Civil War

By: Ralph A. Wooster

Revised by: Brett J. Derbes

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 26, 2021

The sectional controversies that divided the North and South in the 1850s deeply troubled Texans (see ANTEBELLUM TEXAS). While most Texans had a strong attachment to the Union that they worked so hard to join in 1845, they expressed increasing concern over the attacks upon Southern institutions by Northern political leaders. Although only one Texas family in four owned slaves, most Texans opposed any interference with the institution of slavery, which they believed necessary for the continued economic growth of the state.

Many Texans considered the election of Abraham Lincoln (“the Black Republican”) to the presidency (November 1860) as a threat to slavery. Lincoln had not appeared on the ballot in Texas, where Governor Sam Houston considered running as an independent candidate. Citizens urged Governor Houston to call a convention of the people to determine what course of action the state should take. Houston, devoted both to Texas and the Union, paid little heed to these requests and refused to take any step that might aid secession. The demands for a convention increased, however, with the secession of South Carolina in December 1860 and the calling of state secession conventions in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana in early January. A group of secessionist leaders, including Oran M. Roberts, John S. (Rip) Ford, George M. Flournoy, and William P. Rogers, issued an address to the people and called for the election of delegates to a state Secession Convention in early January. Members of the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) in Texas involved themselves in all aspects of secession and the subsequent war with nearly 53 percent of the convention delegates arriving from counties with Knight castles. Houston attempted to forestall the convention by calling a special session of the legislature and recommending that it refuse to recognize the convention. Instead, the legislature gave approval to the convention, on the condition that the people ratify its outcome by a final vote.

The convention, which assembled in Austin on January 28, 1861, was dominated by secessionists. On February 1 the delegates adopted an ordinance of secession by a vote of 166 to 8. This ordinance was approved by three-fourths of the voters of the state, 46,153 to 14,747, on February 23. The convention reassembled in early March, declared Texas out of the Union, and adopted a measure uniting the state with other Southern states in the newly-formed Confederate States of America. The secession movement redirected nationalism in Texas towards the Confederacy. Governor Houston, who refused to recognize the authority of the convention to take this action, refused to take an oath of allegiance to the new government, whereupon the convention declared the office of governor vacant and elevated Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark to the position. President Lincoln offered to send troops to assist Houston if he would resist the convention, but Houston rejected the offer rather than bring on civil conflict within the state. He retired to his home in Huntsville, where he died on July 26, 1863.

While the campaign for ratification of the secession ordinance was being waged in mid-February, the Committee of Public Safety assembled by the secession convention took steps to take over federal property in the state (see COMMITTEES OF PUBLIC SAFETY). The committee opened negotiations with Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs, the commander of United States troops stationed in Texas. Twiggs, an aging Georgian in poor health, was awaiting orders from the War Department. On the morning of February 16, Benjamin McCulloch, a veteran Texas Ranger, KGC member, Mexican War hero, and now colonel of Texas cavalry, led at least 500 volunteers into San Antonio, where they surrounded Twiggs and his headquarters garrison. Twiggs agreed to surrender all federal property in Texas and evacuate the 2,700 Union troops scattered in frontier forts throughout the state. Existing military installations along the frontier provided shelter for Texas Confederates including Camp Charlotte, Camp Colorado, Camp Cooper, Camp Davis, Camp Del Rio, Camp Montel, Camp San Saba, and Camp Verde.

