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Chapter 2: The Civil War and the Lone Star State: A Brief Overview by Archie P. McDonald

Edited by Kenneth W. Howell University of North Texas Press ePub

Chapter 2

The Civil War and the Lone Star State: A Brief Overview

by Archie P. McDonald

Union with the United States lost its luster for many Texans during the decade of the 1850s. Against the backdrop of such separating wedges as disagreement with the enforcement of the Compromise of 1850 and resulting disenchantment over their loss of so much western land, the strident activity of abolitionists, and especially the violence in Kansas, many Texans reflected their Southern heritage by affirming their belief in states’ rights, especially as that related to slavery, and their acceptance of the principle of secession as the ultimate expression of that right.

Hardin R. Runnels’s victory over Sam Houston in the governor’s race in 1857 can be traced to this feeling, but Houston’s victory in 1859 over Runnels came despite it. The legislature’s selection of Louis T. Wigfall, an ardent fire-eater and secession advocate, to Houston’s seat in the Senate signifies the mood of the majority more than does the election of “Old Sam Jacinto” to the governorship. He won that office with hard campaigning, which invoked memories of his past leadership, but he never masked his true feelings—he was first and last a Union man.

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Chapter 12

Edited by Kenneth W. Howell University of North Texas Press PDF


“To Punish and Humiliate the

Entire Community”: White Violence

Perpetrated Against African-American

Women in Texas, 1865–1868 by

Rebecca A. Kosary


mmediately following the Civil War, many former slaves in Texas found themselves at the mercy of whites—in their homes, their places of work and recreation, their churches, and even in the courts. For them, the “freedom” granted in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution was a far cry from reality. Although nominal rights for African Americans had increased since 1865, violence of against them increased as well. This was particularly true for black women, whose ambiguous legal status (ironically, now equal to that of white women) left them particularly vulnerable to racist violence that was often perpetrated against them with impunity.

Freedwomen were subjected to verbal, physical, and sexual assaults, torture, and murder during Reconstruction and they received little or no protection from local and state authorities. In addition, as mothers and wives, black women endured the trauma of separated families, the forcible apprenticeship of their children, and the injury and death of family members at the hands of resentful, bitter whites. While black men certainly suffered vicious and deadly attacks by whites during the period, black women were, by virtue of their gender, peculiarly susceptible to racist violence, and doubly victimized—once as blacks and again as women. As victims of both racism and sexism, black women in Texas faced incredible obstacles in the transition from slavery to freedom.

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Chapter 2

Edited by Kenneth W. Howell University of North Texas Press PDF


“Shoot or Get Out of the Way!”: The Murder of Texas Freedmen’s Bureau Agent William G.

Kirkman by Cullen Baker—and the Historians by

William L. Richter


eep in the northeast corner of Texas dominated by the misty swamps that form the Sulphur River lies Bowie County, named after the famous knife-wielding frontiersman who died at the Alamo. Created in 1841, Bowie County had a pre-Civil War white population dominated by planters who emigrated from the Deep South. Steeped in the slavery system of antebellum Dixie, these whites voted overwhelmingly (96 percent) to secede twenty years later. As if to taunt the whites for their miscalculation in supporting the Lost Cause, newly freed slaves made up a majority (64 percent) of the citizens of Bowie County in 1865 and registered voters (55 percent) in 1867. Even the name of the county seat, Boston, has a strange Yankee-like ring that continues to mock its rich southern heritage. Nowadays some do claim that the town was actually named after the New England metropolis by its first settlers, the Burnam brothers. Other more-unreconstructed souls insist just as vehemently that it received its seemingly-out-of-place appellation from the surname of an early store owner.1

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Chapter 4

Edited by Kenneth W. Howell University of North Texas Press PDF


William Longworth, Republican Villain by

Richard B. McCaslin


he scholarly effort to retrieve an accurate history of Reconstruction from the intellectual dustbin to which it had been consigned by popular memory has advanced rapidly in the last fifty years or so.

Republicans are generally now seen as reformers, local politicians who supported reform are no longer considered scoundrels, and most Freedmen’s Bureau agents are considered to have been well-intentioned, if not entirely ready for the tasks to which they were assigned.1 In fact, the revisionist push has been so effective that historians might well question how the South, and even the nation, was able to embrace a perception of

Reconstruction as an era of overzealous or even venal reform. Perhaps even more important, how could Southerners justify violence against such well-intentioned reformers? But if one wants to appreciate the complexity of Reconstruction, one has to accept that, like most myths, there is a kernel of truth in the depiction of it as an era of malice and greed. William

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Chapter 6

Edited by Kenneth W. Howell University of North Texas Press PDF


Finding a Solution to Reconstruction

Violence: The Texas State Police by

Donaly Brice


iolence has ever been associated with Texas. The causes for this brutal propensity by its inhabitants, especially after the arrival of immigrants from the United States, have often attracted the attention of writers. Texas violence has been characterized as extensive and the state’s “reputation for lawlessness” has been repeatedly chronicled. Charles L. Sonnichsen, a noted scholar of Texas feuds, claimed that the frontier setting, reinforced by a southern and western heritage,

“produced a habit of self-redress more deeply ingrained” than anywhere in the country. Perhaps he was right; perhaps the moral code propagated the belief that “‘ revolvers make all men equal.’”1

The Lone Star State has been widely touted for its wayward ways long before the Civil War. After all, the Republic had been born through revolution. The isolation of the frontier and its attendant culture perpetuated the idea of self-defense and “no duty to retreat.”2 The new majority of the inhabitants, many of whom transported slaves, were of a similar cultural background, which tended to be violent, honor-driven, and thus tumultuous. The legacy of the South’s defeat in the Civil War and the destruction of slavery added fuel to an already lawless reputation.

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