As is true with the many black Southerners who fought with and for the South, (Yes, folks, the South had black soldiers before the North thought of using them. It’s just a shame they didn’t use more! Evidently Patrick Cleburne and others advocated this idea rather early in the war) I’m convinced that the role of Hispanic Confederates in the War Between the States has been gravely neglected. I already knew that Juan Seguin and other Tejanos during the Texas Revolution had slipped from prominence in the history books, and that is why writing and talking so much about them. I think I’m also going to have to add Col. Santos Benavides (1823-1891) to my list of men to write about and include in my Texas History Program that I do in schools. Here are some highlights of this forgotten Hispanic Confederate leader and warrior:
1. He was the highest ranking Hispanic to serve in the Confederacy. He was captain of the 33rd Texas until promoted to colonel in 1863. According the Handbook of Texas Online, “His greatest military triumph was his defense of Laredo on March 19, 1864, with forty-two troops against 200 soldiers of the Union First Texas Cavalry, commanded by Col. Edmund J. Davis, who had, ironically, offered Benavides a Union generalship earlier. Perhaps Benavides’s most significant contribution to the South came when he arranged for safe passage of Texas cotton along the Rio Grande to Matamoros during the Union occupation of Brownsville in 1864.”
2. Before serving with the Confederacy, he had a reputation as an Indian fighter. Below is a photo of Benavides and one of his gravestone. I sense there’s a real story waiting for me about this man.