Sunday, February 21, 2010


A slice of pioneer life in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana is told through the diary and letters of Willam Berry Duncan in “Moss Bluff Rebel: A Texas Pioneer in the Civil War” by Philip Caudill (Texas A&M Press, College Station, 2009).

The book is particularly pertinent to Southwest Louisiana history because Duncan, a native of St. Martinville, was a cattleman in Liberty, Texas, who drove cattle to market across this area to get them to their ultimate destination of New Orleans.

The time period covered by the book includes both his cattle drives before the war, his wartime activity — which was nearly all spent in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana, including Lake Charles — and the post-war struggle for survival for himself and his family.
Duncan was born in 1818 and moved with his family as a child to Liberty, Texas, which was still a part of Mexico.

During the Texas Revolution, he served at age 18 as a private in the Texas Army. He became a prosperous cattleman and expert at driving herds of cattle through this area. The book gives a good view of the cattle industry in this region at that time.

During the War Between the States, he became captain of the Moss Bluff Rebels, a cavalry company in Spaight’s Battalion Texas Volunteers.

His unit spent almost the entire war in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana, so it is a valuable addition to the history of this area during that time period.

In the Battle of Calcasieu Pass on May 6, 1864, Duncan and his company were stationed in Lake Charles guarding the town. The battle took place on what is now Monkey Island in Cameron.

After the war, Duncan and his family struggled to rebuild their lives during the povety-wracked Reconstruction Era.

“Moss Bluff Rebel: A Texas Pioneer in the Civil War” by Philip Caudill; Texas A&M Press, (, 211 pages, notes, index; hardback, $29.95.

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