The majority of Texans approved the efforts of governors Clark, Lubbock, and Murrah to support the Confederacy. Even so, Unionism remained strong in some sections of the state; more than 14,000 Texans voted against secession. Whigs, Know-Nothings, Democrats, and members of the opposition all harbored shades of Unionism. A steady flow of immigrants from Germany and northern states also contributed to a sizeable population of Unionists in Texas. In late 1860 German immigrants around Fredericksburg and New Braunfels formed a Union Loyalty League (see UNION LEAGUE). They swore loyalty to the United States and faced violent reprisals from Texan Confederates. This was especially true in some of the German counties in the Hill Country and in a group of counties north of Dallas. The declaration of martial law in the Hill Country counties by Governor Lubbock in 1862 and the Confederate Conscription Act that targeted German Unionists increased desertions and draft dodging. German immigrants from Austin County formed three companies of Waul’s Texas Legion, but many of those captured at Vicksburg, Mississippi, took the oath of allegiance to the United States. Some of the early Texas Unionists such as James W. Throckmorton, who cast one of the eight votes against secession in the Secession Convention, and Ben H. Epperson, a leader of East Texans opposed to secession, accepted the Confederacy after Fort Sumter and vigorously supported the Southern cause. Others, such as David G. Burnet, E. M. Pease, and Sam Houston, withdrew from public life and attempted to avoid controversy.

Another group left the state or attempted to do so. Some of these, such as S. M. Swenson, the father of Swedish migration to Texas, and William Marsh Rice, a native of Massachusetts who made a fortune in the mercantile business in Texas, quietly left. Others joined the Union army in their efforts to defeat the Confederacy. Some 2,132 Whites and forty-seven Blacks from Texas served in the Union Army. The best-known of the Texans who supported the Union were Edmund J. Davis, a district judge who organized and commanded the First Texas Cavalry Regiment (Union), and Andrew J. Hamilton, Texas legislator and congressman, whom Lincoln appointed military governor of Texas after the war.

Texas Confederates harshly dealt with those attempting to assist the enemy. Prior to the war, Northern Methodist missionary Anthony Bewley and his wife Jane Winton Bewley attempted to escape Fort Worth but were overtaken in Missouri and returned to Texas, where he was hanged. Violent attacks led some Tejanos, including Capt. José Ángel Navarro, to flee to Coahuila during the conflict. Similarly, members of the KGC raided the office of the San Antonio Alamo Express editor James P. Newcomb to destroy the press and set fire to the building. As a result, Newcomb fled to Mexico and California for the remainder of the war. The suspicion of Unionist sympathies created hardships within Southern families and communities, especially among German and Tejana women. During the war Josefa “Chipita” Rodriguez was accused, tried, and executed for the vicious murder of John Savage near San Patricio, although no evidence connected her to the crime. In August 1862 Fritz Tegener led sixty-five Unionists, mostly Germans from the Hill Country, in an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Rio Grande and flee from Texas. They were overtaken near the Nueces River by state troops commanded by Lt. Colin D. McRae. Thirty-five of the Unionists were killed, and several others were wounded in the battle of the Nueces. Another fifty Union sympathizers were hanged in Gillespie County several weeks later. The greatest roundup of suspected Unionists occurred in Cooke and Grayson counties, north of Dallas. A citizens' court at Gainesville tried 150 individuals for Unionist activities. Some confessed, some were convicted, and thirty-nine were executed in what contemporaries called the Great Hanging at Gainesville.

The Committee of Public Safety authorized the recruiting of volunteer troops during late February and March 1861. In addition to troops recruited by Ben McCulloch, regiments of cavalry were enrolled by Henry E. McCulloch, Ben's younger brother, and John S. Ford, veteran ranger captain and explorer. The firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861 and the subsequent call for volunteers by Confederate president Jefferson Davis stimulated efforts by Texas authorities to raise additional troops. Governor Clark divided the state first into six and later into eleven military districts for recruiting and organizing the troops requested by Confederate authorities.

By the end of 1861, 25,000 Texans were in the Confederate army. Two-thirds of the enlistees were in the cavalry, the branch of service preferred by Texans. Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle of the British Coldstream Guards, who visited Texas during the war, observed this fondness for cavalry service: "…it was found very difficult to raise infantry in Texas," he said, "as no Texan walks a yard if he can help it." Governor Clark observed that "the predilection of Texans for cavalry service, founded as it is upon their peerless horsemanship, is so powerful that they are unwilling in many instances to engage in service of any other description unless required by actual necessity."

