In 1964, the Texas Gulf Coast Historical Association published a slender volume by Dr. Alwyn Barr titled Polignac’s Texas Brigade. While paging through it earlier today, I was reminded of the high quality of Barr’s research and how he was able to pack so much information into only seventy-two pages. The brigade had a colorful career neatly summarized by Barr in the following:
“Much of the brigade was recruited from the partially Unionist inhabitants of North Texas, who held many different views on the war and generally lacked the war spirit found in most other portions of the state. Three regiments were raised as cavalry and later dismounted to serve as infantry; another was a consolidated command composed of Texans who had escaped from the capture of Arkansas Post in 1863.Finally, in 1863, the brigade received as its commander the only foreign citizen to become a Confederate general, Prince Camille de Polignac. This oddly assorted unit served under ten commanders, in ten major engagements, and through long periods of skirmishing and hardship in Missouri, Arkansas, the Indian Territory, Louisiana, and Texas. Yet the members of this command, which at various times included approximately five thousand men, left virtually no printed records of their service” (p. xv). Texas A&M University Press reprinted the book in 1998 and included an extra preface that described additional resources that had surfaced about the brigade.
Those Texas soldiers were astonished when the dapper Polignac became their commander in the fall of 1863, and they promptly called him “Polecat.” The blurb on the back of the book calls Barr’s book a “little masterpiece of Civil War history,” an accurate assessment in my opinion.