Major John Alexander Formwalt and the Tenth Texas Infantry

Researched and Written by Terry Humble

Biography of John Alexander Formwalt

Descendants of Jacob Formwalt

John Alexander Formwalt joined the Confederate Army as a private on October 16, 1861, at Buchanan, Texas. He was forty-one years old and signed up for the duration of the war. He was put in Company C of the Tenth Texas Infantry Regiment at Houston, Texas. This group was known as Nelson’s Regiment of Texas Volunteers composed of eight companies, A through H, which had been mustered into service between October 13, and October 31, 1861.

To clarify how an army was made up at that time, a regiment was usually ten companies, each company having as many as eighty men although near the end of the Civil War thirty-five to forty were the normal compliment. Four to six regiments made up a brigade and two to four brigades a division. Two to four divisions made up a corps and several corps were an army.

Nelson’s regiment was sent to Virginia Point, Texas, October 25, 1861 and John Formwalt began a thirty-day furlough December 10. Upon his return, Companies I and K were formed on January 16 and 28, 1862, respectively. Formwalt was elected as the commanding officer of Company I and became a Captain on that day with the salary of $130.00 a month.

The troops were in Camp Hebert, three miles southeast of Hempstead, Texas, on Clear creek, during February and March, 1862.

His war records show that Captain Formwalt requisitioned twenty-two cords of wood for his eighty-man company on both months. On June 11, 1862, he requested two tents for his officers at Camp Texas.

Nelson’s Brigade, consisting of the 10th Texas Infantry, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) regiments, were sent to Arkansas.

On their way there, they were furnished cloth for knapsacks and tents and some clothing from the Huntsville, Texas penitentiary. Wagons and teams for hauling supplies were obtained at Tyler, Texas. They arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas in June 1862, and had taken part in a minor engagement at Devall’s Bluff on the White River. In July, 1862, they were at Bayou Hector, Arkansas.

In early August, the 10th Texas Infantry regiment arrived at Crystal Hill, Arkansas, fifteen miles from Little Rock. According to Major General Thomas Hindman, the Trans-Mississippi District commander, the 10thwere a “well armed and finely disciplined regiment.” From Crystal Hill, which was very unhealthy, the brigade moved to Camp Hope near Austin, Arkansas, twenty miles northeast of Little Rock, on the Searcy road. The men were instructed in infantry drill there. In September, 1862, the 16th Texas was taken out of the brigade and Colonel Allison Nelson who was from Waco, was promoted brigadier general and put in charge of the Second Division, consisting of his brigade and Colonel George Flournoy’s brigade. Nelson became ill of fever and died in camp on October 7, 1862.

A Colonel Sweet was put in charge of the brigade after Nelson’s death but proved so unpopular with the men that he was removed and Colonel James Deshler sent to take over. He was well liked and proved a very satisfactory leader. Thus, the 10th Texas, commanded by R.Q. Mills, was in Deshler’s brigade, Churchill’s division, Hindman’s corps and the Army of Trans-Mississippi under General Holmes.

In November, 1862, Deshler’s brigade was sent to Little Rock, arriving there the 23rd. Three days later, they left for Arkansas Post, arriving on November 28. Arkansas Post was on the Arkansas River, twenty miles above Napoleon, which was at the junction of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. There were approximately 4,800 men there under the command of General Churchill but only 3,000 of them were actually armed.

32,000 Union troops under Major General John McClernad came up the Arkansas River in sixty steamers commanded by Rear Admiral David Porter and attacked the fort on January 10, 1863. A thirty-hour battle ensued and the bombardment of the Federal iron-clads from the river literally decimated Arkansas Post. The 24th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) was evidently the first to raise the white flag of surrender supposedly from Churchill’s orders. He later denied giving the order, the blame falling on the 24th’s commander, Colonel Robert Garland. Bitter feelings were held over from this incident. According to the report given by the 10th Texas Infantry’s commanding officer, Deshler’s brigade continued to fight after the initial surrender and until ordered by Churchill to surrender.

The Confederate prisoners were put on board three Union steamers the following morning and taken down the Arkansas River to the confluence with the Mississippi. They then steamed up the Mississippi River stopping briefly at Memphis, Tennessee, and then proceeded to St. Louis, Missouri, arriving at that place January 22, 1863. The nine-day trip was very cold and miserable for the prisoners as it snowed and rained most of the trip. Many arrived with frostbite or pneumonia.