Francis R. Lubbock, who defeated Clark by a narrow margin in the 1861 gubernatorial election, worked closely with Confederate authorities to meet manpower needs as the war expanded. Recruitment became more difficult as some of the early enthusiasm waned. The passage of a general conscription law by the Confederate Congress in April 1862 momentarily gave impetus to volunteering. Under this law all White males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five were liable for military service. In September the upper age limit was raised to forty-five, and in February 1864 the age limits were extended to seventeen and fifty. The Confederate conscription laws did contain many exemptions, however, and for a time conscripted men could hire substitutes.

Between 70,000 to 90,000 Texans saw military service in the war and fought in every major battle except for First Manassas and Chancellorsville. No less than thirty-seven Texans served as general officers in the Confederate Army. Governor Lubbock reported to the legislature in November 1863 that the army numbered 90,000 Texas residents, but this figure seems high for Texans in service at any one time. The 1860 federal census lists 92,145 White males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years living in the state. Allowing for a slight increase in population during the four years of the war and considering that some Texans younger than eighteen and older than fifty served, one may say that between 100,000 and 110,000 Texans were potential soldiers.

Confederate officials established dozens of camps of instruction across Texas where soldiers became acclimated to military life, drilled battle formations, and practiced artillery. The NinthTexas Infantry trained at Camp Rusk in Delta County in North Texas. At least ten infantry companies assembled at Camp Henry E. McCulloch near Victoria. Texas State Troops in Central Texas founded Camp Clark and Camp Waul, while Camp Wood housed Texas Rangers in far southwestern Real County. Thousands of Union prisoners of war were held at Camp Groce in Waller County and Camp Felder in Washington County. Camp Ford was built in 1863 and became the largest camp for POWs in Texas, where more than 6,000 Union soldiers were held in a stockade enclosing four acres.

Prior to the war, the population of Mexican Texans increased from a flood of families escaping the political turmoil and Mexican justice system. Mexican Americans and Tejanos faced racism and nativism from Anglos following the Texas Revolution. In April 1861 an uprising of forty Mexican Texans led by Antonio Ochoa attempted to prevent Zapata County officials from pledging loyalty to the Confederacy. County Judge Isidro Vela’s request for aid from Webb County led to a violent confrontation with Confederate soldiers known as the Clareño Massacre. Nonetheless, some elite families held significant economic and political associations with secessionists in Austin. The marriages of Petra Vela de Vidal Kenedy, Salome Ballí Young, Carolina Angela de la Garza, Vicenta Yturri, and Maria Marcela García to prominent Anglo businessmen are exemplary of blurred racial lines within the leadership of South Texas. Tejanas in Central and South Texas assumed new and expanded roles on the home front. Like their Anglo women counterparts, Tejanas raised money, collected materials, and sewed uniforms for soldiers. They managed family farms and ranches, operated small businesses, and oversaw slaves.

The strategic importance of the Rio Grande led both the Union and Confederacy to recruit and draft Mexican Texans. Training camps in Laredo, Brownsville, Victoria, and Corpus Christi included approximately 2,550 Mexican Americans from Texas who served mostly within the state in either the Confederate army or state militia. José Agustín Quintero joined the Quitman Guards of Texas that fought in Virginia and later was appointed by President Jefferson Davis as the confidential agent of the Confederate government in Mexico. Most of the soldiers were in their teens and early twenties but included men as old as sixty years. An estimated 960 joined the Union army, partly in memory of the events of the Texas Revolution and its aftermath. The Second Texas Cavalry (U.S.), for example, was made up of mostly Texas Mexicans and Mexican nationals; the unit suffered a high desertion rate (see MEXICAN TEXANS IN THE CIVIL WAR). Texas Mexicans also joined the Union army for the sizable enlistment bounty and opportunity to improve their quality of life through military service.

