March 1st, 1861

On this day in 1861…

Who was David E. Twiggs?  Twiggs was a son of Georgia, born in Richmond County, and a veteran of the Mexican-American War, the Seminole War and the Blackhawk War.  In 1861 he was serving as a brevet Major General in the US Army and in command of the Army’s Department of Texas.  On 18 February 1861 Twiggs surrendered his entire command to the Confederates.  This included all military stores kept in the sanctuary of the old mission church in San Antonio – the Alamo.

A talented topographer and lieutenant colonel named Robert E. Lee happened to be part of Twigg’s command and was in San Antonio at the time of the surrender.  He is reported to have said, “So it has come so quickly to this?”

In fairness it looks like Twiggs repeatedly asked for guidance from the War Department as to what actions he should take if Texas seceded from the Union, but got no reply from his superior, General Winfield Scott.  Key Federal strongpoints and depots in Texas had been besieged by Confederate militias and Twigg’s forces were badly out-numbered at all locations.  General Twiggs apparently felt he had little choice but to negotiate an honorable surrender  He insisted on fair terms for the Union soldiers in his command.  They were afforded safe passage out of Texas and were allowed to retain their personal arms and unit colors.

Twiggs, a long serving soldier of great distinction, was apparently devastated by his dismissal from the US Army.  It’s not hard to imagine the shame he felt at seeing the notice of his dismissal published in the War Department’s General Orders for March 1st, 1861.  Although over 70 at the time, he accepted a commission as a major general in the Confederate Army.  But his military career was effectively over.  He died in Augusta, Georgia in the summer of 1862.