Ambrosio José Gonzales
|Ambrosio José Gonzales|
|Born||October 3, 1818
|Died||July 31, 1893
Bronx, New York
|Place of burial||Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York
*Plot: Lot A, Range 131, Grave 20
|Allegiance|| United States of America
Confederate States of America
|Service/branch||Confederate States Army|
|Years of service||1861–1865|
|Commands held||Chief of Artillery,
Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
|Battles/wars||American Civil War
*Battle of Fort Sumter
*Battle of Honey Hill
Colonel Ambrosio José Gonzales (October 3, 1818 – July 31, 1893) was a Cuban revolutionary who became a Colonel in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Gonzales, as a revolutionary, wanted the United States to annex Cuba. During the American Civil War he served as the Chief of artillery in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
Gonzales was born in the town of Matanzas, Cuba, in 1818. His father was a schoolmaster and founder of the first daily newspaper in Matanzas. His mother was a member of a prominent local family. After the death of his mother, his father sent the nine-year-old Ambrosio to Europe and New York City, where he received his primary and secondary education. He returned to Cuba and attended the University of Havana where he earned degrees in arts and sciences and later in law, graduating in 1839. He returned to Matanzas and became a teacher and later a professor for the University of Havana, where he taught languages (he claimed fluency in English, French, Spanish, and Italian): he was also well instructed in mathematics, and geography. In 1845, following the death of his father, he began two years traveling in Europe and the United States, returning to Cuba to resume his post at the university.
In 1848, Gonzales joined with a secret organization named the Havana Club that sought to have Cuba annexed by the United States in order to liberate the island from Spanish rule—an aim actively shared by a faction in US politics. The movement found encouragement from a surge of expansionism in the United States, particularly in the South, following the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845.
The Havana Club group pursued its goal of annexation to the U.S. through a combination of financial, diplomatic and military means. His association and influence with prominent U.S. southerners led him to author a manifesto encouraging U.S. annexation of Cuba. By 1849, Gonzales became interested in the revolutionary plans of Venezuelan General Narciso López, who ultimately led several military expeditions, known as filibusters, to try to liberate Cuba from Spain rule. Between 1849 and 1851, Gonzales accompanied López in several of his filibuster expeditions. The Spanish authorities set up a trap to capture López, but López was able to escape and sought asylum in the United States.
In 1849 Gonzales became a naturalized United States citizen under a law that offered citizenship to free whites who had lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 21. Thereafter, he was commissioned by the Junta of Havana seek help from General William J. Worth, a United States veteran of the Mexican–American War. Together with Worth, Gonzales was to prepare an expedition of five thousand North-American veterans, who would disembark in Cuba and aid the Cuban patriots headed by López who would rise in arms. The plan did not materialize because of Worth's untimely death.
López and Gonzales then organized the Creole expedition with forty thousand dollars that they acquired after selling Cuban bonds. Among financists of the expedition was John A. Quitman, a former General in the United States Army who also participated in the Mexican–American War. López led the expedition with Gonzales as Chief of Staff. On the night of May 19, 1850, López gave the order to advance and Gonzales and his men attacked the Governor's palace. The expedition failed because it lacked the support from the people in the island who did not respond to the call of the filibusters and because they were no match for the Spanish military reinforcements. Gonzales, López and their men returned to the Creole. Once the Creole was back at sea, it was chased by the Spanish warship Pizarro and changed its course. The Creole then headed for Key West, Florida, where Gonzales spent three weeks recovering from wounds received in the incident. On December 16, 1850 Lopez, Gonzales, Quitman and the members of the failed expedition were tried in New Orleans for having violated the laws of neutrality; after three attempts to convict them the prosecution was abandoned.
Gonzales settled in Beaufort, South Carolina, after the failure of another Lopez expedition to liberate Cuba in 1851. In the United States, he continued to seek assistance for Cuban independence, meeting with political leaders including U.S. President Franklin Pierce and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis.
In 1856, he married Harriet Rutledge Elliot, the 16-year-old daughter of William Elliott (1788–1863), a prominent South Carolina State Senator, planter and writer. Ambrosio and Harriet Elliott Gonzales became the parents of six children; Ambrose E. Gonzales (1857–1926), Narciso Gener Gonzales (1858–1903), Alfonso Beauregard Gonzales (1861–1908), Gertrude Ruffini Gonzales (1864–1900), Benigno Gonzales (1866–1937), and Anita Gonzales (1869–?).
American Civil War
As secession approached in the late 1850s, Gonzales went into business as a sales agent for various firearms manufacturers, demonstrating and selling the LeMat revolver and Maynard Arms Company rifles to state legislatures in the South.
Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War, Gonzales joined the Confederate Army as a volunteer on the staff of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, who had been his schoolmate in New York City. Gonzales was active during the bombardment of Fort Sumter. In his report on the actions of April 12, General Beauregard wrote the following:
Gonzales, who then served as a special aide to the governor of South Carolina, submitted plans for the defense of the coastal areas of his homeland state. According to Major Danville Leadbetter in a letter to the Secretary of War:
Afterwards Gonzalez was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel of artillery and assigned to duty as an inspector of coastal defences. In 1862 he was promoted to Colonel and became Chief of Artillery of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida under Gen. John C. Pemberton. Gonzales was able to fend off Union gunboat attempts to destroy railroads and other important points on the Carolina coast by placing his heavy artillery on special carriages for increased mobility. On November 30, 1864, Gonzales served as artillery commander at the Battle of Honey Hill. The Battle of Honey Hill was the third battle of Sherman's March to the Sea fought in Savannah, Georgia. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, declined Gonzales's request for promotion to general six times. The reasons behind Davis' decision were that he (Davis) disliked Gen. Beauregard and Gonzales was one of the men who had served under him. Also, Davis did not consider that Gonzales was command material because of his experience with the failed Cuban filibusters and because of his contentious relationships with Confederate officers in Richmond, Virginia.
After the war Gonzales pursued a variety of vocations, all of which were marginally successful, but like many others he never provided the security he sought for his extended family. His efforts were similar to those of other formerly wealthy Southerners who sought to recover their estates and social status.
In 1869, Gonzales and his family moved to Cuba, where his wife Harriet Elliott Gonzales died of yellow fever. Gonzales returned to South Carolina with four of his children, leaving two children, Narciso and Alfonso, in Cuba with friends for a year. By 1870, all the Gonzales children were back in the United States, where they were raised by their grandmother, Ann Hutchinson Smith Elliott, and their aunts, Ann and Emily Elliott. Gonzales faced not only financial loss but also sorrows over the death of his wife and his sister-in-law's successful efforts to poison the relationships between Gonzales and his children.
Gonzales' sons, Ambrose and Narciso, became notable journalists. In 1891, they founded The State, a newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. Narciso waged a crusade against Benjamin "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, a U.S. Senator and former Governor of South Carolina, and his nephew and heir apparent, Lt. Governor James H. Tillman, in his newspaper, helping ensure the younger Tillman's defeat in the 1902 South Carolina governor's race. On January 15, 1903, Narciso was shot by James H. Tillman (nephew of Benjamin) and died four days later. A memorial cenotaph for Narciso was later erected on Senate Street across from the State House in Columbia, purportedly on the route Tillman regularly walked home.
Ambrose Gonzales is recognized and remembered in South Carolina as a pioneering journalist and the writer of black dialect sketches on the Gullah people of the South Carolina and Georgia low country. In 1986 he was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame.
Gonzales became ill as he became older and his sons sent him to Key West, where Gonzales attended meetings of the Chiefs of the War of 68 and the Delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. He was later interned in a hospital in Long Island, New York. Gonzales died on July 31, 1893 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Plot: Lot A, Range 131, Grave 20 in the Bronx, New York.
Thus, Gonzales missed by only a few years witnessing the Spanish–American War of 1898, in which was achieved the cause which he had long championed—liberation of Cuba from Spanish rule via American military intervention.
- Lewis Pinckney Jones (1955), "Ambrosio José Gonzales, a Cuban Patriot in Carolina", The South Carolina Historical Magazine Vol. 56, No. 2, April 1955
- Antonio Rafael de la Cova (2003), Cuban Confederate Colonel: The Life of Ambrosio José Gonzales, The University of South Carolina Press; ISBN 1-57003-496-6.
- "Patria (New York)" (translated); December 31, 1892, pages 2–3.; Ambrosio José Gonzalez.
- Philip Thomas Tucker (2002), Cubans in the Confederacy: José Agustín Quintero, Ambrosio José Gonzales, and Loreta Janeta Velazquez, McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0976-2, ISBN 978-0-7864-0976-1
- OPERATIONS ON THE COASTS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA, AND MIDDLE AND EAST FLORIDA.
- Jones, Lewis Pinckney (1973). Stormy Petrel: N. G. Gonzales and His State. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Tricentennial Commission, University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 0-87249-253-2.
- Ambrose E. Gonzales (1857–1926), South Carolina Business Hall of Fame website, accessed May 30, 2011