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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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  • caesaigh

    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).

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

      • caesaigh

        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!

        • That last one sounds… a little unlikely. I was going to school in Denton then and definitely never heard of any incident where Dentonites beat up the Klan. Heck, I live in Denton now, and while we’re a lot more like Austin than Amarillo, I still see way too many Romney, Confederate flag, and teabag bumper stickers.

          A very generalized Google search doesn’t pull up anything like that — is there a link you could point me to? I’d love it if it were true…

          • caesaigh

            Downtown (attempted) Klan rally in the early 90’s – I was working for the old Flying Tomato at the time, so probably 1991 or 1992. I was friends with one of the Bike cops, and we were on the square when this unfolded. Full disclosure: I was one of the onlookers who cheered it on.

            Sorry I can’t provide any DRC article, but I thought the NT Daily had run an article on this.

  • Larry

    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.

  • wengler

    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.

    • Holden Pattern

      I don’t know. It would just be “Sorta-Gringo North Mexico”. How much worse could it be than the current situation?

      • wengler

        Being in the US moderates their position. They would have almost certainly have tried to expand south with the US having to absorb waves of refugees and raiding parties.

        • Linnaeus

          Oh, yes. There were plans to do it even before the Civil War.

  • C.S

    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.

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

      • C.S

        Good heavens no! We save our sense of balance for the past alone!

    • Kris Overstreet

      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.

  • caesaigh

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

  • Deggjr

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

      • Informant

        I don’t know your gender, but marry me, please!

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Sheesh, get it right:

      “Violence is not the answer! Violence is the QUESTION. And the answer is YES.”

  • herr doktor bimler

    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

      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.

  • 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

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

      • timb

        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

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

    • Kris Overstreet

      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.

  • Mike Furlan

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

  • rm

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

  • rea

    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.

    • I’m not sure that other states have committed mass executions over political issues in quite the same way as Texas.

      • RedSquareBear

        Everything’s bigger in Texas?

      • Thom McClendon

        Utah?

    • Major Kong

      I’ve lived in Texas. My main issue with Texans is how they love to pat themselves on the back for being from Texas.

      They’re right up there with New Yorkers in the “Gee isn’t it great that I’m from ______ ” department.

    • DrDick

      My own home state of Oklahoma is no piker in that regard (I grew up 50 miles north of there). It is also worth noting that the last Confederate government (the Choctaw Nation) and last Confederate general (Brigadier General Stand Watie) to surrender were also there.

  • max

    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. ;)

    max
    [‘Like the weather though.’]

  • Ricky

    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.