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Pioneers of Ellis County

Colonel Benjamin W. F. Watson

 

Colonel Benjamin W. F. Watson, was born in 1830 Virginia, the son of Richard Price Watson and Elizabeth McGeehee. He was named for his father's six brothers, Benjamin, William, Abner, Joseph, John and Frederick. The family moved to Texas in 1833, settling on the south side of Chambers Creek near the present site of Italy where the father died before the Civil War.

In 1862, Watson raised a company of cavalry which later became Company "C" of the 19th Texas Cavalry Regiment. He was named Captain and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment a month later. The following is an abstract of a tribute to Colonel Watson's military career as written by Captain W. H. Getzendaner, a fellow officer in the Texas Cavalry.

Colonel Watson soon displayed considerable genius in military affairs, and was always ready for service, taking command of the regiment in trying moments such as the Marmaduke raid into Missouri. On several occasions, he distinguished himself by his coolness in action, the handling of his command and his gallant conduct. As the war progressed, his popularity increased with both his own command as well as the brigade, and his reputation spread rapidly. His military genius was apparent in the pursuit of General Banks down the Red River and by the end of that long, arduous campaign, he had added even more laurels. Colonel Watson succeeded Colonel Burford when the latter resigned and had the war not ended, he was believed to be in line for a promotion to Brigadier-General. Captain Getzendaner believed him to be the finest civilian officer of the Trans-Mississippi Department.

During the Marmaduke raid into Missouri Colonel Watson fought a duel successfully, using side-arms against a Union colonel in front of the troops of their opposed cavalry regiments. The Northern forces retired from the field when their commander fell. Extant correspondence from Colonel Watson to his wife, Margaret, exemplifies the absolute dedication and commitment of the Confederate forces to their cause, a commitment which was equally reflected by the civilian population of the South - a concrete illustration of "total war" before the phrase was coined.

Colonel Watson was serving under General E. Kirby Smith at the end of the war, was paroled on July 10, 1865. and returned to Ellis County.

Colonel Watson first married the sister of Winfield Scott who died without issue. His second wife was Margaret Overstreet of Marshall, Texas, by whom he had four daughters and two sons: Elizabeth Watson (Mrs. E. P. Anderson); Nancy Margaret Watson (Mrs. P. H. Templeton); Miriam Melwood "Molly" Watson (Mrs. E. A. DuBose); Bennie Ruth Watson (Mrs Y. D. Kemble); John F. Watson and William Watson.

Colonel Watson died in September, 1873 at the age of 43, depriving the community of a responsible leader in the critical reconstruction period. The Sims-Watson Chapter of the Texas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy bears his name - a fitting memorial to his illustrious military career.

References:

Memorial & Biographical History of Ellis County, Lewis Publishing Co., 1892.

An Addition to Our Memorial And Biographical History of Ellis County; Pub. By Ellis County Historical Museum & Art Gallery, Inc.


 

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