Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas during the Civil War

Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas during the Civil War

by Kenneth W. Howell

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On February 1, 1861, delegates at the Texas Secession Convention elected to leave the Union. The people of Texas supported the actions of the convention in a statewide referendum, paving the way for the state to secede and to officially become the seventh state in the Confederacy. Soon the Texans found themselves engaged in a bloody and prolonged civil war against their northern brethren. During the course of this war, the lives of thousands of Texans, both young and old, were changed forever. This new anthology, edited by Kenneth W. Howell, incorporates the latest scholarly research on how Texans experienced the war. Eighteen contributors take us from the battlefront to the home front, ranging from inside the walls of a Confederate prison to inside the homes of women and children left to fend for themselves while their husbands and fathers were away on distant battlefields, and from the halls of the governor's mansion to the halls of the county commissioner's court in Colorado County. Also explored are well-known battles that took place in or near Texas, such as the Battle of Galveston, the Battle of Nueces, the Battle of Sabine Pass, and the Red River Campaign. Finally, the social and cultural aspects of the war receive new analysis, including the experiences of women, African Americans, Union prisoners of war, and noncombatants.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574413663
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Publication date: 03/15/2009
Series: War and the Southwest Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 8 MB

About the Author

Kenneth W. Howell is an assistant professor at Prairie View A&M University. He received his Ph.D. in history form Texas A&M University and also taught there as a visiting assistant professor. He is the author of Texas Confederate, Reconstruction Governor: James Webb Throckmorton and coauthor of The Devil’s Triangle: Ben Bickerstaff, Northeast Texans, and the War of Reconstruction in Texas and Beyond Myths and Legends: A Narrative History of Texas.

Read an Excerpt

The Seventh Star of the Confederacy

Texas during the Civil War

University of North Texas Press
Copyright © 2009

University of North Texas Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-57441-259-8

Chapter One The Impact of New Studies about Texas and Texans on Civil War Historiography by Alwyn Barr

The Civil War in Texas and Texans in the war have continued to attract both professional and non-professional historians. Especially notable in recent years are the first modern general history of those topics by Ralph Wooster and the first volume providing a visual sense of the people involved in the conflict across the Lone Star State by Carl Moneyhon and Bobby Roberts. Thoughtful summaries of historical writings also have appeared in important essays by Randolph B. Campbell and Walter F. Bell. Campbell discussed a broader era from 1846 to 1876 with a focus on non-military topics including "population, the frontier, the economy ..., social life and social structure, and politics." He also raised the key questions of how much change occurred and how much continuity remained. Bell began after secession and concentrated primarily on writings about military campaigns and leadership, political and economic activities including Confederate-state tensions, and Confederate efforts to control or eliminate Union sentiment.

Rather than overlap with those works of historiography, this essay will focus on what writings about Texans since 1990 contribute to some of the newer debates and questions raised by Civil War historians. Have other studies clarified our understanding of the reasons for the secession movement that led to war? Social historians have influenced military history by calling for a better sense of the enlisted men, their places in society, and their attitudes about the conflict. Social historians also have encouraged a broader understanding of how the war impacted society, including the roles of women and the status of minorities-African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans. Ultimately all of these questions may be related to the ongoing discussions of how the Union won the war and why the Confederacy lost.

Two books clarify specific events of 1860 and 1861 leading to secession. Donald E. Reynolds presents a careful analysis of fires in Texas towns during 1860 that quickly came to be blamed on slaves and abolitionists. Although an unusually hot summer and faulty new matches provided a better explanation, fears by many Texans who remembered John Brown's raid into Virginia in 1859 led to paranoia and a wave of vigilante violence against slaves and Northerners in the Lone Star State. Anti-Republican newspaper editors who favored secession used the fires to promote their cause in Texas and across the South. Dale Baum, using statistical analysis, has reviewed the presidential election of 1860 and the secession referendum in 1861. He concludes that Brown's raid and the fires, often called the "Texas Troubles," led to the collapse of the Unionist coalition that had elected Sam Houston governor in 1859. Baum also notes economic and religious influences, with wheat farmers, who were often Disciples of Christ, in North Texas counties settled from the Upper South and German Lutherans in Central Texas as the strongest opponents of secession. Kenneth W. Howell offers the most detailed account of the anti-secession efforts by James W. Throckmorton during this period.

