Texas in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The U.S. state of Texas declared its secession from the United States on February 1, 1861, and joined the Confederate States of America on March 2, 1861, replacing its governor, Sam Houston, when he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. During the subsequent American Civil War, Texas was most useful for supplying soldiers for Confederate forces and in the cavalry. Texas was mainly a "supply state" for the Confederate forces until mid-1863, when the Union capture of the Mississippi River made large movements of men, horses or cattle impossible. Some cotton was sold in Mexico, but most of the crop became useless because of the Federal naval blockade of Galveston and other ports.
In the late winter of 1861, Texas counties sent delegates to a special convention to debate the merits of secession. The convention adopted an Ordinance of Secession by a vote of 166 to 8, was ratified by a popular referendum on February 23.
Separately from the Ordinance of Secession, Texas also issued a declaration of causes spelling out the rationale for secession. The document specifies several reasons for secession, including its solidarity with its "sister slave-holding States," the Federal government's inability to prevent Indian attacks, slave-stealing raids, and other border-crossing acts of banditry. It accuses Northern politicians and abolitionists of a variety of outrages upon Texans. The bulk of the document offers a justification of slavery and white supremacy, including this extract:
We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.—Secession Convention, "A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union"
Secession Convention and the Confederacy
Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, public opinion in the cotton states of the Deep South (South Carolina through Texas) swung in favor of secession. By February 1861, the other six states of the sub-region had separately passed ordinances of secession. However, events in Texas were delayed somewhat, largely due to the resistance of Southern Unionist governor, Sam Houston. Unlike the other "Cotton States" chief executives, who took the initiative in secessionist efforts, Houston refused to call the Texas Legislature into special session to consider the question, relenting only when it became apparent citizens were prepared to act without him.
In December 1860, a group of state officials drew up a petition declaring Lincoln's election an imminent danger to Southern rights and called for a statewide election of delegates to assemble in convention in January to decide Texas' course. Houston called the legislature into session, gambling that the elected body might be inclined or persuaded to block any separatist action by the convention.
On January 21, 1861, the legislature met in Austin and was addressed by Houston. Calling Lincoln's election "unfortunate," he nonetheless emphasized, in a reference to the upcoming meeting of the secession convention, it was no justification for "rash action". However, the Texas Legislature voted the delegates expense money and supplies and -- over Houston's veto -- made a pledge to uphold the legality of the Convention's actions. The only stipulation was that the people of Texas have the final say in referendum.
With gubernatorial forces routed, the Secession Convention convened on January 28 and, in the first order of business, voted to back the legislature 140–28 in that an ordinance of secession, if adopted, be submitted for state-wide consideration. The following day, convention president Oran Roberts introduced a resolution suggesting Texas leave the Union. The ordinance was read on the floor the next day, citing the failures of the federal government to protect the lives and property of Texas citizens and accusing the Northern states of using the same as a weapon to "strike down the interests and prosperity" of the Southern people.
After the grievances were listed, the ordinance repealed the one of July 4, 1845, in which Texas approved annexation by the United States and the Constitution of the United States, and revoked all powers of, obligations to, and allegiance to the U.S. federal government and the U.S. Constitution.
In the interests of historical significance and posterity, the ordinance was written to take effect on March 2, the date of Texas Declaration of Independence (and, coincidentally, Houston's birthday).
On February 1, members of the legislature, and a huge crowd of private citizens, packed the House galleries and balcony to watch the final vote on the question of secession. Seventy "yea" votes were recorded before there was a single "nay." One of the negative votes is enshrined in Texas history books. James Webb Throckmorton, from Collin County in North Texas, in response to the roar of hisses and boos and catcalls which greeted his decision, retorted, "When the rabble hiss, well may patriots tremble." Appreciating his style, the crowd afforded him a grudging round of applause (like many Texans who initially opposed secession, Throckmorton accepted the result and served his state, rising to the rank of brigadier-general in the Confederate army).
