This cool November 20th morning finds the 9, 500 Federals ensconced on the plantation lawn and spread up the adjacent hill for more than 3/4s of a mile. General George Armstrong Custer has been ordered to foray into SE Texas burning anything of economic value and to move upon Austin in an effort to bring the Sovereign State of Texas to heal. President Jefferson Davis, after the siege of Richmond fled south toward Mobile so as to make it to Havana and then to Galveston then to prosecute the fight from Texas. The Confederate Secretary of the Treasury was making his way toward Gen. Johnston’s troops in South Carolina to buy provisions so as to make an effort retake Richmond from the damn Yankees. As President Davis left Richmond, he sent dispatches to all departments west of the Mississippi to concentrate all available forces in the Hempstead area to prevent the capture of Austin and lands beyond.
General Custer was in some difficulty as his troops were in near rebellion over his harsh treatment of troops. He ordered the whipping of three privates from Mass. for gambling and another to kissing the Commanders Daughter, for twenty lashes spread eagle across the spare wheel of a 2-inch ordinance rifle wheel for molesting a lady of the night near the camp. President Lincoln had ordered corporal punishment to stop some months earlier, which General Custer ignored. However, the adjutant had made a strong case to the General who eventually relented for the moment. This notwithstanding the troops were embroiled in great discontent considering the shabby treatment they had received. To say that the rank and file was not happy was an understatement. Fortunately, there were on the staff several superb officers who were able to keep the lid on this smoldering powder keg, at least for now.
To make matters worse the Pinkerton’s had made a great mess of the attempt to arrest of Ms. Elaina Belle Boyd, AKA Maria Isabella Boyd who was suspected to be a southern spy in nearby Montgomery. Having suffered three casualties at the hands of the home guards and losing their query it was required that a response from the Federals be mounted. A halfhearted effort to recover the spy was made toward Montgomery Township later in the day, but it was soon quite clear that she had slipped away. After several days of fruitless search, the cavalry returned to camp empty handed, tired and shamed.
Soon the Federal troop were making their daily patrols with less than exuberant enthusiasm. When Gen Custer order a reconnaissance in force toward Hempstead Maj. General Fred Yokubaitis was less than excited, although somewhat pleased to be out of the camp and able to maneuver on his own. The prize was a confederate clothing and weapons depot located near the cantina as well as the rail hub from which one might make one’s way to Austin, Fort Worth or to Port Lavaca and beyond were rich prizes yet waited. MG Yokubaitis expected that home guard would be on patrol and not wanting to insight a battle before proper preparations might be made he ordered small groups of troops to move with stealth toward the city from three directions after dusk.
The following morning the reconnaissance teams made their report. Maj. Fred Anthamattan, wing commander was shocked to find that there were far more troops encamped south and west of Hempstead than he thought possible. Unbeknown to him President Davis’ order had brought nearly 35,000 infantry, over 500 cavalry and 14 large field guns into encampment for the defense of the railhead. There was little to be done but to withdraw his smaller force back to Liendo and to regroup for the battle, which was to become. It would not be wise to move on to Austin with such a large enemy force so near at hand.
MG Yokubaitis prepared his brief to Gen Custer for the following morning. Much to his surprise as he was about to make the briefing he was informed that General Custer had left the camp that night and with a small force, moved on Montgomery for retribution for the shaming his Pinkertons had received at the hands of the Texas home guard earlier in the week, leaving him in command.
This provided a opportunity and a challenge. MG Yokubaitis knew that Custer was not a forgiving man and likely should he be perceived, as stealing the glory from him there would be hell to pay. Yet knowing that the large force at Hempstead might move upon Lieando at any moment he knew that a defeat would be inevitable as there were no reserves and few excess supplies to he had. The Federal General ordered the teamsters to return to Galveston under light cavalry guard for additional supplies and prepared to receive an assault that was likely to be coming shortly. The next morning would be as strategic as it would be violent.
The morning broke cool enough to cause one’s breath hang on the still air. At about 9 am the morning birds suddenly stopped singing, an indication that there was movement in the woods, likely due to the movement of troops. Shortly a murder of crows flushed from the trees near the stock pond loudly announcing that they had been unexpectedly disturbed. Orders were given to volley down and to shelter behind the protective barricades of Fort Gibson, which had been fairly won the month earlier as the Federal Corps occupied Liendo Plantation. Now all that could be done was to wait for the assault, which was upon them.
