Augusta native played major role in history of Civil War

Remember the Alamo!


-- Famous battle cry

This will be the year many mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The city of Charleston, in particular, has several events commemorating that first attack on Fort Sumter.

But this most famous of American wars almost didn't start in Charleston harbor, it almost began a few months before in Texas at the Alamo, of all places.

And the man in the middle of that adventure was Augusta's David Twiggs .

Here's the story.

In February 1861, with a war between the states looming, a group of secession-minded Texans confronted then-Gen. Twiggs, who controlled U.S. Army garrisons and arsenals in that state. They demanded he surrender five dozen sites to the state of Texas.

Twiggs, long frustrated at not getting any direction from Washington on what to do if this happened, gave in, left town and even quit the U.S. Army. His surrender gave the Southern cause an enormous amount of guns and supplies and forts without firing a shot.

If Twiggs had decided to fight, Texans say, the American Civil War would have begun with an attack on his headquarters at the famous and familiar Alamo, and we would be remembering it today instead of Fort Sumter.

Most historians doubt Twiggs lost sleep over his surrender. They point out he was a Southern sympathizer who saw an advantage to giving the Rebels all his military hardware. The fact that he accepted a Confederate generalship a few months later would seem to be more than coincidence.

In Texas they remain sympathetic. They say Twiggs was actually intercepted one morning while riding his buggy to his headquarters, surrounded by a rough bunch of Lone Star Indian fighters and told to give it up.

If that was the case, it might have been the only time Twiggs -- then in his 70s -- surrendered anything. The Richmond County native was a fighter.

His father was a hero of the American Revolution (Georgia's Twiggs County is named for him), and David was even more aggressive. Born in south Richmond County in 1790, he joined the Army to battle the British during the War of 1812 and continued a legacy of bravery into the Mexican War.

There, in his 50s, he led men into battle many times. He was wounded at Chapultepec, and after the war, his Congressional admirers -- not yet in the habit of handing out medals of honor -- gave him a sword.

After the Civil War began, Twiggs' status as a Confederate general was brief. The oldest general in either army, he grew ill, retired and died the following year. He was buried next to his famous father in a family cemetery off Goshen Road near Georgia Highway 56.

It probably gets few visitors, certainly not like the crowd that greeted Twiggs on his return home to Augusta after the Mexican War.

That's when the city honored its native son as a military hero. But he wasn't the only one.

The city also gave banquets and honors to several Mexican War heroes, among them Robert Anderson, who was then stationed at the Augusta Arsenal.

Here is where history records another of its many coincidences. It was Anderson who in April 1861 refused to surrender his federal command at Charleston's Fort Sumter, provoking the war that Twiggs had avoided.



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