The final tally for secession was 166–7, a vote whose legality was upheld by the Texas Legislature on February 7. Other than in South Carolina, where the vote was unanimous, this was the highest percentage of any other state of the Lower South. The decision was further affirmed on February 23 when a statewide referendum resulted in Texas voters approving the measure, 46,129 to 14,697.
The last order of business was to appoint a delegation to represent Texas in Montgomery, Alabama, where their counterparts from the other six seceding states were meeting to form a new confederacy. On March 4, the convention assembled again to formally declare Texas out of the Union and to approve the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, which had been drawn up by its Provisional Congress (as it turned out, Texas had already been admitted into the fold on March 1).
Houston accepted secession but asserted that the Convention had no power to link the state with the new Southern Confederacy. Instead, he urged that Texas revert to its former status as an independent republic and stay neutral. Houston took his seat on March 16, the date state officials were scheduled to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. He remained silent as his name was called out three times and, after failing to respond, the office of governor was declared vacant and Houston was deposed from office.
Seizure of federal property and arms
After Texas passed its Ordinance of Secession, the state government appointed four men as "commissioners of public safety" to negotiate with the federal government for the safe transfer of military installations and bases in Texas to the Confederates. Along with land baron Samuel A. Maverick and Thomas J. Devine, Dr. Philip N. Luckett met with U.S. Army General David E. Twiggs on February 8, 1861, to arrange the surrender of the federal property in San Antonio, including the military stores being housed in the old Alamo mission.
As a result of the negotiations, Twiggs delivered his entire command and its associated Army property (10,000 rifled muskets) to the Confederacy, an act that brought cries of treason from Unionists throughout the state. Almost immediately, Twiggs was dismissed from the army by President Buchanan for “treachery to the flag of his country." Shortly afterwards, he accepted a commission as general in the Confederate army but was so upset by being branded a traitor that he wrote a letter to Buchanan stating the intention to call upon him for a "personal interview" (then a common euphemism to fight a duel). Robert E. Lee, then still a colonel in the US Army, was in San Antonio at the time and when he heard the news of the surrender to Texas authorities, responded, "Has it come so soon as this?"
Unionist Sentiment and Opposition to the Confederacy
Despite the prevailing view of the vast majority of the state's politicians and the delegates to the Secession Convention, there was a significant number of Texans who opposed secession. The referendum on the issue indicated that some 25% favored remaining in the Union at the time the question was originally considered.
The largest concentration of anti-secession sentiment was among the German population in the Texas Hill Country, and in some of the counties of North Texas. In the latter region, most of the residents were originally from states of the Upper South, where secession was rejected until the incident at Ft. Sumter forced a choosing of sides. Likewise, in Texas, most of those initially against secession accepted the verdict and, when hostilities commenced, fought for or supported the Confederacy. However, while the overwhelming majority of Texans in active military service did so on the side of the South, it is estimated that approximately 2000 of the same joined the Union ranks.
In October of 1862, approximately 150 settlers belonging to a secretive Union League in and around Cooke County on the Red River were arrested by the 11th Texas Cavalry led by Colonel William C. Young on the orders of Colonel James Bourland, Confederate provost marshall for northern Texas. A court was convened in Gainesville to try the men accused of plotting to seize the arsenals at Sherman and Gainesville and to kill their loyal Confederate neighbors, seize their property, and to cooperate with Union army forces poised to invade northern Texas from Arkansas and/or Indian Territory. The plot was quite real; Young and Bourland found several large caches of weapons, and many of the accused admitted their guilt and divulged their secret grip, signs, and password ("Arizona") to the court. Several of the ringleaders were hanged in what is now downtown Gainesville during the first week of October. It appeared that the matter had been put to rest, but while the jury recessed, an unknown assassin killed Colonel Young from ambush, and the trials rebegan in earnest. Nineteen additional suspects were found guilty and hanged before the end of the month. A total of about forty conspirators were hanged in Gainesville, two were shot while trying to escape, and two more were hanged elsewhere after being turned over to a military tribunal at their own request. There was never an assembled mob, as some have suggested, at any time. Under the primitive conditions that obtained on the Texas frontier during the Civil War, the legal proceedings, however imperfect, were about as deliberate and legitimate as could be expected. Accusations of a kangaroo court are clearly refuted by the fact that of the 150 defendants to come before the court, more than two-thirds were found not guilty and immediately released without so much as even paying a fine. A granite monument in a small park marks the spot where the hangings took place.
