A Civil War Biography

David Emanuel Twiggs

Twiggs was born in 1790 in Richmond County, Georgia. He was the son of Revolutionary War hero John Twiggs. The younger Twiggs entered the military as a captain in the War of 1812 and saw limited action. Following the War of 1812 he returned to civilian duty but after 11 years he decided to make the military his career. He was commissioned and steadily rose through the ranks seeing action during the Black Hawk, Seminole, and Mexican wars reaching the rank of brigadier general with a brevet of major general received for his service in Mexico. He was awarded a sword by Congress for his Mexican War service. In 1856, after serving in various military capacities, Twiggs was given command of the Department of Texas with orders to protect the settlers from the Comanche's and other marauding Indians.

As the secession crisis intensified, Twiggs, who sympathized with the South, repeatedly asked Washington about the disposition of his forces and government property if the state of Texas demanded their surrender. From his headquarters in San Antonio he sent a letter to Winfield Scott on 15 January 1861 explaining his plight. "I am placed in a most embarrassing situation. I am a southern man and all these states will secede... As soon as I know Georgia has separated from the Union I must, of course, follow her. I most respectfully ask to be relieved in the command of this department... All I have is in the South." The only answer Twiggs received from Washington was to protect government property without waging war or acting aggressively.

On 18 February 1861 1000 armed Texans under the command of Ben McCulloch surrounded Twigg's 160 man garrison and demanded their surrender. Although he managed to remove his men and as much equipment as possible, he was labeled a traitor in the North for surrendering Texas leaving $1.6 million in government property to be seized by the Confederacy. Twiggs was dismissed from the army on 1 March for "treachery to the flag".

Offering his services to the South he was commissioned a major general on 22 March becoming the oldest ex-officer in the US Army to join the Confederacy. He was assigned command of the District of Louisiana on 17 April. On 27 May he was given command of Department No.1 which included Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and southern Alabama. His health declining, some say due to the mental anguish caused by Twiggs's dishonorable discharge from the U.S. army, Twiggs retired on 18 October never having fully assumed his duties. He died 15 July 1862 in Augusta, Georgia. Although reviled in the North his actions, he undoubtedly prevented the opening shots of the inevitable conflict from being fired for another 2 months.

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