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William Eberling - German Texan

I found something interesting while researching someone buried here at the State Cemetery and it led me down a rabbit hole in history that I knew little to nothing about, a not uncommon thing.  Again it is one of our near-anonymous Confederate veterans. His name is William Martin David Eberling and is buried in Section F, or Confederate Field One, right in the middle of the Cemetery. He was a German national who moved to Texas with his parents Carl and Katherine Eberling. They were no different than thousands of other German immigrants. According to the Handbook of Texas, in 1990 about three-million Texans considered themselves at least part German.

What is interesting about the Eberlings is they were part of a society called the Adelsverein, a group of Germans dedicated to colonizing Texas. The full name of the group was Verein zum Schutze deutscher Einwanderer in Texas or the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. The group was organized by German nobility for a variety of reasons, overcrowding in the German heartland for one, projection of German power and interests abroad is another. Calling them “German” is difficult though. Germany as a nation, as one country, didn’t emerge until 1871, but that didn’t keep a sense of nationalism from “German” politics. The area we know as Germany today was a lot of separate countries, duchies, electorships and fiefdoms all sharing a somewhat common heritage. Prussia was the largest of these entities and formed the mass of what is known as Germany today.

Back to our group of Germans; the Eberlings. William and his parents moved to Texas from the Duchy of Nassau, the heart of the Adelsverein movement. The Adelsverein was established in the Duke of Nassau’s castle in 1842. The Eberlings left Germany from the port of Bremen and landed at Galveston, and like hundreds of other Germans at the time, they moved to New Braunfels. New Braunfels was named for Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels (pictured below), the head of the Adelsverein in Texas. The Eberlings made their own way from there, finding Cibolo more to their liking, a town halfway between San Antonio and New Braunfels. The Adelsverein went bankrupt by 1853 and was succeeded by another group, but the efforts to found a ‘New Germany’ in Texas was not to be.

The German immigrants of the 1800s first got swept up in local politics, forgetting their Dukes and Electors and societies from across the water, and becoming Texans and then getting swept up in the American dream and the American nightmare of the Civil War. William Eberling’s parents died in 1846 and he had to fend for himself. Family lore says that he sold a tract of land given to him by the Adelsverein in 1855 and moved to Matamoros, Mexico. Eberling moved back to Texas by 1862 and joined the Confederacy as part of Company F, 36th Texas Cavalry. The unit served in various places, including in the Red River Campaign. Eberling served along with another German immigrant buried at the Cemetery named August Buchel, a hero of the Mexican War.
William Eberling was a lot of things before he was buried at the Texas State Cemetery; father of eleven, husband, farmer, butcher and inmate at the Confederate Men’s Home in Austin. He applied for admission to the home in 1901 and died in 1911 as a Texan. The Duchy of Nassau, where the Eberlings had moved from, ceased to exist in 1866 when it was absorbed by Prussia.  

You do not have to look far or scratch very far below the surface to find the German influence in Texas. New Braunfels and Fredericksburg are proud of their German heritage and there are still plenty of Texans who wear their German heritage on their sleeve proudly. However much they are proud of their German heritage, they always call themselves Texans first.

-Will Erwin