Most writing on the Civil War in Texas has continued to focus on military affairs. Military campaigns and commanders have received further attention that is reviewed appropriately by Walter Bell. Three additional studies that have appeared since his essay deserve comment. Stephen A. Townsend considers the Rio Grande expedition by the Union army and navy that occupied the lower valley and the Texas coast up to Matagorda from November 1863 to March 1864. He concludes that it became the most successful Federal advance into the state by reducing the flow of cotton through Mexico and forcing a more expensive route to Laredo and Eagle Pass. Furthermore, Union forces showed United States' concern about the French role in the Mexican civil war. Finally, the expedition allowed Unionist A. J. Hamilton to return to Texas at least briefly as its appointed governor. Different views in the Federal high command led to withdrawal of most soldiers in favor of the unsuccessful Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864.

Historians of the Federal advance up the Red River have presented several accounts that debate the quality of leadership on both sides and whether Confederates could have achieved more with a different strategy. Jeffery S. Prushankin offers a fresh analysis by suggesting that Edmund Kirby Smith employed a Fabian retreat in the style of Joseph E. Johnston that resulted from his need to defend the entire Trans-Mississippi Department. Richard Taylor followed the more aggressive style of Stonewall Jackson as a means of defending his smaller District of Louisiana. Prushankin concludes that their efforts led to Confederate success, while their differences generated a major "crisis in command." In a broader study, Stephen A. Dupree concludes that Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks attained most goals given him by the Union War Department, but failed as a field commander, especially in efforts to invade Texas. Federal focus on more important war goals and questionable decisions about how to invade Texas combined with successful Confederate defense efforts to limit the impact of the conflict on the state.

Two biographies further understanding of command by a Texan and by the longest-serving leader of the District of Texas. Thomas W. Cutrer presents Ben McCulloch as an able general based on experience in frontier conflicts, whose opportunity for higher rank in the Confederate army ran afoul of preference by President Jefferson Davis for United States Military Academy graduates. The complexities of commanding the Military District of Texas are explored by Paul D. Casdorph as he discusses the career of John B. Magruder.

The enlisted men from Texas who fought in the Civil War have received increased attention in the growing number of regimental, brigade, and division histories. Like older accounts of such units, the new studies discuss movements and engagements. Unlike most early unit histories, some of the new volumes explore the group images that emerge from quantitative analysis of the soldiers. By comparing the profiles of units recruited in different areas at varied times a more complex picture begins to appear.

Two of the best unit histories provide useful examples and contrasting results. Douglas Hale describes Confederate soldiers recruited in 1861 for the Third Texas Cavalry regiment. They came from families in East Texas counties that averaged almost $13,000 in property, double the level for all families in the state. Slightly over half of the men's families owned slaves, a direct commitment to the institution and again twice the percentage for families across Texas. With a median age of about 23, only about 20 percent of the men were married with families, which allowed most to pursue more easily a combination of adventure and commitment to a cause. A little over 50 percent of the men had been engaged in aspects of agriculture, compared to about 75 percent of those in the state. Sixty percent had been born in the Lower South, which seemed to generate a stronger commitment to the Confederacy. About 30 percent came from Upper South backgrounds, while less than 10 percent came from the North or another country.

Almost a year later Confederate leaders raised eleven regiments and a battalion of infantry in East Texas. Richard Lowe describes the men of those units that formed Walker's Texas Division. Much like the Third Texas Cavalry and other units from the region, over three-fifths came from the Lower South, while about half as many came from the Upper South. Only one in twenty had Northern or immigrant backgrounds. These soldiers differed from the volunteers of 1861 in various ways. They averaged about four years older, with roughly half already heads of families, twice as many as in the Third Texas. They more clearly fit the general pattern of Texans with three-fourths involved in agriculture, but they held only half the amount of wealth as the average family heads across the state. One in five owned slaves, compared to one of four Texans. Thus they proved to be a more middle-class group than the elite young men of the Third Texas. Their motivations appear to have been related to concern with Union advances and maintaining a stable way of life "including white control of the black underclass." Randolph B. Campbell, using statistics to analyze soldiers from Harrison County, offers support for most of these conclusions by Lowe and Hale. Campbell adds that a higher percentage of prosperous Texans served the Confederacy than among those of more modest means, which runs counter to the image of a rich man's war but a poor man's fight.

Even greater ethnic and occupational diversity existed among Texas soldiers. Stanley S. McGowen discusses the presence of a company of German immigrants from the Hill Country in the First Texas Cavalry of the Confederate army. Charles D. Spurlin, in his introduction and conclusion to a Confederate soldier's diary, discusses the German immigrants in some companies of the Sixth Texas Infantry from the Coastal Bend region. Jerry D. Thompson, in two new books, reviews and clarifies the roles and attitudes of Mexican Americans in South Texas and Mexicans in Northern Mexico who served in both the Union and Confederate armies during the American Civil War as well as in the Mexican civil war of the same period. These volumes offer fewer details about the backgrounds of the soldiers, however, which limits comparisons.