The Confederacy's conscription act proved controversial, not only in Texas but all across the South. Opponents argued that the war was being fought by poor people on behalf of the wealthy minority. The Act exempted from the draft men who owned fifteen or more slaves.
Sam Houston was probably the premier "Unionist" in Texas. Like most of the same in the South, he strongly believed in the doctrine of states rights, and even assured his fellow Texans he would personally lead the state out of the Union should matters justify such. However, he thought secession at the moment in time was "rash action," and certain to lead to a conflict sure to favor– in the long run– the industrial and populated North. He predicted: "Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery impulsive people as we are...but once they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum of a mighty avalanche, and what I fear is that they will overwhelm the South with ignoble defeat."
Houston accepted the result of the secession convention, but, believing, along with his strong attachment to the old Union, it had overstepped its authority in becoming a member state of the newly formed Confederacy, refused to take an oath of allegiance, and was deposed from office.
Houston's later feelings are hard to gauge. He retired from public life, although his son and namesake distinguished himself in Confederate service. Houston later wrote a friend: "There comes a time a man's section is his country...I stand with mine. I was a conservative citizen of the United States...I am now a conservative citizen of the Southern Confederacy."
Over 70,000 Texans served in the Confederate army and Texas regiments fought in every major battle throughout the war. Some men were veterans of the Mexican-American War; a few had served in the earlier Texas Revolution. The state furnished 45 regiments of cavalry, 23 regiments of infantry, 12 battalions of cavalry, four battalions of infantry, five regiments of heavy artillery and 30 batteries of light artillery for the Confederacy. In addition, the state maintained, at its own expense, some additional troops that were for home defense. These included 5 regiments and 4 battalions of cavalry, and 4 regiments and one battalion of infantry. In 1862, the Confederate Congress in distant Richmond, Virginia, passed a conscription law that ordered all males from 18 to 45 years of age to be placed in the service, except ministers, state, city and county officers and certain slave owners. All persons holding 15 slaves, or over, were exempt.
When the first companies of Texas soldiers reached Richmond, Virginia, CSA President Jefferson Davis greeted them with the words: "Texans! The troops of other states have their reputations to gain, but the sons of the defenders of the Alamo have theirs to maintain. I am assured that you will be faithful to the trust."
Among the most famous units were the Terry's Texas Rangers (a group of frontier cavalrymen, many of whom later became peacekeepers in the Old West), "Walker's Greyhounds," the Texas 33rd Cavalry Regiment led by Col. Santos Benavides and "The Texas Brigade" (a/k/a "Hood's Brigade"), a brigade composed mainly of Texas regiments augmented at times by the 18th Georgia Infantry, Hampton's (South Carolina) Legion, and the 3rd Arkansas Infantry, and originally commanded by John Bell Hood.
Known as the "shock troops" of the Army of Northern Virginia, (Hood's) Texas Brigade were "always favorites" of General Robert E. Lee and, on more than one occasion, he praised their fighting qualities, remarking that none had brought greater honor to their native state than "my Texans." Hood's men suffered severe casualties in a number of fights, most notably at the Battle of Antietam, where they faced off with the Iron Brigade, and at Gettysburg, where they assaulted Houck's Ridge and then Little Round Top.