Col Ron Strybos the Confederate commander was a cautious man. He had been baptized into this war during the battle for Petersburg and well knew that if a strong salient was not made that this battle might turn into a prolonged siege that the Confederates could not sustain. He knew that the Federals were occupying the high ground beyond the plantation and would likely fire down upon his men as they advanced toward Fort Gibson. The murder of crows had ruined any possibility of surprise and the lay of the land was in the Federals favor. Little remained but to make a strong quick first strike, a frontal attack. The only hope of victory lay with the accuracy of the confederate cannon and their flying artillery. The Federals had laid their six guns at the base of the hill protecting their camp and well within range to rain shot and shell down onto anyone who might approach Fort Gibson from the East or the South East. There was no hope of inflating their line. Neeleys Roughneck’s, Madison’s Regiment of the 3rd Arizona Brigade setup their 3-inch ordinance pieces, and one 1841 Mountain Howitzer under the command of Maj Neeley, Capt. Paul Light foot respectively. They were set under fresh cut brush for concealment and waited.
CSA Col Strybos decided to make a demonstration of deployment just out of range of the federal guns to occupy the Federals attention. Simultaneously the CSA Dismounted Calvary under the command of Capt. Bryan Glass would array to the left and try to work their way up Clear Creek within range of the Federal Guns. Placing the troops and Confederate guns took nearly 2 hours, as they were to proceed slowly as to allow the Dismounted Calvary time to advance under cover of the brush and up the creek. They arrived just as the first rolling thunder volley was delivered by the Polk County Flying Artillery under the command of (Stinky) Capt. Mike Farrar and Sgt. Mason Lee. The Confederate artillery sent hot shot into and slightly over the heads of the federal artillery up ending one Federal gun and detonating the limber box. The second volley from their two 1841 six-pound field pieces erupted shortly thereafter with great effect. The Federals responded in kind scattering dirt and bits of trees to the winds but doing little more than breaking the silence.
Then without warning the 35th Texas Calvary under the command of Lt. Andy Strybos and Sgt. Nick Cotton of the sprang the attack firing a volley into the right flank of the federal artillery decimating two-gun crews immediately. Being caught by surprise the federals reeled back for a moment before Capt. Strybos’ second attack commenced. The Federal cavalry made a hasty parry against the rapidly advancing Confederate Calvary causing LTC Van Zavava to fall in the skirmish. They rushed down the back of the line raining havoc upon the hapless federal artillery even lassoing one gun in an effort to haul it off toward the Confederate lines. A grand cheer rang up from the Confederate formations as they advanced upon the Federals under the cover of Confederate cannonade from the 7th Texas light artillery Marine Mississippi Brigade. The Red River Battalion, Co. B 4th Texas, and Company C first Texas arrayed on the left. The 1st Texas company L formed in the center. The 9th Texas company F, First Texas company’s E and K and company G and F of the Texas Rifles quickly formed on the right. With great surprise to the Federals First Sgt. Marchall’s mule drawn 1862 2.25-inch mountain rifle wheeled onto the field with advancing fire further scattering the Federal rear guard. Seeing the opportunity to advance at little cost the Confederate 9th Texas Dismounted, remounted and advanced under the command of Capt. Cody Deaver and 1st Lt Clay Crawford firing a volley from hose back then dismounting, picketing their mounts and forming a curved line focused on the Federal right. They were shortly joined by the 1st Texas Parsons Rangers under the command of Col Walter Lane and Capt. Ken Cox to their left extending the line nearly across the entire line of battle. They were reinforced a few moments later by the 34th Dismounted under the command of Capt. Matthew Meyers further strengthening the Confederate position on the field. They were followed quickly by the 12th Texas infantry company A under the command of A.E. Fitzwater and 1st SGT Paul Scassate being called from the reserve to join the action.
