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Texas History: The More You Know, The More You Want to Run Away

[ 39 ] October 23, 2012 |

I had a fairly good sense of violence against white opponents of secession in Texas during the early period of the Civil War, including the massacre of German settlers as they attempted to flee to Mexico. I was somewhat aware of the hangings at Gainesville, in the north part of the state near the Oklahoma border. But I didn’t know the extent of the violence in North Texas in 1862. Nasty, awful stuff.


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  1. caesaigh says:

    I attended UNT in nearby Denton, and the “Gainesville Murders” were part of the undergrad mythology. Was part of the explanation for the extreme anti-extremism on campus (such as the Kappa Alpha house almost routinely catching fire).

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Can you explain what you mean by “extreme anti-extremism?” I know Denton is a liberalish beacon in extremely conservative north Texas.

      • caesaigh says:

        lefty intolerance; the sort that makes liberals look bad. The Young Republicans homecoming float (1988 I believe) was pelted with rotten eggs and manure during the parade, cars sporting confederate flags had tires slashed, windows broken, etc. during an abortive KKK rally (1992?) the crowd beat up the local Grand Poobah and the cops deliberately looked away. You know – Hijinks!

  2. Larry says:

    Texas has always been just a godawful place, despite every tenth person being OK. It’s still Uganda on the Rhine, with apologies to both places (but not to Texas). I seem to have been caught living here now for the last 30+ years within some trickster-instigated force field of karma.

  3. wengler says:

    At least one Texan got it right:

    ‘I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.’

    And when I think about incidents like this, it is a good reminder about just how costly it would be to have this clusterfuck of a country on our border.

  4. C.S says:

    As a product of Texas schools, I will note in Texas defense that — unlike many places in this fair country — there is quite a bit of acknowledgment about the awful things that were done there, and the cluttered morality of the historical figures. Probably because the towering figure of that time – Sam Houston – is the closest America has ever come to fostering a true-blue Shakespearean character, a mass of contradictions so stark that not even the most dedicated hagiographer can sanctify him. So if you’re going to make him look good (a worthwhile endeavor, all things considered) you’ve got to engage in some tearing down of other people (looking at you, Mirabeau B. Lamar), and pretty soon you’ve got 7th graders discussing the Gainsville murders. One of my best memories of middle school, actually.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Would be nice if those reflections led people to think about the terrible things happening in Texas in the present.

    • Kris Overstreet says:

      We had different experiences, you and I. My mandatory Texas History class in junior high never mentioned the Gainesville massacre, or indeed anything else bad about Texas during the civil war except for slavery. Mirabeau Lamar was remembered only for “founding Texas public education”, with no mention of his blundering imperialism, his Republican math on the budget, and his racist streak that was remarkable even for the time and place. This things I only learned by reading for myself, long after I graduated high school.

  5. caesaigh says:

    It is an event like this that makes much more sympathetic to E.J. Davis.

  6. Deggjr says:

    If violence isn’t always the answer then you’re asking the wrong questions.

  7. herr doktor bimler says:

    the Confederacy’s unpopular Conscription Act went into effect – exempting slaveholders from military service but requiring it of non-slaveholders

    Ah, I see the Chickenhawk tradition is long-standing.

    • Kris Overstreet says:

      To be fair, the vast majority of actual slave owners WERE in the military- as OFFICERS.

      Confederate conscription policy was generous with exemptions, with two particularly odious ones: someone conscripted could hire someone to substitute for him, and a slave overseer was exempt by reason of necessity, on a one overseer per twenty slaves basis.

  8. Texas, historically and today, is a patchy desert of weeds with a few islands of American Beauties. But if I were to consider lopping off states, I’d put Mississippi and Alabama well ahead of Texas.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      You need to think in terms of electoral college votes. Get rid of Texas, and you have a sane president… every time.

      • timb says:

        I’m thinking in terms of 3rd World economy based upon mineral extraction and arrogance/historical illiteracy of the political and economic elite….Texas has to go. No state affects national politics (in the wrong direction) than Texas.

    • Pestilence says:

      Poor old Arkansas, can’t even make the kick list

    • Kris Overstreet says:

      Spoken in ignorance. Draw a line down I-35 from Denton to San Antonio, then I-37 down to Corpus Christi; everything east of that line gets an average of thirty inches of rain or more per year. To people driving through the countryside, especially I-10 between Houston and San Antonio, it appears more desertlike because so much farmland is used primarily for grazing cattle and other livestock rather than planting crops.

  9. Mike Furlan says:

    “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.” My Wife, falsely attributed to P. Sheridan

  10. rm says:

    I think about ten years ago Toby Keith and (unforgivably) Willie Nelson recorded a song glorifying this part of Texas history.

  11. rea says:

    All you Texas-haters need to consider–sure, all of the people who committted these atrocities were Texans. So were all of the victims

    And if you think there is a place in the US that doesn’t have this kind of atrocity in its history, think again.

    And, at that, we’re rather less prone to these atrocities than most of the rest of the world.

  12. max says:

    Wow, it’s like old home week here in the comments.

    Nasty, awful stuff.

    Part of my family tree (the part with the Chickasaw) come from Gainesville. Well, actually, the general vicinity of Sherman (‘one of the few towns in the South named Sherman’), which is even worse!

    Another part (the Czech part) comes from central Texas.

    So those are my people – both times. (yes, they’ve been around that long.) Throw in the kind of thing with Denton above, my grandfather being black, &etc. and it seems perfectly obvious and sensible to me that I would have no use for 1) the Klan, 2) Dixiecrats, 3) modern Republicans.

    Sadly, this is entirely non-obvious to other Americans.

    At any rate, if the usual sorts want to re-litigate the Civil War, Voting rights and for good measure, Indian removal, well, I have guns too. ;)

    [‘Like the weather though.’]

  13. Ricky says:

    Go to Wikipedia and search ‘Waco horror’ to see the sort of stuff that was going on in Texas less than 100 years ago.

    Caution, some graphic photos are on the page…I believe versions of these photos were actually sold as postcards in Waco after the fact.

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