Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas

Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas

by Jesús F. de la Teja

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ISBN-13: 9780806154572
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date: 03/09/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 446,907
File size: 8 MB

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Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance

Other Sides of Civil War Texas


By Jesús F. de la Teja

UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS

Copyright © 2016 University of Oklahoma Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8061-5457-2



CHAPTER 1

Gray Ghost

CREATING A COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF A CONFEDERATE TEXAS

Laura Lyons McLemore


In 1969, the title of a book by Irene Kampen, Due to Lack of Interest, Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled, symbolized the ennui resulting from more than a decade of war, social change, and protest in America. In some ways that statement might also apply to post–Civil War reaction to the Confederacy in Texas, if not all over the South. Exhaustion and uncertainty about the meaning of defeat militated against the immediate creation of a collective memory of the Confederacy. Moreover, it would be a mistake to characterize "Confederate memory" in Texas as it has been applied to other states of the former Confederacy. Indeed, few discussions of collective Confederate memory mention Texas. Of course, there are some commonalities — many more, as Walter Buenger has argued, than Texans have been willing to acknowledge — but upon even a brief examination it becomes clear that lumping Texas together with the rest of the Southern states in generalizations about the creation of collective Confederate memory fails. A survey of primary and secondary sources reveals several reasons, the first and foremost of which is that Texans viewed and many continue to view themselves as "Texan" first and foremost. A second is that vast differences of geography and ethnic heritage militated against the formation of a genuinely collective memory of a Confederate Texas. A third is that Texas men were much more interested in getting back to making money than they were in memorializing a lost cause. This left the cultivation of "memory" to the ladies and thus exposed a host of interests that competed with simple memory making.

Memory and collective memory have become popular topics of research, discussion, and debate among sociologists, psychologists, and historians since the early twentieth century, and these experts have not been consistently in agreement. Therefore, some definition of terms may be useful. Most important, what is collective memory and what are its implications? Scholars have viewed "social" or "collective" memory as involving particular sets of practices like monument building and general forms like tradition, myth, and identity. The first explicit use of the term "collective memory" is found in the work of Hugo von Hofmannsthal in 1902. Hofmannsthal referred to "the damned up force of our mysterious ancestors within us" and "piled up layers of accumulated collective memory," which suggests that "Confederate memory" may involve pre- and postwar memory as well as memories of the Civil War and Confederate States of America.

Contemporary use of the term "collective memory" began with Maurice Halbwachs in 1925, who established a connection between social groups and collective memory. Halbwachs argued that every memory is carried by a specific social group limited in space and time, that collective memory evokes the presence of the past, and that as a living imagination collective memory is constantly reshaped by the social contexts into which it is received. Commemoration, then, is a calculated strategy for stabilizing collective memories that would otherwise be changeable and temporary; thus, memory and history, in Halbwachs's view, are antithetical — memory distorting the past while history tries to correct memory's inaccuracies.

Halbwachs identified several forms of memory: autobiographical memory, the memory of lived experience; historical memory, that which reaches the present through historical records; and collective memory, the active past that forms identities. In the late twentieth century, French sociologist Pierre Nora conducted perhaps the most influential studies of commemorative narrative and commemoration, Les Lieux de mémoire (1984–92). Nora reversed the relationship between memory and history. Instead of being part of a grand narrative, Nora theorized, places of memory are only loosely connected, if at all, and the task of historians is reconstructing a cultural heritage by tying these reference points together.

In the last decade of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first century, a consensus about the meaning of "collective memory" seems no closer than when the term was first used. Some scholars continue to argue that the ideas of individuals are influenced by the groups to which they belong. Others argue that collective memory is not an alternative to history but rather is shaped by it, by commemorative symbolism and ritual, and that commemoration constructs a collective memory where one did not previously exist. All do seem to agree that collective memory involves thoughts shared by a group of people, and that definition will suffice here.

Another term requiring definition is "Confederate," or "Confederacy." In this context, "Confederate" refers to the Confederate States of America, which formed in February 1861 and collapsed in 1865, though both the term "Confederacy" and the concept appear in Texas correspondence as early as 1840. For the purpose of this writing, "Confederate memory" is distinguished from Civil War memory or Reconstruction memory for the simple reason that remembering heroes and heroic adventures is not the same as remembering allegiance to a specific group, the Confederacy, as a nation or as the embodiment of espoused ideals. In that regard, I consider "Confederate" to be distinctly Southern. I would suggest that the conservatism Texas has experienced since the Civil War, and the virulent strain of the past few years, in particular, is not the legacy of the Confederacy so much as it is the legacy of Texan individualism, love of profit, and love of adventure. Texans, with or without slavery, hated the government telling them what to do. Racism, though unquestionably a component, is a value shared much more broadly and is thus not exclusive to the Confederacy. Most of the memoirs of this period were written by men whose memories of themselves and their adventures were a much higher priority than their memories of the Southern Confederacy. There simply is not a lot of evidence that Texas identified itself for any length of time after the Civil War with the other Southern states even though they shared many ideas, behaviors, and prejudices.

Texas's much discussed identity transcends Southern or Confederate identity for a number of reasons. Though many Texas residents had emigrated from the Old South and shared many characteristics and ideals with people of the Deep South, their experiences once they got to Texas were not identical. Although highly respected scholars of the Civil War era argue that Texas is essentially Southern, there is simply no getting around the fact that Texas was on the frontier and therefore had, in addition to its Southerness, a frontier mentality. Just as Walter Buenger and Randolph Campbell have pointed to Texans' Southern origins and characteristics as proof of their Southern mentality, Donald Meinig has convincingly argued that there are "patterns which yet remain to distinguish Texas from [the rest of] the nation: the serious insistence by the majority of Texans on thinking of themselves as different ... the residue of certain values which sociologists have identified as especially (though not uniquely) characteristic of the main body of the Texas population; and the particular regional patterning of peoples, a distinctive mosaic, related in its parts to, but not duplicated as a whole in, any other parts of the country." John Bodnar has noted that Davy Crockett represented a new cultural symbol that competed with George Washington, a symbol of a frontier rather than a national community. Col. John S. "Rip" Ford, a states' righter who helped write the Texas secession ordinance, served on and off as a Texas Ranger and as a colonel in the Confederate cavalry. Yet he was described as "an adventurer at heart." His memoirs are full of anecdotes. It seems, though, that he found his greatest adventures in the Texas Revolution, the Mexican War, and Indian wars.

The great adventures of Texans' creation narrative caused them to identify themselves as Texans more than as Southerners as well. They wrested Texas from Mexicans and from Indians, and for a decade they governed themselves as an independent republic. Whatever memories or ideals some Texans shared with the old South they left behind, being on the frontier was an experience shared by all Texans regardless of their origins. As Campbell explained, memory of the cattle kingdom was built upon "heroically individualistic ranchers and cowboys successfully braving nature, defeating Indians, and civilizing the plains and prairies west of the one-hundredth meridian." This was exactly what Texans who participated in the Civil War remembered: heroically individualistic Texans and Rangers successfully braving nature, defeating Indians, and dominating, if not civilizing, the plains and prairies. Campbell continued, "This memory emphasizes all things western and allows Texans to escape from their essentially southern heritage. Being western may create problems for those who worry about such things as destroying the buffalo and dispossessing the Indians, but this western past is still far more appealing than a southern past that involves slavery, secession, Civil War, and defeat."

It is not too difficult to see how Texans may have developed a strong sense of identity separate from the older states of the Deep South. The Civil War was sandwiched between the Texas Revolution and the cattle kingdom, both of which dominated collective memory of Texans. The war they won won out. They identified with Texas heroes (many of whom like Rip Ford fought in both the Texas Revolution and the Civil War) and with the cattle range. The Confederacy simply could not compete. This is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the response of Adina de Zavala to the question whether the Daughters of the Republic of Texas should allow, without public protest, the Daughters of the Confederacy to erect a fountain to their cause in Alamo Plaza in front of the post office. "I think a fountain is all right and a great convenience — we had spoken of the matter ourselves," de Zavala wrote to Adele Looscan in June 1902. "However," she continued,

It is on ground sacred alone to the Heroes of the Alamo. On the square of the old Mission San Antonio de Valero where our men were hemmed up so many days and every inch is watered with their blood. It seems to me that every delicacy of sentiment and feeling would have kept them from this sacred spot. Some of our Daughters are furious and beg me to prevent "the sacrilege" if I can. I hate any unpleasant feeling though I do think they should not have trespassed. I am for peace — letting them alone — and letting the stigma of at least, "bad taste" rest upon them. Of course, most of us are D[aughters of the] Confederacy too — but we did not like the Chapter's actions during last Convention and feel that Societies as well as individuals should have some delicacy of sentiment, and that there are certain spots in S[an] A[ntonio], the Alamo in particular, that should be left sacred alone to the [memory of the] old Republic.


In the 1880s and 1890s, when the myth of the Lost Cause was burgeoning across the South, the ladies in Texas were putting pictures of Texas heroes on schoolroom walls and campaigning to have public schools named after the heroes of San Jacinto.

Texans also identified themselves with the frontier for geographic and cultural reasons. Terry Jordan has hypothesized that there were actually two clearly defined areas in Texas, one typically lower Southern and the other unmistakably characteristic of the upper South. By 1861, Jordan notes, these two "Souths," always socioeconomically different, had drifted far apart politically. Jordan shows that frontier conditions, culture, and even dialect separated the experience of these Texans. Moreover, except for El Paso, most of Texas west of the ninety-ninth parallel was unorganized politically when Texas seceded in 1861. Ty Cashion in his essay "What's the Matter with Texas" reinforces this notion of the frontier or "West" as experiential as much as spatial.

Another reason collective memory of a Confederate Texas is so elusive is that there were so many competing memories within Texas itself. In addition to the "two Souths" dichotomy described by Jordan, there was also a black memory of Confederate Texas which, much like the Mexican memory of the Texas Revolution, has been all but excluded from any "collective" memory of Confederate Texas. As Buck Barry's account revealed, another memory of the Civil War era in Texas was that of Indian fighter. Still another was the memory of women left at home. Halbwachs theorized that individual memory can be recalled only in the social framework within which it is constructed. Individuals, he surmised, belong to many social groups, and a collective memory inheres in each. Halbwachs discussed the frameworks of family, religion, and nation, showing how each conditions the ways in which memory is activated.

In Texas, secessionists, Unionists, slaves, women, Mexicans, Germans, and other groups all perceived the Confederacy differently, if they considered it at all. Certainly there existed a powerful contingent who identified with the Confederacy and its precepts, but it could not claim uniformity of experience with these other competing groups. Perhaps the most obvious example would be black countermemory. Campbell has noted that white Texans tend to remember slavery as a relatively unimportant institution in Texas, or, to the extent that slavery did exist, they recall it as a largely paternalistic, benevolent institution. This is not what African Americans who were enslaved remember. Historian Robert Cook, in an article on Civil War centennial celebrations, noted that a black countermemory existed, stressing the evils of slavery, the attainment of emancipation, black military support for the Union, and the benefits Reconstruction offered freedpeople. Elizabeth Hayes Turner has written that "white recollections denied the importance or the wisdom of emancipation," but Juneteenth celebrations, observed continually since 1866, always held meaning and historical memory for blacks. That these annual observances did not cease, even in the days of the civil rights movement when they were less public, provided "trenchant testimony to the strength of an emancipationist memory."

Further evidence of the elusiveness of a collective memory of Confederate Texas lies in the fact that Texas's experience of the Civil War was not the same as that of other states in the Confederacy. Most of the war was fought elsewhere. As Charles Ramsdell observed, Texas suffered less than her sister states throughout the war and during the first two or three years was fairly prosperous. No hostile armies laid waste her towns and fields or withdrew slaves from the plantations. Good crops were raised every year. During most of the war Texas ports were open, and steamers and blockade runners made their way to and from Vera Cruz, Havana, and the ports of Europe. Moreover, the Mexican border offered peculiar advantages for a safe overland trade, and through that channel the staples of Texas were exported and exchanged for necessary supplies or specie. Houstonian T. W. House served the Confederacy loyally and well but never had much hope that the Confederate armies could defeat the far larger, better-equipped forces of the Union. He therefore avoided accumulating Confederate currency and added to his gold reserves whenever possible. At war's end, he had $300,000 in gold laid away in England.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance by Jesús F. de la Teja. Copyright © 2016 University of Oklahoma Press. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Contents

List of Illustrations,
Introduction Jesús F. de la Teja,
1. Gray Ghost: Creating a Collective Memory of a Confederate Texas Laura Lyons McLemore,
2. The Problem of Slave Flight in Civil War Texas Andrew J. Torget,
3. Involuntary Removals: "Refugeed Slaves" in Confederate Texas W. Caleb McDaniel,
4. East Texas Unionism: Warren J. Collins, Big Thicket Jayhawker Victoria E. Bynum,
5. New Americans or New Southerners? Unionist German Texans Walter D. Kamphoefner,
6. "Although We Are the Last Soldiers": Citizenship, Ideology, and Tejano Unionism Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez,
7. A Texas Reign of Terror: Anti-Unionist Violence in North Texas Richard B. McCaslin,
8. In Defense of Their Families: African American Women, the Freedmen's Bureau, and Racial Violence during Reconstruction in Texas Rebecca A. Czuchry,
9. "Three Cheers to Freedom and Equal Rights to All": Juneteenth and the Meaning of Citizenship Elizabeth Hayes Turner,
10. Edmund J. Davis — Unlikely Radical Carl H. Moneyhon,
Selected Bibliography,
List of Contributors,
Index,

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