Shortly the Federals regrouped and their Calvary managed to split the Confederate cavalry into two separate bands. As they were, brandishing saber against saber the US Regular Infantry out of St. Louis, MO under the command of Tom Whiteside and Sgt. Curtis Lewis formed a line to fire and rained it down upon them. The Federal cavalry commander ordered a tactical withdrawal to the right and left of the Federal infantry who unleashed unholy volley after volley, which decimated the left wing of the Confederate cavalry. Seeing the turn of events, the right wing of the Calvary made a dash toward the advancing 15th Texas Confederate infantry under the command of Capt. Hurtez, to get out of range of the Federal fire. It had been a wild maneuver, which was greatly successful but at a great cost as nearly half of the Congregate Calvary had fallen on the field.
This bought enough time to allow the infantry to move within striking range of the Federal Artillery before they could regroup and open effective fire upon them. Maj. General Fred Yokubaitis the Federal commander seeing that his artillery was in danger of capture ordered a tactical withdrawal to save the guns. The Federal Calvary made several brave charges at the infantry to slow them and allow the guns to be saved. Sadly, Maj Fred Anthamattan, the Wing CC fell on the last parry.
It was clear to MG Yokubaitis that little could be done to save the field as he ordered the First Iowa Dismounted under the command of Capt. Pouch Amien and Sgt. Burkener to demonstrate a holding action so as the main body of his men might withdraw toward Houston. The First Iowa did their best to hold the line but were virtually wiped out as our boy’s blood was up. Had it not been for the 12th Arkansas Federal Sharpshooters in the trees and the excellent marksmanship of PVT William Peters the Federals would have been overrun. Nevertheless, having done good work that day the Confederates were stalled midfield taking horrendous casualties from the Federal Rear Guard. The Federals withdrew to Clear Creek to the SE and formed a hasty line. Their remaining cannon were placed at the center where they might do the greatest damage as they defended their new line with canister and chain.
The Confederate commander could see the futility of attacking the line again knowing that the canister would end his division. He ordered a halt to the troops movements and offered up a white flag for a parley. It was received with relief by the outnumbered Federals who expected to be annihilated. After pleasantries were exchanged and cigars traded, it was agreed that the Federals would be permitted to withdraw unmolested until they reached the county line after both sides retrieved their dead and tended their wounded.
This had been a good day for the Confederates who had dislodged the Federals and forced them from the county. However, it had been an expensive day with 167 wounded and 53 killed on both sides. The battle was decisive but not conclusive. The Federals would have to be attacked again another day if Hempstead were to be protected. So, it was to be. All that remained to be done was for the 173rd NY Medical Detachment and Dr. James Watson to retrieve the wounded and dead. The Federal Sanitation Commission, which had been overrun early in the battle due to the honorable behavior of the southern troops Matron Debra Russell, agent Robert Russell and Miss Versthoor were returned to the Federals under a white flag to the Federals unmolested. However, Tom the Blacksmith was held as an enemy support contingent as his Rouge Foundry and Suttlery were clearly in supporting of the Federal Troops. The Confederate Medical branch under the guidance of Dr. Jack Thomason with his assistant surgeon Thomas Roach retrieved the Confederate wounded and dead by wagon. Liendo had been liberated and the rail head protected. It had been a good day for the Sovereign State of Texas but all knew that is was only the start of the defense or our Sovereign Freedom!
The battle of Liendo Plantation will occur next year the weekend before thanksgiving. There will be Civil War Sutlers and dozens of other vendors available to serve your needs. There will be civilian reenactors demonstrating weaving, spinning, iron mongering and other 19th Century skills. There will be minstrels and a fashion show with a tea for the ladies. Tours are available of the historic 1852 plantation house for an additional $4 fee. Entry into the event is $10 per person, or $5 for children 7- 12, children under 7 are free and seniors 55 or older are $5. There is ample free parking. Coggins report less than a year old is required for all horses and hay will be provided. There is ample firewood available of reenactors use. Water spigots and horse watering troughs will be strategically located as well. The Liendo event is hosted by Mr. Will Detering at the historic Liendo Plantation. You are welcome to come. Liendo Plantation is located at 38653 Wyatt Chapel Road, Hempstead, TX 77445. It is 30 miles northwest of Houston, Texas just east of HWY 290 at Farm to Market Road 1488. Please contact Liendo Plantation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 979-826-3126. Hope to see you there for the annual reenactment at Liendo Plantation, Hempstead, Texas.
Corporal Michael Bunch