Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Famous Refugee from the American Civil War

War always creates refugees, and civil wars especially so. As North and South fought it out, large numbers of civilians fled the advancing armies and guerrilla raiders. To find safety, civilians often trailed along with the armies.

One such refugee was Roy Bean, the colorful self-appointed judge I mentioned in a previous post. Before he set up his own law practice in Texas, he had been knocking around the West and getting into gunfights, doing a spell in prison, and nearly getting lynched by angry Mexicans after killing one of their number. Basically all the things a Wild West judge was expected to do before starting a career upholding the law.

The start of the war found Roy and his brother running a store and saloon in New Mexico Territory. He had a cannon out front that he used to repel Apache raiders. The Confederate army invaded New Mexico from Texas in late 1861 but suffered a severe defeat at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in March 1862. They were forced to make a long retreat back to San Antonio.

Roy decided to go with them. Perhaps he feared more Apache raids since there wouldn't be an army around to protect the towns. He took the store's savings (which may or may not have included his brother's share) and joined the retreating column. Once he got to he made a good profit shipping cotton from San Antonio to British ships at Matamoros, Mexico, and returning with goods that the Confederacy needed. The Confederacy was under a blockade and the Mexican border was one of the few places where merchants could trade with the outside world.

As usual, this crazy Wild West character saw a good chance and took it.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.


  1. I am a little shocked about this revelation. I assumed all Americans understood and appreciated the goals and sacrifices of the Civil War. Now I know.

    This is one of the most informative blogs I have encountered in the blogosphere. Consider me a dedicated fan.

  2. He certainly knew how to break the law. Wonder what happened to his brother?


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