Some 2,000 Texas men joined the Union army. Notable among them was future governor Edmund J. Davis who initially commanded the 1st Texas Cavalry (USA) and rose to the rank of brigadier general. Texas's relatively large German population around Austin County led by Paul Machemehl tried to remain neutral in the war but eventually left Confederate Texas for Mexico. East Texas gave the most support to secession, and the only East Texas counties in which significant numbers of people opposed secession were Angelina County, Fannin County, and Lamar County (though these counties supplied many men to Texas regiments, e.g., the 9th Texas Infantry Regiment; the 1st Partisan Rangers, 3rd, 4th, 9th, 27th, and 29th Texas Cavalry; and the 9th Texas Field Battery; et al.). In 1862, Abraham Lincoln named a former United States Congressman, Andrew J. Hamilton, as the Military Governor of Texas. Hamilton would serve throughout the war, and would be named as the first provisional civilian governor during the early stages of Reconstruction.
Battles in Texas
Texas did not experience many significant battles. However, the Union mounted several attempts to capture the Trans-Mississippi regions of Texas and Louisiana from 1862 until the war's end. With ports to the east under blockade or captured, Texas in particular became a blockade-running haven. Referred to as the "back door" of the Confederacy, Texas and western Louisiana continued to provide cotton crops that were transferred overland to the Mexican border town of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and shipped to Europe in exchange for supplies. Determined to close this trade, the Union mounted several attacks, each of them unsuccessful.
The U.S. Navy blockaded the principal seaport, Galveston, for four years, and Federal infantry occupied the city for three months in late 1862. Confederate troops under Gen. John B. Magruder recaptured the city on January 1, 1863 and it remained in Confederate hands until the end of the war. A few days later the Confederate raider CSS Alabama attacked and sunk the USS Hatteras in a naval engagement off the coast of Galveston.
A few other cities also fell to Union troops at times during the war, including Port Lavaca, Indianola, and Brownsville. Federal attempts to seize control of Laredo, Corpus Christi, and Sabine Pass failed. By the end of the war no territory was in Union hands.
The most notable military battle in Texas during the war happened on September 8, 1863. At the Battle of Sabine Pass, a small garrison of 46 Confederates from the mostly-Irish Davis Guards under Lt. Richard W. Dowling, 1st Texas Heavy Artillery, defeated a much larger Union force from New Orleans under Gen. William B. Franklin. Skilled gunnery by Dowling's troops disabled the lead ships in Franklin's flotilla, prompting the remainder—4,000 men on 27 ships—to retreat back to New Orleans. This victory against such overwhelming odds resulted in the Confederate Congress passing a special resolution of recognition and CSA President Jefferson Davis stating: "Sabine Pass will stand, perhaps for all time, as the greatest military victory in the history of the world."
In 1864, many Texas forces, including a division under French Prince Camille de Polignac, moved into Northwestern Louisiana to stall Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks' Red River Campaign, which was intended to advance into Texas from its eastern border. Confederate forces halted the expedition at the Battle of Mansfield, just east of the Texas border.
In the spring of 1865, Texas contained over 60,000 soldiers of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi under Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. As garrison troops far removed from the main theaters of the war, morale had deteriorated to the point of frequent desertion and thievery. News of the surrender of Lee and other Confederate generals east of the Mississippi finally reached Texas around April 20. Local Confederate authorities had mixed opinions on their future course of action. Most senior military leaders vowed to press on with the war, including commanding general Kirby Smith. Many soldiers, however, greeted frequent speeches whose theme was "fight on, boys" with derision, or simply failed to attend them.
The month of May brought increasing rates of desertion. News of Joseph E. Johnston's and Richard Taylor's surrenders confirmed that Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas were now essentially alone to continue the Confederate cause. On May 14, troops in Galveston briefly mutinied, but were persuaded to remain under arms. However, morale continued to sink. Generals John B. Magruder and Kirby Smith (who had already corresponded with Union Maj. Gen. John Pope regarding surrender terms on May 9) no longer sought to rally their demoralized troops, but rather began discussing the distribution of Confederate government property. Magruder pled that the rapid disbanding of the army would prevent depradations by disgruntled soldiers against the civilian population.