At St. Louis, the 310 officers were put on a train and taken to Columbus, Ohio and imprisoned at Camp Chase. John Formwalt’s description as he was checked into the prison camp was given as being forty-three years of age, six feet two inches tall, hazel eyes and having dark hair and a dark complexion. Food was plentiful at Camp Chase and time was spent playing checkers, cards or whittling.

About the first week of April, 1863, the prisoners were marched to Columbus and boarded a train to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There they were put on a steamer and went down the Delaware River to Fort Delaware where, on April 10, they were again imprisoned. Here the men lost all the flesh that had been gained due to being fed only two meager meals a day.

The latter part of April, the prisoners were put aboard another steamer and taken down river to City Point, Virginia, arriving there April 29, 1863. Some of the men became sea sick on this trip. On May 4, 598 Confederate prisoners of war were paroled for exchange. One of these was John A. Formwalt, Captain of the 10 Texas Infantry regiment. From City Point, the men went to Petersburg where they had the luxury of staying in hotels during the night. On May 6, the officers left for Richmond, Virginia where the enlisted men had arrived a week before from their imprisonment in Springfield, Illinois. Records show that on May 7, at Bird’s Mill, Captain Formwalt was paid $780.00 for the six month period from November, 1862 through April, 1863.

During the middle of May 1863, the Texas boys were sent by train to Tullahome, Tennessee to join the Army of Tennessee under General Bragg. The 10th Texas Infantry regiment joined with the 6th Texas Infantry and the 15th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) and this consolidated regiment was placed under the command of Colonel R.Q. Mills, and became part of Deshler’s brigade, Cleburne’s division and Hardee’s corps.

At Tullahome, Tennessee and eighteen miles away at Wartrace, the Texas men were constantly jeered at by the other soldiers due to the Arkansas Post surrender. The 24th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) was especially yelled at, they being the first to hoist the white flag.

In June, 1863, Cleburne’s division was overwhelmed defending Hoover Gap, and pulled back to Wartrace. Then General Bragg ordered a retreat to Chattanooga in July and they camped on the Tennessee River. Hardee’s corps moved into Tyner’s Station, Tennessee, during July and August and an investigation was made into the surrender of Arkansas Post. It was never positively determined exactly who gave the surrender order. Also in July, General Hill replaced General Hardee as corps commander. Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, pulled back from Chattanooga September 9, 1863, being out foxed by the Union General Rosecrans, who occupied Chattanooga.

Deshler’s brigade was sent to Catlett’s Gap, Georgia, southwest of Chickamauga Creek to defend this gap. Bragg then moved them to Dug Gap a few miles to the south on September 11. Skirmishes at these two gaps and also at Davis Crossroads and Lafayette took place during the days before the battle of Chickamauga, which began September 19, 1863, and lasted two hard fought days.

At the Battle of Chickamauga, Deshler’s brigade formed the left wing of Cleburne’s division, and fought against General George Thomas, whose fierce resistance earned him the title “Rock of Chickamauga.”

During this famous battle, 58,000 Federals fought 66,000 Confederates and both sides suffered about a twenty-eight percent casualty rate. One of those lost was General Deshler. Cleburne’s division had a casualty rate of thirty-four percent. The southerners finally won the battle and took 8,000 prisoners. The Union army retreated north toward Chattanooga. The 10th Texas Infantry Regiment remained in the Chickamauga area for eight or ten days, burying the dead and gathering up the arms from the battlefield.

After Chickamauga and the death of General Deshler, General James A. Smith took over the brigade and it became known as Smith’s Texas Brigade. Colonel Hiram B. Granbury and his 7th Texas Infantry were transferred to Smith’s brigade about this time and joined the 10th Texas Infantry regiment under Colonel Mills. They were under the command of Cleburne, whose division was in Hardee’s corps and Bragg’s Army of Tennessee.

Cleburne’s division moved up to encamp on Missionary Ridge the latter part of September 1863, and his men stood picket duty for almost two months. Ditches with breast works in front of them stretched across the crest of Missionary Ridge and also below the crest facing Lookout Mountain, in places being within one hundred yards of the Federal pickets. Every officer and soldier was required to go on picket every third day.

On November 7, 1863, Captain J.A. Formwalt of Company I, 10th Texas Infantry Regiment, was paid $780.00 for the period of May through October. Four days later he was reported as killed on Missionary Ridge. Luckily, this report was false as he was only wounded and temporarily among the missing.

