The Slave Insurrection Panic of 1860 and the Secession of the Lower South
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
The seed for this book was planted more than thirty years ago, while I was doing research for the dissertation that would later become Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis. As I read scores of southern newspapers for the year 1860 in libraries and courthouses all over the South, I was...
1. What Is in the Wind?
Although slave insurrections were rare in the antebellum South, slave insurrection panics were not. Indeed, periodic scares over possible uprisings were about as familiar to most white southerners as grits and redeye gravy. Virtually from slavery’s inception in North America there were frequent reports of rebellious...
2. Red Torch over Our Land
Sunday, July 8, 1860, dawned especially hot on the dusty prairies and rolling hills of northern and eastern Texas. By noon the temperature already stood at the century mark in many communities. Perhaps the hottest spot in the state was Marshall, where before the sun would spend itself the mercury would...
3. Better to Hang Ninety-nine Innocent Men
Although all of the panic-stricken communities possessed regularly constituted law enforcement machinery in 1860, virtually none was willing to entrust to it the investigation of the alleged insurrectionary activity. Instead, they almost exclusively resorted to the use of vigilance committees to carry out the investigations...
4. Savage Deeds of Blood and Carnage
Having taken measures to protect their homes from the incendiary’s torch and their families from the assassin’s hand, the vigilance committees proceeded apace with the grim business of discovering and punishing the conspirators. Obtaining evidence against the enemies of slavery, however, was by no means an easy task. With few exceptions, those whites charged with having caused the...
5. Great News from Texas
Ollinger Crenshaw has written: “During the summer of 1789, a vague feeling of unrest swept the rural provinces of France, where it was said that ‘the brigands are coming.’ It seems that some kind of similar feeling existed in the states of the old South in the summer and fall of 1860, a feeling of tenseness which led...
6. A Thousand Rumors
By late August and early September 1860, the withering heat that seared Texas during July had moderated, and with this welcome respite also came a corresponding cooling of the panic, as it became apparent that most of the reports of fires and insurrection were false. But “heat” of another kind developed even as...
7. Who Is William H. Bailey?
Late in the evening of September 3, four men accompanied a stagecoach into the town of Fort Worth, Texas. The gray-haired, ﬁfty-six-year-old man they re-moved in chains was none other than the notorious Anthony Bewley, a minis-ter of the Methodist Episcopal Church accused of complicity in the plot to dev-astate Texas by ﬁre and poison. Although he was a native southerner, Bewley’s ...
8. The Mortal Enemy of the South
Southern rights editors and politicians largely ignored the mounting evidence that the Texas Troubles had been greatly exaggerated by false rumors of arson and poisonings, which had been enhanced and made more believable by the fraudulent Bailey letter. As the presidential election loomed nearer, those who...
Epilogue: Conclusions of a Mad People
On a July weekend in 1981 some two hundred descendants of Cato Miller, one of the three blacks hanged for allegedly setting the Dallas fire of 1860, met to commemorate the 121st anniversary of their ancestor’s death. The object, according to the organizer of the meeting, was to keep alive awareness of the...