Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 17

Soule President Halsey Resigns; Trustees Choose Carter as Successor January 23, 1860

On January 23, 1860 the President of Soule University, William Halsey, resigned. On that same day the trustees voted to offer the presidency to George Washington Carter, one of the most interesting persons in Texas Methodist history. Carter was born in Virginia circa 1828. He became a Methodist preacher who was employed as a professor of ethics at the University of Mississippi. He accepted the Soule presidency, finished the school term in Mississippi, and came to Chappell Hill in May, but his administration and the university were soon engulfed in secession and the Civil War.

One year after the offer of the presidency Carter was in Austin as a member of the Secession Convention. When the convention adjourned, he asked for a leave of absence and returned to his home in Virginia. He secured permission from the Confederate Secretary of War to raise a regiment. He returned to Texas and raised not one, but three regiments. His own was the 21st Texas Cavalry. The other two were also commanded by Methodist preachers with the rank of colonel. The 24th Texas Cavalry was commanded by F. W. Wilkes, who had recently been Presiding Elder of the Galveston District. The 25th Texas Cavalry was commanded by Clayton C. Gillespie, formerly editor of the Texas Christian Advocate who had moved to the editorship of the New Orleans Christian Advocate.

The units became known as Carter’s Brigade and drilled a few miles east of Chappell Hill at Hempstead which had the advantage of a rail road. In May, 1862 the units assembled at Crockett and began moving toward Arkansas. The difficulties of providing fodder for the horses proved too great and units were converted from lancers to dismounted cavalry. Naturally the Texans were dismayed at the prospect of being converted from cavalry to infantry. Twenty Alabama-Coushatte enlistees complained so much that they were allowed to return to their homes.

Difficulties and dissention continued as Carter pushed his troops into Arkansas. The troops under Wilkes and Gillespie were separated and put under another command. A measles epidemic in August and September compounded their problems. The 24th and 25th Cavalry (Dismounted) were ordered to defend Arkansas Post, about fifty miles up river from the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers. It was there that they were defeated in January 1863.

Carter settled in Louisiana during Reconstruction and became speaker of the legislature in 1871-1872. Ten years later he was appointed Minister to Venezuela. He died in Maryland in 1901 after a remarkable career that included being a Methodist preacher, university professor, university president, soldier, legislator, diplomat, and lecturer. He also married and divorced three times.

Carter, Wilkes, and Gillespie were not the only Texas Methodist preachers in Carter’s Brigade. Littleton M. Stringfield and James McKendree Stringfield, both of the West Texas Conference did not make it as far as Arkansas Post. Littleton died August 10 and James died Sept. 30—presumably of the measles epidemic. Their bodies were brought back and buried in the Tehuacana Cemetery a few miles south of Hondo. Their sister was the author’s great-great grandmother.


Post a Comment

<< Home