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Still the Arena of Civil War

Violence and Turmoil in Reconstruction Texas, 1865-1874

Edited by Kenneth W. Howell

Publication Year: 2012

Following the Civil War, the United States was fully engaged in a bloody conflict with ex-Confederates, conservative Democrats, and members of organized terrorist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, for control of the southern states. Texas became one of the earliest battleground states in the War of Reconstruction. Throughout this era, white Texans claimed that Radical Republicans in Congress were attempting to dominate their state through “Negro-Carpetbag-Scalawag rule.” In response to these perceived threats, whites initiated a violent guerilla war that was designed to limit support for the Republican Party. They targeted loyal Unionists throughout the South, especially African Americans who represented the largest block of Republican voters in the region. Was the Reconstruction era in the Lone Star State simply a continuation of the Civil War? Evidence presented by sixteen contributors in this new anthology, edited by Kenneth W. Howell, argues that this indeed was the case. Topics include the role of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the occupying army, focusing on both sides of the violence. Several contributors analyze the origins of the Ku Klux Klan and its operations in Texas, how the Texas State Police attempted to quell the violence, and Tejano adjustment to Reconstruction. Other chapters focus on violence against African-American women, the failure of Governor Throckmorton to establish law and order, and the role of newspaper editors influencing popular opinion. Finally, several contributors study Reconstruction by region in the Lower Brazos River Valley and in Lavaca County.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. v-vii

List of Maps and Illustrations

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p. viii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The Reconstruction era represents one of America’s great paradoxes. It was a period of expanded liberty and democracy: two of America’s most sacred principles. It should have been a period of exuberance and celebration. However, the post-Civil War era was in...

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pp. xi-xii

I owe a great debt to many people who have helped with the completion of this work. First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to my contributors. Each worked diligently to make all deadlines and was patient with me as I worked through the editing and publishing...

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pp. 1-33

The American Civil War was one of the most significant events in the history of the United States. In four years more than six hundred thousand men died, Unionism triumphed, and slavery was abolished, but peace remained elusive. Amazingly, the victors showed...

Part One: Representatives of Change: Soldiers, Bureau Agents, and Lawmen

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Chapter 1: The Post of Greatest Peril?: The Freedmen’s Bureau Subassistant Commissioners and Reconstruction Violence in Texas, 1865–1869

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pp. 36-62

Following the Civil War, federal authorities often described Texas as a bastion of unconquered former Confederates and violence prone frontiersmen. Many northerners viewed Texas as an unpleasant place—in many cases, a deadly one, especially for Unionists and...

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Chapter 2: “Shoot or Get Out of the Way!”: The Murder of Texas Freedmen’s Bureau Agent William G. Kirkman by Cullen Baker—and the Historians

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pp. 63-111

Deep in the northeast corner of Texas dominated by the misty swamps that form the Sulphur River lies Bowie County, named after the famous knife- wielding frontiersman who died at the Alamo. Created in 1841, Bowie County had a pre- Civil War white population...

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Chapter 3: The World Turned Upside Down?: The Military Occupation of Victoria and Calhoun Counties, 1865–1867

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pp. 113-131

The last remnant of formal Confederate military resistance in the Civil War ended on June 2, 1865, with the capitulation of the Trans- Mississippi Department by Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith. Soon thereafter, federal forces under Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, commander...

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Chapter 4: William Longworth, Republican Villain

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pp. 133-151

The scholarly effort to retrieve an accurate history of Reconstruction from the intellectual dustbin to which it had been consigned by popular memory has advanced rapidly in the last fifty years or so. Republicans are generally now seen as reformers, local politicians who...

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Chapter 5: “The Old Hero of Many Cowardly and Bloody Murders”: Scalawag Gang Leader Ben Brown

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pp. 153-186

Traditional accounts of Texas history written during the first century after the Civil War portrayed many of the violent desperados of the state’s Reconstruction era in the context of family feuds or gun fights in which men would have rather died than backed down from...

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Chapter 6: Finding a Solution to Reconstruction Violence: The Texas State Police

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pp. 187-211

Violence has ever been associated with Texas. The causes for this brutal propensity by its inhabitants, especially after the arrival of immigrants from the United States, have often attracted the attention of writers. Texas violence has been characterized as extensive...

Part Two: The Insurgents and Their Allies: Texas Terrorists, Politicians, and Newspaper Editors

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Chapter 7: When the Klan Rode: Terrorism in Reconstruction Texas

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pp. 214-242

In Texas during Reconstruction terrorist groups and outlaw gangs were legion, and they kept the state bathed in blood from 1865 to the mid- 1870s. They wrapped themselves in the Confederate flag, bespoke the “Lost Cause,” and claimed to be taking the field against...

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Chapter 8: The Democratic Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Politics of Fear

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pp. 243-265

The era of Reconstruction in Texas, as elsewhere in the South, was marked by a wave of violence that revisionist historian Eric Foner has described as lacking a “counterpart in the American experience or in that of the other Western Hemisphere societies that abolished...

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Chapter 9: “A Free and Outspoken Press”: Coverage of Reconstruction Violence and Turmoil in Texas Newspapers, 1866–1868

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pp. 267-284

In early February of 1861 virtually every publisher in Texas printed the Declaration of Causes of Secession in his newspaper. Two items stood out within its last paragraph. One, that “the servitude of the African race is mutually beneficial to both bond and free,” became a...

Part Three: The Victims: Minorities and Women

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Chapter 10: Into Freedom’s Abyss: Reflections of Reconstruction Violence in Texas

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pp. 286-303

During the past four decades, scholars have convincingly argued that violence was commonplace in Texas during the post- Civil War years. These scholars have examined various aspects of Reconstruction violence, including political, racial, and socio- economic...

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Chapter 11: Foreigners in Their Native Land: The Violent Struggle between Anglos and Tejanos for Land Titles in South Texas during Reconstruction

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pp. 305-325

"We were really a vigilante committee.” In these words, a raider admitted that though they acted under the color of law as “rangers” or “Minutemen Militia,” scores of Anglo- Texan vigilantes in the 1870s raided Tejano homes and ranches, killing, lynching...

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Chapter 12: “To Punish and Humiliate the Entire Community”: White Violence Perpetrated Against African- American Women in Texas, 1865–1868

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pp. 340-327

Immediately following the Civil War, many former slaves in Texas found themselves at the mercy of whites—in their homes, their places of work and recreation, their churches, and even in the courts. For them, the “freedom” granted in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments...

Part Four: Regional Perspectives: The Frontier, the Interior, and Places in Between

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Chapter 13: Governor James Throckmorton and the Question of Frontier Violence in Reconstruction Texas, 1866–1867

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pp. 354-369

At the close of the Civil War, Kiowa and Comanche warriors increased their raids against Anglo settlers living along the Texas frontier. The line of settlements, which were fairly stable during the war, retreated more than a hundred miles eastward as settlers abandoned...

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Chapter 14: An Uncompromising Line between Yankee Rule and Rebel Rowdies: Reconstruction Violence in Lavaca County

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pp. 371-386

Lavaca County was one of the many counties in Texas that continued to resist federal intervention in state and local politics following the Civil War. Corrupt politicians, outlaw gangs, and horse rustlers were commonplace in the region. Murders, lynchings, raids, and...

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Chapter 15: Reconstruction Violence in the Lower Brazos River Valley

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pp. 387-420

The end of the Civil War offered a new beginning for race relations in the United States. The passage of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, which guaranteed freedom, citizenship, and political equality, offered hope to millions of freed slaves throughout the South...

List of Contributors

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pp. 421-424


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pp. 425-445

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414578
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574414493

Page Count: 480
Illustrations: 16 b&w illus. 3 maps.
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877) -- Texas.
  • Violence -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Texas.
  • Texas -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • Minorities -- Violence against -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • Texas -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.
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