Spaight's Battalion and It's Many Faces
By Jonnie Miller
Spaight's Battalion was a legion that contained both infantry and cavalry companies. It was first organized in Fannin County in April of 1862. 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, and Orange, Rusk, Smith and Tyler counties.
The Battalion was sometimes called Irvine's infantry, O'Bryan's infantry, Keith's infantry, Marsh's infantry as well as Spaight's infantry. In 1863 the Battalion was called "Swamp Angels."
Also known as The Eleventh Texas Infantry, the Battalion primarily operated in the Trans-Mississippi and was attached to Paul Hebert's Brigade. It served at Sabine Pass, Beaumont, Houston, and Galveston. The Battalion was 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.
During the spring of 1864 the Battalion was merged into the 21st Texan Infantry Regiment, which was a consolidation of the 11th and Griffin's Texas Infantry Battalion. The unit consisted of 14 officers and 235 men. In March of 1864 the unit was sent to the southwestern corner of Louisiana to defend against the Union Army's Red River campaign. Later the unit moved into parts of Louisiana returning again to Texas and disbanding in June of 1865.
Many of the men from Newton County served in Spaight's Battalion during the Civil War. 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 or no 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 and Co K, 21st TX Infantry; J.T. McQueen, Co 113th 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.