It was horrific. One historian called it “a crime unjustified by even the rules of savage warfare.” August 1862. Several dozen Hill Country men, mostly Germans, are camped along the banks of the Nueces River. The Civil War is raging – but most of these men deeply oppose slavery… and refuse to fight for the Confederacy. And now, they’re on the run. Their destination: Mexico. They’ll be safe there, from the roving Confederate gangs looking to punish deserters.
Little do they know, a group of Confederate soldiers is in hot pursuit – on horseback. Shots ring out. An ambush. It was never a fair fight. When the smoke clears, 19 Germans lie dead. Another 15 or so wounded; some manage to escape. Perhaps some of the Confederate attackers had second thoughts. One later wrote: “Some of the more humane of us did what we could to ease the sufferings of the wounded Germans…We bound up their wounds, and gave them water, and laid them as comfortably as we could in the shade. Poor creatures, how grateful they were!”
But two hours later, nine of the wounded are taken outside the camp - and executed. A week later, eight more are caught trying to escape cross the Rio Grande; they, too, are executed. It was called the Nueces Massacre. It struck fear in Germans across Texas. German immigration halted. “To the German colonies [in Texas],” wrote August Siemering, “the war had been like a nightmare.” Many Germans in Texas fled North, or to Mexico. Everyone else held their tongues… and prayed for the war to pass.
The Treue der Union Monument stands as a memorial to the 36 German men and boys killed in this incident. The limestone obelisk is the oldest Civil War memorial in Texas, and the state’s only Union monument.
Watch our War and Suspicion in German Texas video to learn more about German Texan cultural heritage in Texas. This video was produced for inclusion in our German Texans mobile tour found in our Texas Time Travel Tours mobile app. Download the app for more videos and travel information: