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Ambrosio Jose Gonzales

A Cuban Confederate

The “larger than life” story of the Gonzales’ brothers, Ambrose, Narciso and William is well-known by Columbia history aficionados. As The State newspaper founding editors the brothers are revered and Narciso remains memorialized in a granite monument recounting his murder and the sensational 1903 Gonzales-Tillman trial.

Seldom mentioned are the family’s Cuban roots. The patriarch, Ambrosio Jose Gonzales (1818-1893), was born in Matanzas, Cuba. During his education in the United States, Gonzales developed a love for America and a lifelong friendship with the famous Civil War hero General P.G.T. Beauregard.

His reputation as a swashbuckler followed his recruitment as a secret agent for a clandestine band of revolutionaries determined to free Cuba from Spanish rule. Wounded in the failed coup attempt, Gonzales made a daring escape aboard the ship Creole avoiding capture by the pursuing Spanish fleet. Exiled from his homeland, Gonzales settled in Beaufort, SC where he married a local debutante, Harriet Rutledge Elliot.

General Beauregard’s attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 drew Gonzales back into action. Ambrosio was present during the Fort Sumter bombardment and soon he secured an appointment as Colonel of the Chief of Artillery for South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

After South’s demise, Harriet tragically died and Ambrosio faced a long and difficult separation from his children. His health began a slow decline and, while seeking medical care, Gonzales died alone in New York City.

The image of Ambrosio Gonzales is available through the Richland Library Digital Collection. More information about The State Newspaper Photo Archive can be found in the State Newspaper Photograph Archive finding aid.


Cuban Confederate Colonel by Antonio Rafael de la Cova
Amazon Says: De la Cova (Latin American studies, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana) provides an exhaustively researched history of the life and work of the Cuban, A more...
Amazon Says: De la Cova (Latin American studies, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana) provides an exhaustively researched history of the life and work of the Cuban, Ambrosio José Gonzales (1818-1893), a revolutionary who figured prominently both in his native country's struggle against Spain and the Confederacy's fight for secession. The author also discusses the filibuster movement, including the integral participation of Freemasons and the involvement of Robert E. Lee. Annotation (c) Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com) less...
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  • Richland Library Digital Collections
    Historical material spanning the Civil War to Civil Rights eras focusing on Columbia, Richland County and the surrounding counties in South Carolina.
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