The haste to disband the army, combined with the pressing need to protect Confederate property from Union confiscation, created general mayhem. Soldiers began openly pillaging the Galveston quartermasters stores on May 21. Over the next few days, a mob demanded that a government warehouse be opened to them, and soldiers detained and plundered a train. Several hundred civilians sacked the blockade runner Lark when it docked on May 24, and troops sent to pacify the crowd soon joined in the plunder. On May 23, residents in Houston sacked the ordnance building and the clothing bureau. Riots continued in the city until May 26. Both government and private stores were raided extensively in Tyler, Marshall, Huntsville, Gonzales, Hempstead, La Grange, and Brownsville. In Navasota, a powder explosion cost eight lives and flattened twenty buildings. In Austin, the state treasury was raided and $17,000 in gold was stolen. By May 27, half of the original Confederate forces in Texas had deserted or been disbanded, and formal order had disappeared into lawlessness in many areas of Texas.
The formal remnants of Kirby Smith's army had finally disintegrated by the end of May. Upon his arrival in Houston from Shreveport, the general called a court of inquiry to investigate the "causes and manner of the disbandment of the troops in the District of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona." The May 30 findings laid the blame primarily on the civilian population. Kirby Smith addressed his few remaining soldiers and condemned those that had fled for not struggling to the last and leaving him "a commander without an army– a General without troops." On June 2, he formally surrendered what was left of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi.
Restoration to the Union
Federal troops did not arrive in Texas to restore order until June 19, 1865, when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union soldiers arrived on Galveston Island to take possession of the state and enforce the new freedoms of former slaves. The Texas holiday Juneteenth commemorates this date. The Stars and Stripes were not raised over Austin until June 25.
President Andrew Johnson appointed Union General Andrew J. Hamilton, a prominent politician before the war, as the provisional governor on June 17. He granted amnesty to ex-Confederates if they promised to support the Union in the future, appointing some to office. However, it was not until March 30, 1870, that the United States Congress permitted Texas' representatives to take their seat in Congress, although Texas did not meet all the formal requirements for readmission.
Notable Civil War leaders from Texas
A number of notable leaders were associated with Texas during the Civil War. John Bell Hood gained fame as the commander of the Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia and played a prominent role as an army commander late in the war. "Sul" Ross was a significant leader in a number of Trans-Mississippi Confederate armies. Felix Huston Robertson was the only native Texan Confederate general. Capt. TJ Goree was one of Lt. General James Longstreet's most trusted aides. John H. Reagan was an influential member of Jefferson Davis's cabinet. Col. Santos Benavides was a Confederate colonel during the American Civil War. Benavides was the highest-ranking Tejano soldier to serve in the Confederate military.
The office of Governor of Texas was in flux throughout the war, with several men in power at various times. Sam Houston was governor when Texas seceded from the United States, but refused to declare any loyalty to the new Confederacy. He was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. Clark filled the rest of Houston's term in 1861, and narrowly lost re-election by just 124 votes to Francis Lubbock. During his tenure, Lubbock supported Confederate conscription, working to draft all able-bodied men, including resident aliens, into the Confederate Army. When Lubbock's term ended in 1863, he joined the military. Ardent secessionist Pendleton Murrah replaced him in office. Even after Robert E. Lee surrendered in 1865, Murrah encouraged Texans to continue the revolution, and he and several supporters fled to Mexico.
John Bell Hood
CSA Postmaster General
John Henninger Reagan
Lawrence Sullivan Ross
Legacies of the Confederacy in Texas
Although one of the original members of the Confederate States of America, much of Texas was settled after the Civil War. However, Confederate Heroes Day is an official state holiday, and the month of April is recognized by the Texas Senate as Confederate History Month.. Although not an official holiday, April 26 is, among Southern historical organizations within the state, often observed as Confederate Memorial Day. On the South Lawn of the state capitol in Austin is a Confederate monument, and several other memorials to individual Texas Confederate units are nearby. In addition, most Texas county courthouse grounds feature a Confederate memorial.
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|History of Texas|
- Confederate States of America - animated map of state secession and confederacy
- History of slavery in Texas
- Nueces massacre
- Texas Civil War Confederate Units
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