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DISAFFECTION IN CONFEDERATE TEXAS: The Great Hanging at Gainesville James Smallwood Disloyalty in the Confederacy remains an important topic. The most informative study is Frank Klingberg's The Southern Chims Commission, wherein he revealed that thousands of southerners , including many planters, gave millions of dollars in goods and services to federal forces. Albert Moore's monograph on conscription revealed a major source of conflict within the Confederacy , a conflict which drove many Unionists from passive acquiescence to active opposition to the Confederacy. Other studies have focused on the war-time Unionism prevalent in individual southern states.1 One significant "chapter" in the story is the "Great Hanging " in Gainesville, Texas. In September, 1862 a Unionist "peace plot" was discovered in North Texas. Authorities believed that the plot embraced the counties of Cooke, Grayson, Wise, Denton, and Collin, but its focus proved to be Gainesville, the seat of Cooke County.2 By late October local officials and military officers had broken up the "conspiracy ," and a "citizens' court" had found more than forty men guilty of treason. Others would have been charged had they not fled the county. Overall, at least forty-four men were hanged, and two more were shot while attempting to escape jail. Another man was later executed by an inflamed Gainesvillite, and yet another was tried by the District Court, which met in November, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. While the facts appear simple, controversy about the "Great Hanging" remains. Were the Unionists guilty of treason, and were they convicted by a just court which 1 Frank W. Klingberg, The Southern Chims Commission: A Study in Unionism (Berkeley, 1955) and "The Case of the Minors: A Unionist Family Within the Confederacy," Journal of Southern History, XIII (1947), 27-45; Albert B. Moore, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy (New York, 1924); also see James W. Patton, Unionism and Reconstruction in Tennessee, 1860-1868 (Chapel Hill, 1934); Hugh C. Bailey, "Disaffection in the Alabama Hill Country, 1861," Civil War History , IV (1958), 183-193 and "Disloyalty in Early Confederate Alabama," Journal of Southern History, XXIII (1957), 523-528; Barnes Lathrop, "Disaffection in Confederate Louisiana: The Case of William Hyman," Journal of Southern History, XXIV (1958), 308-318; Claude Elliott, "Union Sentiment in Texas, 1861-1865," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, L (1947), 449-477. 2 Houston Telegraph, Nov. 27, 1862; San Antonio Herald, Nov. 13, 1862. 349 350CIVIL war history fairly considered all evidence? Or were they killed by a mob which acted in a collective hysteria? Contemporary accounts—both published and unpublished—vary so widely that re-examination is necessary. Certainly it was not surprising that Unionist sentiment should have been strong in Cooke County. A vocal, powerful minority of landowners with farms along the Red River owned slaves and were completely southern in outlook, but the large majority of the settlers were small farmers and mechanics who owned no slaves and who were indifferent if not opposed to the South's peculiar institution.3 In 1860 the county voted 221 to 137 against the ordinance of secession, as did majorities in seven other Red River counties.4 In fact, on the eve of the secessionist convention of Texas, Unionists circulated a document which resolved that men loyal to the national government should make a concerted effort to save North Texas by seceding from the state and by applying for readmission to the Union. Among the noted Unionists in Cooke County were Henry Childs, Leander Locke, and A. D. Scott.5 Through the early part of the Civil War little was heard from Unionists in North Texas. Public opinion seemed to be united in support of the Confederacy. In Cooke County, however, Unionist withdrawal from public affairs could not be misconstrued as endorsement of the Confederacy. Discontent merely remained under the surface, and trouble developed after the Confederate Congress passed its conscription laws, which carried provisions allowing substitutes and excluding from service any slaveholders or overseers who managed ten or more slaves. Unionists argued that they might be forced to die for a cause they did not believe in while some slaveholders would not even have to fear the draft.8 Like "a spark lighting on powder" the...


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