Spencer, William Addison (1840–1922)

By: Andy Galloway

Type: Biography

Published: May 31, 2011

William Addison Spencer, Confederate officer, Texas Ranger, and county judge, was born in Tennessee on September 7, 1840, to Elijah Spencer and Temperance (Brown) Spencer. By 1850 the family had moved to Harrison County, Texas, and when the Civil War began, William Spencer enlisted on June 16, 1861, at Camp Carricitas in Cameron County. He was made a third lieutenant in Captain Littleton's Company of the Second Regiment Texas Mounted Rifles. Under the command of Col. John S. "Rip" Ford, this regiment spent the majority of its time posted along the banks of the Rio Grande. Although companies of the Second Regiment Texas Mounted Rifles left with John R. Baylor to take part in Sibley's campaign in New Mexico, as leader of Company C, Spencer's job was to protect the vital cotton trade with Mexico from Native American raids. Within two months he was promoted to first lieutenant, and within one year he made captain and, with the reorganization of his regiment into the Second Texas Calvary, was given his own company in a new posting near Edinburg.

During the war, Spencer's regiment took part in several battles, including the battle of the Nueces on August 10, 1862, and the battle of Galveston on January 1, 1863. The final bulwark provided by this regiment occurred at an attack on the blockading squadron on the Sabine Pass on January 21, 1863. Frustration seems to have festered on the frontier as the Second Texas Cavalry slowly but steadily began to diminish. While in November 1862 the regiment had 752 effectives, by July 1864 it had only 19 officers and 167 enlisted men. Spencer himself was involved in a mutiny against his commanders and as a result was placed in "arrest or confinement" beginning March 1, 1863. The needs of the war seemingly assuaged any stain of his actions, as only three months later, on June 21, he received parole. Beyond hospitalization in Houston for "Vulnus Sclopeticum" (a gunshot wound) and a duty collecting horses, he was faithful to his command. By April 1864 he was placed in command of a battalion at Navasota, and by July he was commanding the regiment stationed in Galveston. With his regiment dismounted and Spartan in size, this must have seemed like a hollow command. Despite a promotion to lieutenant major in August 1864, December of that year found Spencer on a forty-two-day-long leave of absence. Listless and lifeless, the regiment unofficially disbanded before the inevitable surrender of the South.

After the war, Spencer moved to Karnes County, Texas, and worked as the county clerk at the courthouse in Helena. During this time he met Caroline "Carrie" Hepzibeth Taylor (b. 1844), the daughter of Creed Taylor and Nancy Goodbread, and the two married on February 22, 1866. A year later, when Caroline's mother died in 1867, Creed deeded their house in Ecleto, Karnes County, to his daughter and Spencer and moved to the city of Junction in Kimble County. On February 11, 1873, Creed married Spencer's cousin Lavinia A. Spencer in Kerr, Texas, and not long after, William and Caroline Spencer followed him to Junction, where Spencer rose to local prominence and served as county clerk, sheriff, and county judge. He and Caroline had seven children. Caroline died on October 14, 1920, and William followed less than two years later on August 22, 1922. They are buried together at Junction Cemetery in Kimble County, along with three of their children.

Allan C. Ashcraft, Texas in the Civil War: A Resume History (Austin: Texas Civil War Centennial Commission, 1962). Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Stewart Sifakis, Compendium of the Confederate Armies: Texas (New York: Facts on File, 1995).

Time Periods:
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Andy Galloway, “Spencer, William Addison,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/spencer-william-addison.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 31, 2011

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: