As the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War approaches, the question of why men fought for or against the United States government still remains a hotly debated topic. In states such as Kentucky, where civilians divided their loyalties, the subject will certainly trigger discussion as the conflict becomes a focal point for analysis. Charles David Grear, who tackles that question for the state of Texas, also touches on the motivations of many Kentucky-born Confederates who claimed the Lone Star State as home.
While historians have debated this topic for decades, Grear is the first scholar to devote an entire book to the motives of Texans. He draws on the work of historians of the Civil War who study causation but also on the numerous works that chronicle the soldiers in various Texas units, such as Hood's Texas brigade. He divides his book into seven chapters, five of which look at specific topics: chapter two is a general discussion of why Texans joined Union or Confederate armies; chapter three examines those soldiers who wanted to stay in the trans-Mississippi; chapter four discusses Texans who fought for the state of their birth; chapter five analyzes why soldiers returned to the Lone Star State; chapter six covers minorities.
It is in chapter four that readers of this journal will find an important connection to Kentucky. As Grear points out, the majority of Texas soldiers had been born east of the Mississippi River. They generally had family and friends where they had grown up, often parents and grandparents. Their loyalties were divided between [End Page 137] Texas and various locales to the east. One notable example was Samuel Bell Maxey, born in Tompkinsville, Kentucky, in 1825. Maxey fought unsuccessfully to take Kentucky for the Confederacy before returning to Texas to command a division in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Another well-known brigadier general, Richard Montgomery Gano, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1830, eventually receiving a degree at Louisville Medical School. He had only been in Texas a short time when the state seceded and in the first year of fighting he requested a permanent assignment in Kentucky. He pointed out that he wanted to defend Tennessee and Kentucky because this was the region where most of the Texans under him had been born and where their families still lived. Gano's Texas squadron subsequently became the nucleus of the Confederate Seventh Kentucky Cavalry.
Some Texans even initially enlisted in units outside the state. A notable individual to do this was Adam Rankin "Stovepipe" Johnson. Born in Henderson County, Kentucky, in 1834, he had moved to Texas in the 1850s. Grear calls him the "most extreme example of the Texans who crossed the Mississippi River to defend their own hometowns and kin on the east side" (p. 96). A brigadier general by 1864, Johnson spent most of the war fighting for the state of his birth. As the author correctly points out, this motivation—a strong attachment to family members, friends, and former homes—has received little attention from scholars. This desire to fight for another state is perhaps stronger in Texas than anywhere else since many white males in the Lone Star State had moved there as adults.
While the reasons Texans fought are no different from those of other soldiers, Grear is the first historian to bring them together through quotations from participants and by using the research of historians of various Texas units. As a result, this is a book that deserves its place on any bookshelf. [End Page 138]
Anne J. Bailey is professor emeritus of history at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia.