36th Regiment, Texas Cavalry, 1863–1865

“After the latter place had fallen before federal arms, Rife joined Captain Lytle’s company in Wood’s regiment where he served some time”

— “Custodian of the Alamo,” San Antonio Light, February 23, 1887.

Thomas Rife’s Confederate Scrip. The Texas Legislature granted in April, 1881, a writ for 1,280 acres of land to disabled Confederate veterans in lieu of a pension. It was expensive to find and survey the land and most veterans, including Rife, sold their scrip to wealthy land investors. He received $80 for his scrip in late 1881. Rife was wounded while on detached service with Henry Skillman's Spy Company in 1864. Courtesy of the Texas State General Land Office, Austin, Texas.

Many Texans expected a short war.

After the ordinance of secession was ratified in a statewide plebiscite in February 1861,1 many Texans, not wishing to miss what was expected to be a short war,2 formed companies and to join regiments in other states.3 A few months later, the Texas Legislature, realizing that the war would not be over as quickly as some had initially hoped, passed a law conscripting men for military service.4 In April 1862, the Confederate Congress also passed a conscription law that drafted most southern men 18 to 35 years old for three-years of service.5

Thomas Rife was born in 1823 and was over 35 years of age in 1861.6 Although he was exempt from the Confederate draft, he was still liable for military service. In Texas, all men 18 to 50 years old were required to enroll in the state militia.7 However, Rife left Texas in late 1862, it appears as a wagoner for Waul’s Legion,8, and was subsequently wounded at Deer Creek near Vicksburg in March or April 1863.

There is no evidence that Rife enrolled in a military unit that served in Mississippi. If he did serve in a Confederate unit in Mississippi, he did not go to Vicksburg after being wounded at Deer Creek. His name does not appear on the roll of men captured and paroled at Vicksburg. There is, of course, the possibility that he escaped capture at Vicksburg by fleeing across the Mississippi River. Another possibility is that he was attached to a unit that was not captured at Vicksburg. The latter seems unlikely, however, because most such units continued in service until the war’s end. After he was wounded, he may have been taken to a hospital, treated, and subsequently furloughed. He may have recovered from his injury at his sister’s house nearby. Details of what Rife did in Mississippi in late 1862 and early 1863 are lacking. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that by October of 1863, he had returned to Texas.

Thomas Rife enlisted in Colonel Peter Wood’s Regiment.

In October 1863, Rife enlisted in Captain Samuel Lytle’s Company (Company H), 36th Regiment (Colonel Peter Wood’s), Texas Cavalry at San Antonio. He enlisted for the duration of the war.9 Samuel Lytle and Rife were longtime friends, having met in 1842 at Washington-on-the-Brazos as young men10 and had lived as neighbors west of Castroville.

The 36th Regiment, Texas Cavalry, was organized in March 1862 and then assigned to patrol Fredericksburg. German settlers living northwest of San Antonio were not slaveholders and supported the Union throughout the Civil War. For that reason, Fredericksburg was considered a Unionist stronghold that needed to be watched by the Confederate military. At a later date, Wood’s regiment was stationed along the Texas Gulf Coast and then along the lower Rio Grande.11 In June 1863, the regiment moved to Indianola, where it remained until it was sent to Louisiana for the Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864.12

Although he continued to be listed on the regiment muster rolls13, Rife was detached for service in West Texas in November 186314 and did not return for two years.15

  1. Wharton, Texas Under Many Flags, 85 ↩︎

  2. Sweet and Knox, On a Mexican Mustang through Texas from the Gulf to the Rio Grande, 590; James Farber, Texas, C.S.A.: A Spotlight on Disaster, (New York and Texas: The Jackson Co., 1947), 30 ↩︎

  3. Wharton, Texas Under Many Flags, 90; Sweet and Knox, On a Mexican Mustang through Texas from the Gulf to the Rio Grande, 590 ↩︎

  4. Pike, Scout and Ranger being the Personal Adventures of James Pike, 141 ↩︎

  5. Smith, Frontier Defense in Texas, 101; David McDonald, Jose Antonio Navarro, In search of the American Dream in Nineteenth-Century Texas, (Denton: Texas State Historical Association, 2010), 265 ↩︎

  6. Declaration of Survivor for Pension, Records of the Bureau of Pensions, Mexican War Pension Applications Files, 1887-1926, Records of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, NARA RG 15 ↩︎

  7. Smith, Frontier Defense in Texas, 136 ↩︎

  8. Thomas Rife, Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865, M346, RG 109, NARA, Roll 865 ↩︎

  9. Thomas Rife Record, 36th Texas Cavalry Regiment, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, M323, Roll 175, RG 109, NARA; The San Antonio Light, February 23, 1887 ↩︎

  10. Affidavit of Witness, Records of the Bureau of Pensions, Mexican War Pension Applications Files, 1887-1926, Records of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, RG 15 ↩︎

  11. Samuel Lyte’s Record, 36th Texas Cavalry Regiment, M323, Roll 174, , RG 109, NARA ↩︎

  12. Thirty-Sixth Texas Cavalry; Woods, Peter Cavanaugh, Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles, accessed December 22, 2013 ↩︎

  13. Janet B. Hewett, ed., The Roster of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865, (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1996), Vol. XIII: 168 ↩︎

  14. Letter from Andrew G. Dickinson, Compiled Service Records of Confederate General and Staff Officers, and Nonregimental Enlisted Men, M331, Roll 75, RG 109, NARA ↩︎

  15. Thomas Rife Record, 36th Texas Cavalry Regiment ↩︎