhaps dissatisfied with the slow rate of promotion in the U.S. Army, for he had not yet received promotion and posting as a full 2nd lieutenant. He then studied law, passing the bar in Alabama in 1855 and practicing in Mobile until 1858, when he moved to Texas and continued practicing in Gonzales.

In late September 1861 he wrote to the commander of Department of Texas that “circumstances of a private nature” had prevented him thus far from taking part in the war, but that he was now able to do so and that Sibley had thought he might get a spot as lieutenant colonel in a new regiment being raised. That spot was apparently not available, but he was appointed Major in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States in November, with rank from October 12 in the 7th Texas Cavalry (“Mounted Volunteers.”) The regiment first saw service in Sibley’s Army of New Mexico from February to April 1862. Some sources list him as present in the Battle of Valverde in late February, but others place him and his regiment on garrison duty in southern New Mexico during that battle and Glorietta Pass in March, which resulted in Sibley’s retreat back to Texas. On April 16, 1862, however, he was certainly in the camp near Dona Ana, NM, where he was later charged with being drunk on duty and pulling a pistol on a fellow officer. He was tried and cleared by a court martial in September and, having already been promoted to Lt. Colonel in April, was promoted to Colonel in November.

If nothing else, he was certainly a fighter. He took an active part in Magruder’s successful plans to retake Galveston, volunteering with elements of his regiment to furnish ground forces for the assault on U.S. troops who had fortified the city wharf, but were not yet in full control of the town, but also playing a part in Magruder’s use of improvised gunboats, armored with bales of cotton, to challenge Union vessels in control of the harbor. Bagby had command of the troops assigned to the former tugboat Neptune, which was disabled in the fighting and so badly damaged as to sink shortly after, though earning Magruder’s praise in his official report.

In Spring 1863 Bagby’s regiment was among those sent to western Louisiana to confront Banks in the Bayou Teche campaign, earning praise for his stubborn dismounted defense at Fort Bisland, where he was wounded in the fighting and refused to leave the field. He was eventually given command of the brigade, the 4th, 5th, and 7th Texas cavalry regiments and the 13th Battalion, with Kirby Smith of his own accord making him a brigadier general in April 1863, with rank from March. In the 1864 Red River campaign he was again fighting Banks, seeing action at Stirling Plantation, Bayou Bourbeau, and Mansfield, and then earned a reputation for making Banks’ retreat from Mansfield miserable.

Bagby had a second brigade under his command for parts of the Red River campaign and Kirby Smith continued to think well of his performance, officially recommending him for promotion to “Major General of Cavalry” and giving him division command of three brigades in January 1865. Nothing was forthcoming from Richmond on that count and Smith made another promotion on his own authority, making Bagby a Major General May 16, 1865, with rank from May 10. The appointment is a telling indicator of Bagby’s services and talents, though too late for the Confederate war effort, with both Lee and Johnston having already surrendered, the Trans-Mississippi surrendered by Buckner on May 26 at New Orleans, and Smith officially yielding at Galveston on June 2. Bagby returned to the practice of law in Texas, did a bit of newspaper publishing as well, and died in Halletsville in 1921.

Bagby is shown seated, from the waist up in this sixth-plate ambrotype. He wears a dark, certainly dark gray, frock coat with two rows of seven brass buttons, the regulation Confederate field officer’s coat. Some of the buttons are just a tad indistinct, perhaps having once been lightly gilt, but are clearly rimmed staff buttons. There is some very minor spotting and a couple of narrow rubs, but with great focus and clarity on his face, with just a hint of red tinting to his cheeks by the photographer. The three strands of sleeve braid show distinctly. He wears his hair cropped close. His mustache and narrow beard hide any collar insignia. This comes from the collection of the renowned Virginia collector and dealer Bill Turner, and his housed in a figural thermoplastic case with a floral border and cherub and stag at center. It is matted, glassed, and framed. The embossed red facing pad is in place.   [sr] [ph:m]

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