General Bragg sent Cleburne’s division to Knoxville on November 23, to help General Longstreet and they marched to Chickamauga Station to board the trains at that place. Before they could depart, General Bragg realized his mistake and ordered them back to the ridge. So, on the morning of November 25, 1863, Cleburne’s division had just barely returned to their positions on the north end of Missionary Ridge when the attack by four divisions under General Sherman began.

In one of the first charges against the Texans, their brigade commander, General Smith was severely wounded as was Colonel Mills of the 10th Texas Infantry Regiment. Colonel Granbury took command of the brigade and Captain John R. Kennard was placed in charge of the 6th, 10th and 15th Consolidated Texas Infantry. During another assault by the enemy, one of the Texas batteries was so badly damaged that infantry men had to man the guns. In the afternoon, Mills’ Texans repulsed still another attack and turned the Federals back. General Cleburne later reported that the brunt of the long day’s fight was borne by Smith’s Texas Brigade and of eight stands of captured colors, four of them were presented to Cleburne by Mills’ 10th Texas regiment.

The Federal attack was too strong for the Confederates. First the center of the ridge fell, with the southern end following. Only the northern end remained in place, held by fierce fighting, and about 9 p.m. Cleburne ordered Smith’s brigade to retreat. In Cleburne’s words, “Sadly, but not fearfully, this band of heroes left the hill they had held so well, and followed the army across the Chickamauga.”

General Grant, with an effective Union force of 70,000 men suffered 5,800 casualties in their victory at Missionary Ridge. General Bragg, with 50,000 men, lost 6,700 men, over 4,000 of them were reported as having been taken prisoners by the Federals. Two days later, November 27, Cleburne’s division of 4,000 men were ordered to defend the gap in Taylor’s Ridge at Ringgold, Georgia, against the Union pursuit. Granbury’s 1,200 men were put in the gap and checked the Federals, capturing prisoners and a flag.

The day before Christmas, 1863, Captain Formwalt was paid for the month of November but it is not known were he was. If he had been wounded severely at Missionary Ridge, he may have been taken to the Confederate hospital at Marietta, Georgia. He was definitely back with the 10th Texas Infantry regiment by March, 1864, as he appears on the company muster roll for that month.

On February 22, 1864, Smith’s brigade was ordered out of its quarters at Tunnel Hill and sent to Dalton, Georgia, marching the nine miles to board a train there. They headed west but were stopped at Montgomery, Alabama, with orders to return to Dalton as fast as possible because Sherman was advancing from Jackson, Mississippi toward Meridian.

While the men were getting off the cars at Dalton, they were ordered to retake Dug Gap, four miles to the west which had been captured. The brigade drove the Federals out of the gap and on February 27, they went into winter bivouac near Dalton. A cold rain and wet tents added to the discontent of the men who were all uspet due to the recent reorganization and consolidation of the regiments.

On March 5, Granbury was promoted to brigadier general and assigned to command the brigade, which was then called Granbury’s Texas Brigade. At the request of the officers and men he took the 10th Texas Infantry from the 6th, 10th and 15th Consolidated Texas Regiment, allowing it to retain its individual organization. The 7th Texas Infantry was also kept as it was.

The remaining six regiments were then grouped together in pairs as consolidated regiments. They were known as the 6th and 15thConsolidated Texas Regiment, the 17th and 18th Cavalry Regiments and the 24th and 25th Consolidated Texas Regiment.

On May 8, Granbury’s brigade was again ordered to Dug Gap to help a small force of Kentucky cavalry and Arkansas infantry fight against a whole division of Federals. They defended the gap for several days and then on May 12, the whole army pulled back and took positions at Resaca, Georgia. For the next six days, they fought as they retreated south, passing through Calhoun, Adairsville, Kingston, Cass Station, and Cartersville, Georgia. On May 25, they were positioned around New Hope Church, twenty-five miles northwest of Atlanta and fought the Federal forces there.

General Cleburne reported:

“Here was the brunt of the battle, the enemy advancing along this front in numerous and constantly-reinforced lines. His men (Granbury) displayed a courage worthy of an honorable cause. The enemy were pressing in steady throngs within a few paces of our men, frequently exclaiming; `we have caught you without your logs now!’ Granbury’s men, needing no logs, were awaiting them, and throughout awaited them with calm determination, and as they appeared upon the slope, slaughtered them with deliberate aim. The piles of dead on his front, pronounced by the officers of this army who have seen most service to be greater than they had ever seen before, were a silent but sufficient eulogy upon Granbury and his noble Texans. About 10 p.m., I ordered Granbury and Lowrey to push forward skirmishers and scouts to learn the state of things in their respective fronts. Granbury, finding it impossible to advance his skirmishers until he had cleared his front of the enemy lying up against it, with my consent charged with his whole line. The Texans, their bayonets fixed, plunged into the darkness with a terrific yell, and with one bound were upon the enemy, but they met with no resistance. Surprised and panic-stricken, many fled, escaping in the darkness; others surrendered and were brought into our lines. It needed but the brilliancy of this night attack to add luster to the achievements of Granbury and his brigade in the afternoon. I am deeply indebted to them both.”

The next day, the men all got a good look at the battlefield and the amount of enemy dead were appalling. Many had been shot in the head and one report stated there were more than fifty dead in a thirty-foot circle. Another fight quickly broke out and the Federals were driven back to their breastworks. Fighting continued around New Hope Church until June 4, when Cleburne’s division was placed at Gilgal Church on the Lost Mountain Line, to the northeast of Kennesaw Mountain.

On June 5, 1864, they were within ten miles of Marietta Georgia, near Golgotha Church by June 12, and were on Mud Creek June 16. On June 27, they fought the battle of Kennesaw Mountain and inflicted heavy damage to Sherman’s army even though they were outnumbered 53,000 to 108,000.

On the night of July 2, Kennesaw Mountain was evacuated and Cleburne’s division was withdrawn to Smyra Camp Ground, ten miles south of Marietta. They remained there until July 5, when they moved toward the Chattahoochee River.

Since leaving Dalton, Georgia, in late February, Cleburne’s men were not driven out of a single position that they held but were required to fall back constantly to keep the Federals from getting behind them. It was reported that Sherman’s army totaled over 100,000 men while Johnston had 70,000 at the most. Cleburne’s men were fighting half of the Federal army while the other half was trying to flank them. They would have to march at night to avoid being flanked, fight the other half of the army that day and slip off again during the night.

The Texans crossed the Chattahooche River on July 7, and this gave the men a chance to clean up somewhat. During the night of the 9th, they fell back within sight of Atlanta. On July 17, Johnston was relieved of his command for not stopping the Union advance and General John Hood took command of the Army of Tennessee. The army became very demoralized after this change and the men refused to stand guard or do camp duty. General Johnston had been very well liked whereas the men lacked confidence in General Hood.

The battle of Peachtree Creek, five miles north of Atlanta, was fought on July 20, 1864, and although both sides had about 20,000 men engaged, the Confederates had 4,800 casualties while the Federals suffered only 1,800. The Confederate attack failed and when dark came they withdrew back to Atlanta. General James Smith was temporarily commanding Granbury’s brigade on July 21, when they suffered very heavy causalities from artillery fire. The men fought all day on Leggett’s Hill and Cleburne claimed this battle was the bitterest of his life as they were outnumbered in men, outclassed in artillery, and had to fight strictly on the defensive.

The next day, July 22, 1864, the battle of Atlanta began east of the city and Smith reported that during the heavy fighting of that day and the previous one, every regimental officer of the brigade was either killed, wounded or captured. He himself was wounded and Colonel Mills took over the brigade. After Mills was also severely wounded, the command devolved to Lieutenant Colonel Young, of the 10th Texas Infantry regiment. When Young moved up, Captain John A. Formwalt succeeded him as regimental commander of the 10th.

The Confederates under Young remained at Atlanta receiving almost constant shelling from the Federals. On July 28, heavy fighting took place at Ezra Church and the Confederates suffered heavy casualties.

They once again fell back into the fortifications of Atlanta. Sherman shelled the city day and night during the entire month of August. On August 25, Sherman tried getting behind Atlanta and cutting off one of the railroads into the city. Cleburne was sent to drive the Federals back and they engaged them at Jonesboro, twenty-six miles south of Atlanta, on August 31. The Confederates routed the Federals but were then ordered back. Again on September 1, Cleburne’s men were fighting near Jonesboro and could hear the explosions of the ammunition General Hood was blowing up as he evacuated Atlanta.

Cleburne’s division reached Lovejoy’s Station September 2, and met several Federal advances there. They were repulsed but fighting continued for several days. Sherman than recalled his men back to Atlanta which he had by now taken over.

Between September 6, and September 18, the Army of Tennessee was able to have some rest and quite at Jonesboro. On the 18th, they moved west toward Palmetto where they built breastworks and remained for about two weeks. During this time, Hardee was relieved for refusing to serve any longer under Hood. General Ben Cheatham took command of Hardee’s corps.

