Harriet Perry opened a letter written by her husband, Theophilus, on 9 March 1864 and read: “Our Regiment has been much corrupted with a spirit of Mutiny” (p. 224). Captain Perry's regiment, the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted), served in Walker’s Texas division and had several complaints. The men were still disgruntled over being dismounted nearly two years previously, but the ongoing cotton trade with the enemy infuriated them. What? Trading with the enemy? For several months Confederate officials had actively traded cotton to the enemy in exchange for various supplies including medicine and clothing. Soldiers were suspicious that this trade was nothing more than a way for high-ranking officers to get luxury items such as coffee and other desirable items. At least three units (the 28th Texas, Gould’s Battalion, and the 14th Texas Infantry) in Colonel Horace Randal’s brigade of Walker’s Texas division were roiled by turmoil.
“Expecting to have their grievances redressed satisfacterly [sic] by a bold show of resistance a large number of them on last Friday and Saturday refused to do any duty whatever. My Company [F] was badly misled in this disgraceful affair. I have had to arrest four of them and prefer charges against them to be tried before a general Court Martial” (p. 225). The next scene in the drama occurred when Lieutenant Colonel Eli H. Baxter, the commanding officer of the 28th Texas, arrested all five commanders of the companies involved in the mutiny—Captain Perry was part of the group. He explained to his wife that higher ranking officers pressured Baxter to arrest the company commanders. Perry observed that “Col. Baxter is alarmed. He is in the greatest trouble of mind. He knows, he feels that we will be able to show ourselves clean, and he already fears that we will fix the blame on him if any officer is to blame, for what they knew nothing at all about before hand. Col. Baxter says, he prays for a fight. Then all things will be dropped…He turns white when he thinks of what he has done” (p. 227-228).
Somehow, these soldiers put the controversy and turmoil behind them and performed effectively during the Red River campaign. Captain Perry fell mortally wounded at the battle of Pleasant Hill on 9 April 1864, just a month after he first mentioned the mutiny to his wife.
Note: all quotes are from Johansson, M. Jane, ed. Widows by the Thousand: The Civil War Letters of Theophilus and Harriet Perry, 1862-1864 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000).