Who were the typical loyal soldiers of the Confederate States of America over a century and a half ago? They were not just soldiers, but marines and sailors collectively known as ‘confederates’. There were individuals serving with their state militias and with the Army of the Confederate States, but most were volunteers and others later who were conscripted into the service.
Typically a rebel warrior of the South in the 1860s was portrayed as a white male of Scots-Irish heritage, a member of the Protestant religion and who worked the land as a farmer. This description is true of the vast majority of Confederate soldiers, yet not solely the only type of Rebel that existed.
There was a couple of African-American Confederate forces raised, but never fully utilized. Several Native Indian tribes fought on the Confederate side; including the Seminoles, Cherokees, Catawbas, Choctaws and Creeks. Yet, the one ethnic group many times has been overlooked were those of Hispanic background.
Throughout numerous Confederate units and many state militias, scores of Hispanics served as non-commissioned officers and enlisted men. Some were not born in the United States, but rather had come later to America. Many others were of mixed Anglo-Hispanic roots.
This forgotten ethnic group of Confederate soldiers served the South well during the War Between the States. One of the most respected commanders, who was born in Cuba, was Ambrosio Jose Gonzales. Ambrosio was born October 3, 1818 in the Matanzas Province, Cuba to a well-respected family in Cuba of Spanish heritage. He had been schooled as a boy in New York and earned a degree from Havana University.
As a young man in his thirties he had worked tirelessly to secure Cuba’s freedom from Spain. Two major attempts, one in 1850 and another in 1851 both failed. Gonzales had also hoped at one point that Cuba would be annexed by the United States.
Unsuccessful at changing the political make-up of his native homeland Ambrosio moved permanently to the United States in 1851 and was married in 1856 to Harriett Rutledge Elliott, a daughter of a South Carolina State Senator. They had six children between 1857 and 1869.
Due to his marriage to a South Carolinian and his interest in the South he joined the Confederate cause. One of his classmates when he had attended school in New York was Pierre Gustave Toutant ( P. G. T.) Beauregard of Louisiana. With the outbreak of war in 1861, Ambrosio J. Gonzales was made a colonel and given the command as an artillery officer in Charleston and served under his friend General Beauregard.
Colonel Gonzales’ duties included helping with the defense the South Carolina coast. His greatest achievement was as the artillery commander at the Battle of Honey Hill. That battle was in Jasper County, South Carolina on November 30, 1864. It was the third battle of Sherman’s March to the Sea. The Union forces had hoped to cut off supply lines between Charleston and the Savannah Railroad. This battle was a Confederate victory in part to the artillery skills of Colonel Gonzales. He also served as an artillery commander in Georgia and Florida.
After the war, it was a difficult life for Ambrosio Gonzales and his family. His wife died in October 1869 at age 30 and there was financial ruin for the Gonzales family for years after the end of the Civil War. Ambrosio had returned to Cuba with his South Carolina family following the war in hopes of improving his economic situation.
He and his family returned to the United States in the 1870s and Ambrosio eventually died on July 31, 1893 of disease in New York without seeing Cuba at last freed from Spanish rule with the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Numerous examples exist of other Hispanics officers and soldiers who served the Confederate States of America as well as the Federal Union forces. This long-forgotten group of over 12,000 can be recognized for their bravery some 150 years later. Small samplings of those Hispanic Confederate soldiers are listed below:
Capt. T. M. Alonzo, Co. D, 4th Reg’t, 1st Brig., Louisiana Militia
2nd Lt. P. Marrero, Gomez’s Co A, 22nd LA Infantry
Lt. Col. William Baya, Co. D, 8th Florida Infantry
1st Lt. Jesus T. Castro, Co C, Ragesdales Battn., TX Cavalry
3rd Lt. H. H. De Leon, Eason’s Co., 16th SC Militia Regiment
2nd Lt. Jerome Eslava, Mobile City Troops, Alabama
Capt. Refugio Benavides, Co I, 33rd TX Cavalry
Capt. Robert L. Francisco, Co E, 4th VA Infantry
2nd Lt. Celestino Moreno, Co G, 60th NC Infantry
Lt. Daniel Gonzalez, Confederate States Marine Corps (Savannah Station, CSS Macon, CSS Sampson)
1st Lt. Henry G. Fernandez, Co G, 11th Mississippi Infantry
2nd Lt. Joseph S. Hernandez, Co A, 26th GA Infantry
Pvt. Ferdinand Alvarez is listed as serving in both Co A, Boone’s Reg’t, Missouri Mounted Infantry and Co. G, 9th Missouri Infantry.
Ambrosio Gonzales – Find A Grave
Ambrosio J. Gonzales – bio
Gonzales and Elliott Families
Cuba and Gonzales