So wrote Texas pioneer cattle drover William Berry Duncan in his March 29, 1862 diary entry, the day he joined the Confederate Army. Despite his misgivings, Duncan left his prosperous business to lead neighbors and fellow volunteers as commanding officer of cavalry Company F of Spaight’s Eleventh Battalion that later became the 21st Texas Infantry in America’s Civil War.
Philip Caudill’s rich account, drawn from Duncan’s previously untapped diaries and letters written by candlelight on the Gulf Coast cattle trail to New Orleans, in Confederate Army camps, and on his southeast Texas farm after the war, reveals the personable Duncan as a man of steadfast integrity and extraordinary leadership. After the war, he returned to his home in Liberty County and battled for survival on the chaotic Reconstruction-era Texas frontier.
Supplemented by archival records and complementary accounts, Moss Bluff Rebel paints a picture of everyday life for the Anglo-Texans who settled the Mexican land grants in the early nineteenth-century and subsequently became citizens of the proudly independent Texas Republic. The carefully crafted narrative goes on to reveal the wartime emotions of a reluctant Confederate officer and his postwar struggles to reinvent the lifestyle he knew before the war, a way of life he sensed was lost forever.
Moss Bluff Rebel will appeal to history lovers of all ages attracted to the drama of the Civil War period and the men and women who shaped the Texas frontier.
“In Moss Bluff Rebel, Philip Caudill skillfully traces the life and times of William Berry Duncan, Liberty county clerk, sheriff, cattleman, entrepreneur and Confederate soldier. Fully utilizing primary sources, especially Duncan’s diaries, and secondary accounts, Caudill describes Duncan’s experiences as a captain in Spaight’s battalion in Civil War action in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. The author is a diligent researcher, forceful writer – and coincidentally, an entertaining public speaker – and readers will enjoy this spirited narrative about a reluctant Rebel in the Civil War and Reconstruction.”
Ralph A. Wooster
Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus
“Philip Caudill’s Moss Bluff Rebel illustrates what can happen when a skilled journalist uncovers a goldmine of robust but underutilized primary sources. This masterfully written and carefully researched biography captures the spirit of Captain William Berry Duncan, a little-known Texas cattleman and businessman who like thousands of other southern pioneers reluctantly swore allegiance to the Confederate cause. A riveting read that both enlightens and entertains, Moss Bluff Rebel will be welcomed by academics and history buffs alike who aspire to understand the ambiguities of this tumultuous era.”
Terry D. Bilhartz, PhD
Professor of History & Department Chair
Sam Houston State University
“In this well-crafted biography, Phil Caudill paints a vivid portrait of William Berry Duncan’s fascinating life. Moreover, he gives us one of the best glimpses yet of life on the Civil War home front in Texas.”
Lowe Chair in Texas History
Texas Christian University