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Monday, August 5, 2013
A Famous Refugee from the American Civil War
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.