Regional differences also appear in units from North Texas. In his introduction to the diary and letters of a Confederate officer from Texas, Richard Lowe describes the men of Company H, Ninth Texas Cavalry, as recruited in 1861 from a North Texas county that voted against secession. Most of these young men came from Upper South backgrounds. Their families usually owned small farms with less wealth than the average Texas household. Slaveholders formed just one-sixth of the unit, less than the average for Texas families. Yet their early enlistment probably reflected greater commitment to Confederate views and set them apart from many neighbors who preferred to remain in the Union.

Many of the same studies contribute to an understanding of the factors that led to a decline in the size of military units and the armies in which they served. Douglas Hale again points to key problems. In the fall of 1861 while still west of the Mississippi River the Third Texas Cavalry faced a wave of illness, primarily measles and typhoid, which left eighteen men dead and 145 discharged. Following reorganization in early 1862, the regiment had been reduced by one-third. Illness killed 9 percent of the cavalrymen during the war. Another 7 percent died on the battlefield, while 16 percent suffered wounds. Fourteen percent became prisoners at some point, with 7 percent listed as deserters. The collective impact can be seen when the regiment entered the Atlanta Campaign in the spring of 1864 with 46 percent of its remaining soldiers listed as absent. Lowe in his discussion of the Ninth Texas Cavalry, another regiment in Ross's Texas Cavalry Brigade, adds that as a result of "disease, death, desertion, and wounds" the brigade had fallen from its initial strength of 4,000 men to 686 present for duty, or less than 20 percent, by November 1864.

Lowe describes similar problems as well as some differences in his history of the infantrymen in Walker's Division that served in the Trans-Mississippi region. His quantitative analysis suggests that during 1862, the first year of service for those men, disease and illness caused the death or discharge of about 2,300 out of 12,000 soldiers. Perhaps 700 more received discharges because of age. Transfers, resignations of officers, injuries from accidents, and desertions probably removed another 1,000 men from the ranks. The division had been reduced to about 8,000 soldiers by the end of the summer. Similar problems brought the division strength down to 6,000 men, half its original size, by the spring of 1863 before seeing serious combat. Thereafter the men fought in several skirmishes and battles in which over 1,400 men met death or suffered wounds, while more than 700 became prisoners or missing. Periods of desertions resulted from lack of furloughs, supplies, and pay, combined with declining morale after Confederate defeats such as Vicksburg in 1863. Opposition to possible transfer east of the Mississippi River in 1864 caused about 450 men to head home, although officers brought back many and some others later returned. Walker's Division had been reduced to a little more than one-fourth of it initial size by the end of the Red River Campaign. Lowe does not offer a figure for total desertions from the division. M. Jane Johansson, in her history of the Twenty-eighth Texas Cavalry, which had been dismounted to serve in Walker's command, lists total losses that were below average for the division. The 44 desertions included in her figures, when projected as an average for all twelve regiments, suggest over 500 men absent without leave at some point, which may be a low estimate. Available service records for Confederate units usually do not include figures for the final months of 1864 and early 1865 when desertions increased in many military organizations. Charles Grear suggests that even some soldiers who volunteered early in the war and served east of the Mississippi River left units to protect their families in Texas, especially in those final months. Campbell in his quantitative study of Confederate soldiers from Harrison County adds further complexity to the picture by estimating that about half of the draft-age males in Texas served in some military unit. That falls below earlier projections of 60 to 75 percent, although it is still slightly higher than the average for Union states. About 20 percent of those who joined the military died of disease, illness, or combat. Yet if almost half of military age Anglo Texans did not serve in the army, then approximately 90 percent of them survived the conflict and most could help revive the state's economy and society after the conflict.

