The Fourth Texas Infantry was one of the three Texas Civil War regiments in the Texas Brigade of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. In 1861 Governor Edward Clark established a camp of instruction on the San Marcos River in Hays County. The first units that later formed the Fourth Texas Infantry enlisted there in April 1861. Originally the Texans planned to enlist for a period of one year, but after the outbreak of war at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the Confederate government announced that it would accept only regiments enlisted for the duration of the war. In July 1861 twenty companies of Texas infantry were transferred to a camp near Harrisburg and promptly shipped to Virginia. Soon after their arrival in Richmond the Texas units were officially organized into regiments, on September 30, 1861. The ten companies that made up the Fourth Texas were Company A, the Hardeman Rifles, recruited in Gonzales County; Company B, the Tom Green Rifles, Travis County; Company C, the Robertson Five Shooters, Robertson County; Company D, the Guadalupe Rangers, Guadalupe County; Company E, the Lone Star Guards, McLennan County; Company F, the Mustang Greys, Bexar County; Company G, the Grimes County Greys; Company H, the Porter Guards, Walker County; Company I, the Navarro Rifles, Navarro County; and Company K, the Sandy Point Mounted Rifles, Henderson County.
Contrary to the prevailing custom, the Texans were not allowed to elect their own field officers but had them appointed by the Confederate War Department. The first commander of the regiment was Robert T. P. Allen, former superintendent of the Bastrop Military Academy (see TEXAS MILITARY INSTITUTE, AUSTIN), who because of his harsh discipline was extremely unpopular and was forced to resign his position in October. Allen was replaced by Texan John Bell Hood, who was assigned to command the Fourth with the rank of colonel. John F. Marshall, editor of the Austin based Texas State Gazette and one of the principle organizers of the regiment, was appointed to the post of lieutenant colonel, and Virginian Bradfute Warwick was given the rank of major.
The Fourth was formally assigned to Brig. Gen. Louis T. Wigfall's Texas Brigade shortly after Hood assumed command and was subsequently stationed at Dumfries, Virginia, in November 1861. As the regiment drilled and prepared for active duty it was plagued with a great deal of sickness, a rather typical ordeal for Civil War units. In October 1861 the chaplain of the Fourth, Nicholas A. Davis, reported that more than 400 of the regiment's original 1,187 men were sick. In March 1862 Hood was promoted to command of the Texas Brigade, Marshall became a colonel, and Capt. J. C. G. Key of Company A advanced to the post of major.
The regiment first saw combat on the Virginia peninsula on May 7, 1862, at Eltham's Landing, but its introduction to real battle came on June 27, 1862, at the battle of Gaines' Mill. Here both the Texas Brigade and the Fourth Texas established their reputation for hard fighting by successfully breaking the Union line on Turkey Hill, which had resisted all previous Confederate attempts to do so. Taking only 500 men into the battle, the Fourth lost eighty-five men: twenty-one killed, sixty-three wounded, and one captured. Marshal and Warwick were both killed, and Key was wounded.
The Fourth Texas was not engaged again until the battle of Second Manassas on August 30, 1862. Under the command of Lt. Col. B. F. Carter it participated in the Confederate attack on the second day of the fighting, taking a federal battery of artillery in the process. Losses in this engagement totaled thirty-one (eleven killed, twenty wounded). On September 14, 1862, the regiment was engaged in combat at the battle of South Mountain, where it had six men killed and two wounded in the delaying action before the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), fought on September 17, 1862. At Antietam the Fourth Texas was involved in some of the stiffest fighting on the Confederate left flank and suffered its greatest number of losses for any single battle of the war, losing 210 men (57 killed, 130 wounded, and 23 captured).
The regiment was only marginally engaged at the battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 and was not present with Lee's army during the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. After that, however, it took part in every major action of the Army of Northern Virginia during the rest of the war as well as in the battle of Chickamauga, during the temporary transfer of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's First Corps to the Confederate Army of Tennessee in September 1863. At Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, the Fourth Texas participated in the attack against the Union left flank and in the fighting for Little Round Top, losing 140 men (twenty-five killed, fifty-seven wounded, and fifty-eight captured), including Lieutenant Colonel Carter, who was mortally wounded.
At Chickamauga, Georgia, on September 19 and 20, 1863, the regiment, now under the command of Lt. Col. John P. Bane, was part of the rebel force that broke the federal line on the second day of fighting and helped to rout the Union Army of the Cumberland. The Fourth's losses at Chickamauga totaled seventy-seven (thirty-four killed, forty wounded, and three captured). At the battle of Wauhatchie, during the siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on October 28, 1863, the Fourth was routed by the enemy for the only time during the war. Upon the unit's return to Virginia in April 1864 with the rest of Longstreet's corps, the Texans once again acquitted themselves admirably, by plugging a gap torn in the Confederate line at the battle of the Wilderness, May 7, 1864. Here the regiment took part in the famous "Lee to the rear" episode and suffered 124 casualties (twenty-six killed, ninety-five wounded, and three captured) out of only 207 men engaged. Subsequently, the Fourth was marginally involved in the fighting at Spotsylvania and helped to repel the Union attack at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. During the fall and winter of 1864–65 the regiment fought around Petersburg and Richmond before taking part in the Southern retreat that ended in the surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Throughout its existence 1,343 men were assigned to the Fourth Texas Infantry. Of that number 256 (19 percent) were killed or mortally wounded in battle. Another 486 men (35.9 percent) were wounded, many more than once, for the total number of wounds suffered by the regiment in four years of fighting amounted to 606. The total number of battle casualties suffered by the Fourth Texas Infantry was 909 (67.7 percent). The number of prisoners lost by the regiment was 162 (12 percent). Of the regiment, 161 died of diseases (11.9 percent), 251 (18 percent) were discharged due to sickness, wounds, etc., and 51 deserted (3 percent). At the time of its surrender the Fourth Texas mustered only fifteen officers and 143 men. Despite such heavy losses, or perhaps because of them, the Fourth Texas Infantry and its parent Texas Brigade won a reputation as one of the hardest fighting and most reliable units in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.