old man walked from house to house in the middle class North Dallas neighborhood.
When he knocked on the door of printer Bryan Snyder Jr.’s home at 4409
Irving Ave. that summer day in the early 1930s, Mrs. Margarite Snyder graciously
let him in. Doffing his sweat-stained hat, the visitor looked around the family’s
living room. His still-clear eyes stopped at the oil painting hanging over the
mantle above the Snyder family’s gas-log fireplace. The artwork, done from life,
depicted Maj. Gen. Sterling Price in his Confederate uniform.
to attention with a click of his heels, the old-timer presented a crisp salute
to the long-dead officer.
In the early days of the Depression, many a man
– young and old – peddled something or another in an effort to get by. But this
man, though as destitute as most of the door-to-door men, had a different story.
The gray coat he wore had brass buttons and faded yellow chevrons on its sleeves.
He had fought in the Civil War.
Mrs. Snyder’s oldest son, Bryan III, listened
as the old-timer made his pitch. For two bits, he offered a Civil War-related
“I don’t remember what the booklet was about,” the now 85-year-old
son recalled recently, “but Mother gave him a little money for it.”
her, the old soldier shouldered his worn leather satchel, put his hat back on
his head, wished the Snyders a good day and walked slowly downhill toward the
next house on the street.
Snyder never knew if the old soldier who came
to his family’s home that day had served under Price, but one of Dallas’ United
Veterans of the Confederacy camps had been named after the general. For Snyder,
the connection to Price was much closer – the colorful general was his great-great
known for the key part he played in the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas, Price
was born in Virginia but grew up in Missouri. He represented the “Show Me” state
in Congress and served until the beginning of the Mexican War, when he signed
up to fight.
After the war, Price got elected as Missouri’s governor.
When the Civil War broke out, Price again donned a uniform – this one gray. Following
the collapse of the Confederacy in 1865, an unreconstructed Price fled to Mexico
hoping the South could continue the fight. He died in St. Louis on Sept. 29, 1867.
The oil painting of the general remains in Dallas, hanging in the home
of Oliver Snyder, one of Bryan Snyder’s two brothers. But the Snyder family no
longer has the pamphlet Mrs. Snyder bought from the veteran and Bryan Snyder,
now the oldest descendant, has no idea who the old man was other than a survivor
of what still ranks as America’s deadliest war.
The booklet could have
been a publication produced by the UVC in 1907, “A History of Confederate Battle
Flags.” The organization sold the pamphlet for 25 cents, but it proved a financial
flop. Today, of course, it’s a collector’s item and would be worth considerably
more than a quarter.
One thing is certain: The old Rebel who came to the
Snyder residence was one of a rapidly dwindling number. The Confederate Veteran,
a monthly magazine that for 40 years had played an important role in uniting Southern
veterans, published its last issue in December 1932. In a story noting that, Time
Magazine observed that only about 4,500 still lived.
Long before then,
the UVC and its members had given up on their dream of getting another shot at
the Yankees, but they had continued to fight for veteran’s benefits. While always
a contentious political issue, thanks to the UVC, the state and U.S. government
offered increasingly better benefits and care for Civil War veterans as they continued
had not always treated its old vets as respectfully as Mrs. Snyder did.
In the spring of 1909, W.W. Walker, later described as “between 70 and 80 years
of age” took the train from Nacogdoches
to Austin to collect his $15.25 pension
warrant and take care of some other business.
The old soldier got his money but before he could get back on the
train for East Texas, someone assaulted him and took his cash. When
he learned that Walker had not made it home, Rep. Homer Dotson of
Nacogdoches went looking for him.
As the Galveston Daily News
reported, the lawmaker “found the old man walking about the streets. He said he
had no money and had not eaten since yesterday.”
Dotson and a legislative colleague passed a hat in the House and collected
$23.55 to give the aged former soldier. The Nacogdoches lawmaker bought
Walker a ticket home and escorted him to the depot to make sure he
suffered no further harm in the capital city.
July 12, 2007 column
by Mike Cox|
Texas Ranger Tales II