By Jonnie Miller
Many of the men from Newton County served in Spaight's Battalion during the Civil War. Spaight's Battalion was the Eleventh Texas Infantry Battalion. It was a legion that contained both infantry and cavalry companies when first organized in Fannin County in April of 1882. It was composed of elements of the Sixth Texas Infantry known as Liken's infantry and the Sabine Pass Guards and included nearly 400 men. The original officers included Josephus S. Irvine as major, James B. Likens as major, and Ashley W. Spaight as lieutenant colonel. Most of the men who were enlisted came from Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange, Rusk, Smith and Tyler counties. It was sometimes called Irvine's infantry, O'Bryan's infantry, Keith's infantry, Marsh's infantry as well as Spaight's infantry. There were six companies for the majority of the war and a seventh was added in late 1864.
The Eleventh Texas infantry primarily operated in the Trans-Mississippi and was attached to Paul Hebert's Brigade and served at Sabine Pass, Beaumont, Houston, and Galveston. In March of 1864 the unit was sent to the southwestern corner of Louisiana to defend against the Union Army's Red River campaign. They were involved in several engagements including Taylor's Bayou and Sabine Pass in September, 1862; Galveston in January, 1863; Sabine Pass again in September, 1863; and Calcasieu Pass in May of 1864.
The men of the Eleventh often fought in swampy environments and contended with mosquitoes, yellow fever, dysentery and generally terrible conditions. They often had to contend with little food, terrible thirst under a burning sun or severe cold of winter's blast. Some of those from Newton County who served in Spaight's Battalion were: George Whitman, 3rd Cpl of Co C; Jonathan W. Young, Pvt of Co C; James T. Ramsey, 2nd Lt., Co C; John Lenahan, Co G and Co K, 21st TX Infantry; J.T. McQueen, Co I 13th TX Vols. and Co B; John H. Ford, Co E; Wiley M. Harper, 1st Cpl. Co C; Robert M. Stewart, Co C; Henry Thomas Westbrook, Co C.