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.
- 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.