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On August 18, 1862, Col. Edward J. Gurley organized ten companies at Waco, Texas, to form the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry, also known as the First Texas Partisan Rangers. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Gurley obtained permission from President Jefferson Davis to raise a regiment of cavalry. A majority of the men Gurley enlisted in his command came from Waco and the surrounding area, many to avoid the stigma of conscription. Besides McLennan, men came from Bastrop, Johnson, Bosque, Comanche, Chambers, Erath, Hill, and Ellis counties, all in North Central Texas near the frontier, with a small number of men from Arkansas.
After the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry received orders that transferred it to Gen. William Henry Parson's Brigade, replacing the Twenty-first Texas Cavalry in March 1865. The Thirtieth Texas Cavalry finally disbanded in May 1865 at Wallace Prairie, Texas, near Austin after serving with Parson's Brigade for only two months.