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BEE, HAMILTON PRIOLEAU

Thomas W. Cutrer
Hamilton Prioleau Bee
Hamilton Prioleau Bee. Courtesy of Ronald Deavy. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Title: Hamilton P. Bee (photo)  Source: Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library Hamilton Prioleau Bee (1822–1897)
Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photographs,
DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries,
Southern Methodist University

BEE, HAMILTON PRIOLEAU (1822–1897). Hamilton P. Bee, Confederate brigadier general, the son of Anne Wragg Fayssoux and Barnard E. Bee, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 22, 1822. He was the brother of Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr. The family moved to Texas in 1836 and Hamilton became the sole clerk of Francis R. Lubbock while he was still a youth. He received a deed for 320 acres in Harrisburg County on July 11, 1839.  Later that year he served as secretary for the commission that established the boundary between the Republic of Texas and the United States, and in 1843 Texas president Sam Houston dispatched Bee, with Joseph C. Eldridge and Thomas S. Torrey to convene a peace council with the Comanches. On August 9, 1843, the commissioners obtained the promise of the Penatekas to attend a council with Houston the following April. The meeting culminated in the Treaty of Tehuacana Creek. In 1845 Bee lived in Washington D.C., where he worked as an agent of the Texas Treasury Department.  He received 320 acres of land in Travis County on September 2, 1845, and was named secretary of the Texas Senate the following year.

During the Mexican War he served briefly as a private in Benjamin McCulloch's famed Company A–the "Spy Company"–of Col. John Coffee Hays's First Regiment, Texas Mounted Rifles, before transferring in October 1846, as a second lieutenant, to Mirabeau B. Lamar's independent company of Texas cavalry. Bee volunteered for a second term in October 1847 and was elected first lieutenant of Lamar's Company, now a component of Col. Peter Hansborough Bell's Regiment, Texas Volunteers.

After the war Bee moved to Laredo and was elected to the Texas legislature, where he served from 1849 through 1859. From 1855 through 1857 he was speaker of the House. While living in Austin he became a mason and joined Lodge No. 12. Bee was married to Mildred Tarver of Alabama in 1854, and they had eight children. In 1856 he received 320 acres of land in Nueces County from Nathaniel Cody. He was elected brigadier general of militia in 1861 and appointed brigadier general in the Confederate Army to rank from March 4, 1862. His brigade was composed of August C. Buchel's First, Nicholas C. Gould's Twenty-third, Xavier B. Debray's Twenty-sixth, James B. Likin's Thirty-fifth, Peter C. Woods's Thirty-sixth, and Alexander W. Terrell's Texas cavalry regiments. Given command of the lower Rio Grande district, with headquarters at Brownsville, Bee expedited the import of munitions from Europe through Mexico and the export of cotton in payment. On November 4, 1863, he was credited with saving millions of dollars of Confederate stores and munitions from capture by a federal expeditionary force under Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks. After transfer to a field command in the spring of 1864, Bee led his brigade in the Red River campaign under Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor. Having had only slight training or experience in the art of war and having served only in an administrative capacity to that time, he was less than skillful in handling troops. While he was leading a cavalry charge at the battle of Pleasant Hill, two horses were shot from beneath him, and he suffered a slight face wound. Though he was afterward the object of some heavy criticism, he was assigned to the command of Thomas Green's division in Gen. John A. Wharton's cavalry corps in February 1865 and was later given a brigade of infantry in Gen. Samuel Bell Maxey's division.

Grave of Hamilton Prioleau Bee
Grave of Hamilton Prioleau Bee. Courtesy of Lanny Medlin. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In 1865 Bee and his family relocated to Mexico and attempted to start a plantation near Orizaba.  He worked briefly as a ship broker in Havana, Cuba, in 1866, but relocated to Parras, Coahuila, where he engaged in agricultural experiments including distilling brandy. He returned to Texas in 1876 and served as college steward and superintendent of the farm at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (renamed Texas A&M University) near Bryan, where he owned land and his son attended school. He moved to San Antonio in 1879 to practice law, but lived in Austin from 1885 to 1886 when he served as Commissioner of the office of Insurance, Statistics, and History (renamed the Texas Department of Insurance). He died on October 3, 1897, and was buried in the Confederate Cemetery in San Antonio.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Hamilton Prioleau Bee Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Clement Anselm Evans, ed., Confederate Military History (Atlanta: Confederate Publishing, 1899; extended ed., Wilmington, North Carolina: Broadfoot, 1987–89). Fredericka Meiners, Hamilton Prioleau Bee (M.A. thesis, Rice University, 1972). Fredericka Meiners, "Hamilton P. Bee in the Red River Campaign," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 78 (July 1974). Charles D. Spurlin, comp., Texas Veterans in the Mexican War: Muster Rolls of Texas Military Units (Victoria, Texas, 1984). Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959). Marcus J. Wright, comp., and Harold B. Simpson, ed., Texas in the War, 1861–1865 (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1965).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Thomas W. Cutrer, "BEE, HAMILTON PRIOLEAU," accessed September 19, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbe24.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on June 14, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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