There was skirmishing October 2, at Big Shanty and Kennesaw Water Tank, where Hood’s men tore up the railway between Atlanta and Chattanooga. They camped at Cedertown on October 7, and on October 13, Cheatham’s corps seized Dalton and tore up the railroad there. On October 20, they were in Gadsden, Alabama, after having passed through Cave Springs, Rome, Lafayette, Alpine, and Blue Point. They left Gadsden on October 28, and arrived at Decatur, Alabama the same day. October 31, found them in Tuscumbia, Alabama where they stayed until November 15. Leaving there, they crossed the Tennessee River into Florence, Alabama and stayed there until the 21st. They passed through Rawhide on November 21, Waynesboro on the 23rd, and Mount Pleasant on November 26.

On November 29, Cleburne’s men had a skirmish at Spring Hill and then moved toward Franklin, Tennessee. The next day, November 30, the bloody battle of Franklin took place which cost the Confederacy nine generals. Cleburne and Granbury were both killed as was Lieutenant Colonel Young of the 10th Texas Infantry. Captain Kennedy took command of the 10th Texas Infantry and Captain E. T. Broughton of the brigade.

The Confederates tried driving the Federals from their well-manned breastworks but were unsuccessful. Attacking across open fields and against heavily defended positions cost them 6,300 casualties from a force of about 25,000. The Federals lost 2,300 men in comparison. During the night of November 30, the Union army slipped off and headed for Nashville. The Confederates did not follow until December 3, and then camped a few miles from the city.

While they were outside Nashville on December 6, General James A. Smith took command of the division. The army held their positions around Nashville until December 15, when the Federal army of 50,000 attacked, forcing the 25,000 Confederates into a full retreat. Thomas lost 3,000 men and Hood 6,000, 4,500 of these captured by Federals.

The Confederates passed through Colombia, Tennessee on December 19, and Pulaski on December 21. On Christmas day they reached the Tennessee River, seven miles above Florence and the next day crossed the river and went down it, passing through Tuscumbia and Inka and then Corinth, Mississippi on New Year’s Day 1865.

The army remained at Corinth all of January. Captain Formwalt was reported as being sick in Meridian, Mississippi on January 17, 1865. Shortly after this, the entire army boarded trains where they passed through Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama; Augusta, Georgia; Chester, South Carolina; Charlotte, Raleigh, and Wilmington, North Carolina, finally stopping to camp in Smithfield, North Carolina. The long train ride and the tedious stops caused Granbury’s men to create quite a lot of trouble. They had not been paid in almost ten months and being short on rations and especially tobacco, they liberated supplies at many of the stopovers.

The Confederates surrendered April 9, 1865 and at that time the 10th Texas Infantry regiment had been consolidated with the 6th, 7th and 15th Infantry, the 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th Cavalry (dismounted) to form the First Texas Regiment under Lt. Col. William Ryan. They were in Govan’s brigade, Brown’s division, Hardee’s corps, and Johnston’s army.

The day after the surrender, the Army of Tennessee marched to Raleigh, North Carolina, reaching there April 12. From there they went to Salem, April 13, where Cleburne’s division (now led by Brown) stayed until April 23. They arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina, April 26, where they officially surrendered and were paroled that same day.

The men of Granbury’s brigade sent General Johnston a letter asking him to stop by and see them before leaving. John A. Formwalt signed the letter as Major, second in command of the regiment under Lt. Col. Ryan. Muster rolls were turned in on April 29, for paroles which were given out May 2, 527 Texans were issued paroles, a far cry from the many who had started out. When they had left Texas in the beginning, any one of the eight regiments had numbered almost 1,000 men.

The Texans left Greensboro, May 3, walking to the railroad fifty miles above Knoxville, Tennessee, which took them until May 22. There they took the trail down to Knoxville, reaching Chattanooga the next day and Nashville, May 25. The following day they boarded a steamboat and started down the Cumberland River and into the Ohio River. They passed Paducah, Kentucky, May 28, Memphis, Tennessee, May 29, Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 30, and reached New Orleans, June 1, 1865.

They remained there until June 10, when they boarded another steamship for Galveston, Texas, arriving June 13. The next day they boarded cars for Houston, arriving the same afternoon. From there they each went their separate ways. Several days later, Major Formwalt stepped off the train at Granbury after an absence of almost four years.

Terry Humble, Post Office Box 879, Bayard, New Mexico 88023