Because the Third Texas Cavalry faced some combat from 1861 until the end of the war, while Walker's infantry engaged Union troops from 1863 to 1865, it is difficult to compare their casualty levels. Hale does offer a comparison, however, using the losses of Hood's Texas Brigade of infantry in the East to conclude that foot soldiers suffered heavier losses than cavalry. Another infantry unit, the Sixth Texas Infantry that served first in the Trans-Mississippi and later east of the Mississippi River, provides support for that pattern of losses, while adding further complexity. Spurlin shows that 157 men in the regiment died of disease or illness, 83 of them in Union prison camps, with 90 more discharged-about one-fourth of the regiment. Only 19 men deserted, but after Union forces captured the regiment at Arkansas Post, 152 men agreed to declare allegiance to the United States. Furthermore, 116 men obtained reassignment to other duty. Together these groups composed over a quarter of the regiment. Those killed in combat numbered 60, while 157 suffered wounds and 75 became prisoners of war separately after Arkansas Post-almost a third of the regiment. The combined losses totaled 826 men, over 80 percent of the original enlistments.

Histories of units from areas outside of East Texas reveal more varied patterns. Richard McCaslin describes the Eleventh Texas Cavalry, raised in North Texas, as composed in part of prewar Unionists who shifted their support to the Texas state government in 1861, primarily to defend the frontier against possible Indian raids. Other members of the regiment had favored secession after the 1860 fires and fears of an abolitionist-inspired slave revolt. When the governor transferred the unit to the Confederate commander in Texas, who ordered the men to Arkansas, more than 20 percent refused to extend their service although many paid for substitutes to fill their places. Temporary conversion of the regiment to infantry in early 1862, followed by orders to cross the Mississippi River, led to numerous desertions, discharges for health reasons, and resignations by officers. The regimental strength fell from almost 800 to about 250 in three months. New recruits did allow the unit to survive and continue service east of the Mississippi.

National background also played a role in shaping commitment. German immigrants formed companies that served in Confederate regiments with results that varied according to circumstances. McGowen explains that a company of Germans from the Hill Country served on the nearby frontier and in South Texas except for a few weeks in Louisiana during the Red River Campaign as part of the First Texas Cavalry. Probably they felt more comfortable because a German immigrant colonel, Augustus Buchel, led the regiment for a year. Terry Jordan edited letters from an Austin County German immigrant company that participated in the service of the Fourth Texas Cavalry from New Mexico to Texas and Louisiana.


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Table of Contents

Contents List of
List of Maps....................vii
Part I A Historical Overview of Texas and the Civil War Chapter 1 The Impact of New Studies about Texas and Texans on Civil War Historiography by Alwyn Barr....................2
Chapter 2 The Civil War and the Lone Star State: A Brief Overview by Archie P. McDonald....................21
Part II The Time for Compromise Has Passed Chapter 3 The Impending Crisis: A Texas Perspective on the Causes of the Civil War by James M. Smallwood....................32
Chapter 4 The Knights of the Golden Circle in Texas, 1858-1861: An Analysis of the First (Military) Degree Knights by Linda S. Hudson....................52
Part III In Sight of My Enemy Chapter 5 Frontier Defense: Enlistment Patterns for the Texas Frontier Regiments in the Civil War by John W. Gorman....................70
Chapter 6 Reckoning at the River: Unionists and Secessionists on the Nueces, August 10, 1862 by Mary Jo O'Rear....................85
Chapter 7 Without a Fight: The Eighty-four-day Union Occupation of Galveston, Texas by Donald Willett....................110
Chapter 8 "Nothing but Disaster": The Failure of Union Plans to Capture Texas by Edward T. Cotham, Jr....................130
Chapter 9 Hide Your Daughters: The Yankees Have Arrived in the Coastal Bend, 1863 by Charles D. Spurlin....................149
Chapter 10 Red and White Fighting the Blue: Relations between Texans and Confederate Indians by Charles D. Grear....................167
Chapter 11 Defending the Lone Star: TheTexas Cavalry in the Red River Campaign by Gary D. Joiner....................189
Chapter 12 Prison City, Camp Ford: Largest Confederate Prisoner-of-war Camp in the Trans-Mississippi by James M. Smallwood....................208
Part IV Political, Social, and Cultural Life during the War Chapter 13 The Confederate Governors of Texas by Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr....................228
Chapter 14 "A Sacred Charge upon Our Hands": Assisting the Families of Confederate Soldiers in Texas, 1861-1865 by Vicki Betts....................246
Chapter 15 On the Edge of First Freedoms: Black Texans and the Civil War by Ronald E. Goodwin and Bruce A. Glasrud....................268
Chapter 16 Feed the Troops or Fight the Drought: The Dilemma Texas Beef Contractors Faced in 1861-1865 by Carol Taylor....................287
Chapter 17 Distress, Discontent, and Dissent: Colorado County, Texas, during the Civil War by Bill Stein....................301
List of Contributors....................317


 College Station, TX

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