The American Civil War was not the only event of global significance in early 1863. On January 22, 1863, the Polish inhabitants of the Russian Empire rose up against the government of Tsar Alexander II. The uprising resulted in atrocities on both sides before being savagely suppressed in the following year.
On January 21, 1863, a Confederate naval squadron led by Major General John Magruder expelled Union forces from an important port at the mouth of the Sabine River in Texas. The Gulf Coast had figured prominently in Union planning from the beginning of the war. Union strategists hoped to resume the delivery of cotton to Northern textile mills.
On January 20, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Union’s Army of the Potomac, tried to march on Richmond. In part, Burnside was seeking to reverse the sting of the Battle of Fredericksburg, a largely one-sided engagement in the previous month that had seen appalling Union casualties.
On January 17, 1863, Assistant Adjutant-General J.B. Eustis wrote an urgent letter, instructing his subordinates to petition the Confederate government to send arms to Central Texas. In justifying his request, Eustis warned that Union forces might infiltrate the Rio Grande.
He also worried that local Germans were plotting insurrection. There is little doubt that many Germans, who had established Hill Country communities like New Braunfels, Comfort and Fredericksburg in the 1840s, were lukewarm in their support of the Confederacy.