The Great Escort...
One of the bravest and coldest ventures of winter war fare when Ross’s Texas Brigade was assigned a most important duty. Its job was to escort some 23 supply wagons into the hands of General Edmund Kirby Smith. He desperately needed the supplies, which were mostly weapons, and it was now in the dead of winter.
On December 22nd, they plodded north and eventually toward Arkansas. The rain began to pour and by the 1st of January 1864 the Texas Brigade found themselves bogged down deep in the mud. The mud was so deep that it was up to the horse’s chest. The rain turned to snow and ice formed an inch and a half. The men of the Texas Brigade had to physically extract the cargo of weapons from the wagons and carry them by hand. The ice bound supply line was now strung out for miles. The men now carried four extra rifles a piece on their horses as they rode west through sleet and rain toward Gaines’s Ferry on the Mississippi.
At the end of a forty-mile trek in the blinding snow they reach the river on the evening of January 5th. The Texas brigade found flat boats and pulled it into place with oxen. Freezing cold, several men volunteered to help fairy the boat across. Of the volunteers were three stepped forward for the 3rd Texas Cavalry. They were Sergeant Major Nathen Gregg, Sergeant John Long and Private Cyrus James, a Choctaw and part of the 3rd Texas. They manage to navigate the craft, some of them wading in the icy water some five miles. There on the other side of the bank, they delivered the weapons into the hands of the Arkansas Confederates.
When the men returned their clothes were frozen so hard that they could not sit down. No fires were to be allowed for fear of alerting the Federal forces in the area. They weather grew colder and though frozen, even more weapons were ferried across using various small boots found in the area. As the mission was accomplished, the cold became even greater. The horse’s hooves began to split from it and the Texas Brigade moved away from the river and bivouac. They killed wild hogs and warmed themselves.
On January 10, they started their journey back.