12:15 AM, Aug. 10, 1862, about a hundred dismounted Confederate cavalry and state militia crept across the dry Texas Hill Country towards the banks of the clear Nueces River. There 67 men were garrisoned and currently a sleep. The silence was shattered in the dark night in the din of gunfire and screaming. In command of the Confederates was First Lieutenant Colin McRae and Lieutenant Edwin Lilly.
The Texas Germans were second generation Germans who first came under the rule of Mexico in the area now known as Texas. The Mexicans welcomed them in after a line of European people came to Mexico including Polish and Czechs.
The men on the business end of the Confederate rifles were all Germans who had recently immigrated to Texas. Their intention was to head towards the Mexican border and join the Union Army at an outpost there. This could be construed as a crime. There was of course enmity between the Confederacy and the German immigrants. The states were determining who had to serve and who didn’t, and refusing to be conscripted into the Confederate Army without an exception (slave owners for example were exempt from service) was a crime punishable by death. The folks were not given trials or held without trial as the law proscribed. The Confederates simply rounded them up. Yet, we know that the Texas Germans were not given quarter of any kind. Those that died in the opening gunfire were summarily buried. The wounded were summarily shot. Eleven survived to tell the story. Under the law of the Confederacy they could have been held indefinitely. There was no proscription, however, for summary execution.
Neither commanders were ever prosecuted for war crimes. The Texans were technically citizens of the Confederacy and Lilly, most likely, guilty of murder.
Sources: Wikipdeia, and Stanley S. McGowen, “Battle or Massacre? The Incident on the Nueces, August 10, 1862,”