COVER: Driftwood filmmaker Richard Kidd directs a sequence portraying an 1864 gunboat battle as part of a forthcoming Hays County Historical Commission documentary on Peter C. Woods, an early San Marcos settler who led a Confederate calvary regiment during the Civil War. The gunboat scenes were filmed on Lake Travis using a full-scale replica of an Union ironclad. PHOTO by TOM BENDER
In the most elaborate effort yet in a series of local history documentaries, the Hays County Historical Commission recently commissioned — and then destroyed — a full-scale replica of a Union gunboat for a film on Peter C. Woods, a San Marcos physician-planter and Confederate war hero.
The 80-foot-long wooden prop was launched in Lake Travis last month to recreate the battle of Blair’s Landing on the Red River in which Col. Wood’s 36th Texas Calvary began a five-week-long campaign in pursuit of retreating Union forces under the command Gen. Nathaniel E. Banks. Between April 12 and May 18, 1864, the calvary skirmished daily with the fleeing federals including intense action at Grand Ecore, Monnett’s Ferry and, finally, Yellow Bayou, where Woods was wounded and the Confederates gave up the chase, according to the Handbook of Texas Online.
“This was too great of a story not to tell,” the film’s director, Richard Kidd, said.
Historical commission chair Kate Johnson is producing the $75,000 film, which was partly funded by a $25,000 appropriation from the Hays County Commissioners Court.
A Tennessee-born medical doctor, Woods moved his family to Texas in 1854, first to Bastrop and two years later to San Marcos, according to the Handbook of Texas. When the Civil War began, Woods organized a company of calvary, primarily formed of Hays County men who drilled and trained at Camp Clark on the San Marcos River seven miles downstream from the city, according to the Handbook of Texas.
Early in the war, Woods’ company, attached to the 36th Texas Calvary regiment, patrolled the Hill Country around Fredericksburg, a hotbed of Union sympathizers because of its large German-born population. Starting in June 1863, parts of the regiment patrolled the Texas Gulf Coast to repel an anticipated invasion by sea, according to the Handbook of Texas.
In February 1864, after convincing 157 deserters to return to his command, Woods was ordered to Louisiana, arriving on April 9 after Banks’ invasion had been turned back at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, according to the Handbook of Texas Online.
For the Red River Campaign battle scenes, 30 re-enactors played the parts of Union and Confederate troops. Filming started in January and the documentary is scheduled be ready for release in May.
The Peter C. Woods film will be sixth produced by Johnson, a Kyle area resident, and directed by Kidd, a Driftwood resident. Their earlier works include documentaries on Jack C. Hays, for whom the county is named; Wimberley artist Buck Winn; and the county’s role in World War II.
Hays Free Press editor KIM HILSENBECK contributed reporting to this story.