Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Private Stevens’ Discharge

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 3, 2017

In a feature article I wrote a while back for the Civil War Monitor magazine, I mentioned the story of Private Z.T. Winfree, a Confederate soldier who was stationed here in Galveston at the time of the final Confederate collapse in the spring of 1865. On May 24, he and his comrades witnessed a crowd of soldiers and civilians who swarmed aboard blockade runner Lark and looted the vessel for anything and everything they could carry away:

That same evening, Winfree and his messmates were transported by train to Houston as part of a general military evacuation of Galveston Island. The following day in Houston, Winfree witnessed similar scenes of looting, “a general pillage of all things which the Confederacy had for her soldiers, such as ordnance, commissary and quartermasters’ supplies, C.S. mules, wagons, etc.” Winfree saw a crowd of soldiers at one of the buildings used as a headquarters, and learned that discharges were being freely handed out to all who requested them. The clerks soon ran out of printed discharge forms, so many soldiers, including Winfree, received papers granting them open-ended furloughs from their units. “We had not been acting very honorably for the past two days,” Winfree reflected years later, “but after all we had only been taking our own.”

Winfree painted a vivid picture of the chaos and confusion at Confederate headquarters in Houston, where harried clerks scrambled to fill out discharge forms and furloughs for the crowd of soldiers wanting to claim them as their units were spontaneously disbanding. This weekend a friend of mine from Houston Civil War Roundtable shared with me a document held by his family, the discharge paper issued to one of his ancestors, Private John A. Stevens of Company G, Thirty-fifth Texas Dismounted Cavalry. According to family lore, Stevens’ company commander, Captain G. E. Warren, managed to grab a sheaf of blank discharge forms from headquarters and then put his company on the northbound train of the Houston & Texas Central. Captain Warren’s intent was apparently to keep them together as a unit and out of trouble and get them out of Houston and on their way to their homes. Warren took them on the train all the way to Navasota (near the end of the railroad at Millican) and, only after arriving there,  filled out the soldiers’ discharge papers and released them to make their way home. Private Stevens is said to have carried this discharge form on his person for many years after.

It’s wonderful to see a tangible document of this sort, it helps corroborate a story like this. It helps make the collapse of the Confederacy in Texas that much more real, at least for me. Thanks to my friend for sharing this with me.

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2 Responses

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  1. Danial F. Lisarelli said, on December 4, 2017 at 7:56 am

    The same thing happened at Hempstead, Texas. Walker’s Division was there from March to May of 1865 awaiting the arrival of Jefferson Davis to make the Last Stand of the Confederacy. Instead, when the news of Davis’ capture reached Texas, discharges were offered and Kirby Smith addressed whoever was still at Hempstead to bid them farewell.

  2. Tom Crane said, on December 4, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Daniel Lisarelli, how the heck are you? I was trying to reach you about a year ago.


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