Xavier Blanchard DeBray


Xavier Blanchard DeBray was born on January 25, 1818, in Epinal, France.' Stories of his early life, written shortly after his death and based on what little he told contemporaries, are sketchy and contradictory. One authority states that he attended St. Cyr, the French military college, and afterwards served in the French diplomatic corps. However, it is doubtful he did either. The same authority has him immigrating to Texas in 1852 because of political differences with Emperor Napoleon III. A more modern authority cites evidence indicating that DeBray landed in New York City on September 25, 1848, and eventually settled in Texas. The author believes that the old stories contained a grain of truth—that DeBray matriculated at a national college in Paris, and that during the Revolution of 1848 he wrote political pamphlets advocating revolution, which angered the government and caused him to emigrate. In San Antonio he published a Spanish language newspaper, E! Bejarefio. In 1855 he moved to Austin, edited a newspaper there, and worked as a translator in the state land office. In March, 1856, DeBray founded an academy, which flourished until 1861.

Upon his adopted state's secession, DeBray joined a Travis County company, the "Tom Green Rifles" (later Company B, 4th Texas Infantry), as first lieutenant. In the summer of 1861 Governor Edward Clark appointed DeBray an aide-de-camp on the governor's staff. On August 10, 1861, DeBray was appointed major of the 2nd Texas Infantry, and was that regiment's drillmaster. When a newly raised cavalry battalion (later formed into the 26th Texas Cavalry) lost its commander, DeBray was appointed lieutenant colonel to replace him, to rank from December 7, 1861. DeBray was elected colonel of the 26th on March 17, 1862. The 26th was a garrison unit in Texas until 1864- Its only combat action during the first three years of the war was in the January 1, 1863, retaking of Galveston. For his performance in the attack on Galveston DeBray earned the special praise of the district commander. After that battle he was assigned to command Galveston Island and often led a brigade in the Galveston garrison forces. On May 30, 1863, Major General John B. Magruder, Confederate commander of the District of Texas, appointed DeBray acting brigadier general to command the Eastern Sub-District of Texas. In the spring of 1864 the 26th was ordered to match to Louisiana to oppose the Union army advancing on Shreveport. At the Battle of Mansfield DeBray's regiment was deployed as the advance unit of the army, a fine compliment to the fighting reputation of a relatively inexperienced regiment. At the Battle of Pleasant Hill DeBray's regiment made a gallant mounted attack on an infantry line, but the command was literally swept away by a cross fire at close range. One-third of the regiment was struck down, and DeBray himself was injured by the fall of his mortally wounded horse. By the end of the Red River campaign DeBray had succeeded to the leadership of Hamilton Bee's Texas cavalry brigade. On April 13, 1864, five days after the Battle of Mansfield, General Kirby Smith (who considered DeBray a "superior cavalry officer") assigned DeBray to duty as brigadier general. For the rest of the war DeBray commanded a brigade of Texas cavalry in Louisiana and Texas, but saw no further action.

After the war he briefly settled in Houston, then relocated in Galveston. He worked as a teacher, an accountant, as secretary of the Produce Exchange, and briefly served on the city council. Returning to Austin by 1880, DeBray again worked as a translator in the state general land office. He died in Austin on January 6, 1895, and is buried in the State Cemetery.

CMH, Wood, Heitman, SHSP, CV, and Lonn all list DeBray as a Confederate general.

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Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.