On August 18, 1862, Col. Edward J. Gurley organized ten companies at Waco, Texas, to form the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry, also known as the First Texas Partisan Rangers. An Alabamian by birth, Gurley immigrated to Texas in 1852. He practiced law in Waco and later bought slaves to work the land he owned in McLennan, Falls, and Williamson counties. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Gurley obtained permission from President Jefferson Davis to raise a regiment of cavalry. Even though Gurley held the commission to lead the regiment, he allowed his men to hold officer elections in which they selected him as commander of the regiment. A majority of the men Gurley enlisted in his command came from Waco and the surrounding area, many to avoid the stigma of conscription. This encouraged the men to volunteer early for fear of serving in the infantry, since Texans preferred to serve as cavalry. Besides McLennan, men came from Bastrop, Johnson, Bosque, Comanche, Chambers, Erath, Hill, and Ellis counties, all in North Central Texas near the frontier, with a small number of men from Arkansas. In the spring of 1863, a small number of the men, along with Company F of the First Regiment Arizona Brigade, transferred to the Seventeenth Texas Field Battery, better known as Krumbhaar's Texas Battery.
After forming in Waco, the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry remained in the state for nearly a year and protected supply lines and served in the coastal defenses of South Texas. During the summer of 1863, the Thirtieth Texas received orders transferring them to Gano's Brigade, organized to protect the Indian Territory. In the spring of 1864, Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery Gano detached 500 picked soldiers of the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry under Lt. Col. Nicholas Battle to attack and harass the Federal river posts, fortifications, and supply lines around Roseville, Arkansas, forty-five miles southeast of Fort Smith. On March 29, Battle and local partisans drove in the outposts and succeeded in burning 133 bales of government cotton and two gins before Federal soldiers and local Union sympathizers forced them out of the town. Gano's plan to disrupt movements in the Union's rear succeeded in keeping those forces from reinforcing Federal troops fighting the rest of the brigade at Camden and Poison Spring, Arkansas. After returning to the Indian Territory from their raid, men in the Thirtieth Texas fought alongside Confederate Indians against Union Indians and African-American soldiers in the Second Battle of Cabin Creek where they captured or destroyed 1.5 million dollars worth of federal supplies.
After returning to Texas with their plunder, the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry received orders that transferred it to Gen. William Henry Parson's Brigade, replacing the Twenty-first Texas Cavalry in March 1865. By early March, much to the disgust of the men, the Thirtieth received orders that they would be dismounted. The men protested and got the order countermanded. The Thirtieth Texas Cavalry finally disbanded in May 1865 at Wallace Prairie, Texas, near Austin after serving with Parson's Brigade for only two months.