Two-thirds of the Texans enrolled in the military spent the war in the Southwest, either defending the state from Indian attacks and Union invasion or participating in expansionist moves into New Mexico Territory. One regiment, recruited mainly in the Houston area, served under the colorful Rip Ford in South Texas. Ford commanded the military district of the Rio Grande, which extended from the mouth of the river for more than 1,000 miles to above El Paso. During the course of the war, Ford's men battled Union invaders, hostile Comanches, and Mexican raiders led by Juan N. Cortina. Settlements along the border with Mexico had long endured raids from bandits and engaged in retaliations, but the Civil War increased instability, smuggling, and the threat of violent confrontations between Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Confederates, and Unionists. Meanwhile, families in far West Texas faced reduced military protection from hostile Comanche and Kiowa. Anglo settlements retreated up to 100 miles from the Western frontier, which filled with Confederate deserters, Unionists avoiding conscription, and outlaws. During the Elm Creek Raid, Kiowa and Comanche Indians killed Susan Durgan and abducted Elizabeth Fitzpatrick with the family of Britton Johnson.

Other Texas regiments patrolled North and West Texas. In May 1861 Col. William C. Young and the Eleventh Texas Cavalry, recruited in North Texas, crossed the Red River, and captured federal forts Arbuckle, Cobb, and Washita. Confederate agent and Brig. Gen. Albert Pike negotiated a peace treaty with the five Indian Nations to secure the safety of frontier settlements. He led a brigade of Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees in the Indian Territory and at the battle of Elkhorn Tavern before he was removed from his position and arrested in late 1862. The Confederacy lost control of half of Indian Territory in 1863 following two successful Union raids from Kansas. Another regiment, enrolled originally as state troops and known as the Frontier Regiment, was stationed at Camp Salmon and Camp Breckenridge and patrolled Northwest Texas. The regiment, commanded first by Col. James M. Norris and later Col. James E. McCord, was transferred to Confederate service as the Forty-sixth Texas Cavalry. Part of the regiment was later moved to the Houston area, and its place on the frontier was taken by state troops commanded by Brig. Gen. James W. Throckmorton, who was appointed commander of the northern military district by state authorities. Texas Governor Francis R. Lubbock reinforced the Frontier Regiment with the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry, the First Texas Cavalry Arizona Brigade and Krumbhaar’s Texas Battery. Meanwhile, Gano’s Brigade campaigned with Brig. Gen. Stand Watie’s Half-bloods throughout Arkansas and Indian Territory and participated alongside Confederate Indians in the largest massacre of African-American troops in the Trans-Mississippi at Poison Spring.

Texans played a major role in Confederate efforts to expand into New Mexico Territory. In June 1861 four companies of Ford's cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. John R. Baylor, were ordered to occupy the extreme western part of Texas. Baylor reached Fort Bliss at El Paso in early July and later in the month moved into New Mexico. He occupied the small town of Mesilla, located on the left bank of the Rio Grande about forty miles north of El Paso. After a small skirmish, federal troops commanded by Maj. Isaac Lynde surrendered Fort Fillmore, on the opposite bank of the Rio Grande. On August 1, 1861, Baylor decreed the existence of the Confederate Territory of Arizona, with its capital at Mesilla and himself as the military governor (see MESILLA, BATTLE OF).

Meanwhile, Henry H. Sibley, a West Point graduate and veteran soldier, convinced President Davis that the Confederates could capture New Mexico and Arizona. Sibley was commissioned brigadier general with orders to raise and equip a brigade of cavalry to drive federal forces from New Mexico. In August he established his headquarters in San Antonio, where he began recruiting men for the "Army of New Mexico." In early November the brigade, consisting of three regiments, began the long march to El Paso, nearly 700 miles distant. Sibley's brigade reached El Paso on December 14. On January 11, 1862, it marched to Mesilla, where Sibley assumed the command of Baylor's forces. Sibley moved northward along the west bank of the Rio Grande to Fort Craig, where he encountered Union forces commanded by Col. Edward R. S. Canby, perhaps Sibley's brother-in-law. The Confederates won a battle at nearby Valverde ford but were not strong enough to capture the fort (see VALVERDE, BATTLE OF). Sibley decided to bypass the fort and move northward to capture Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Morale in his army was low. Commissary supplies were virtually exhausted, the weather was bitterly cold, and many of the men were highly critical of Sibley himself. On March 26 his men fought a spirited battle with Colorado militia at Apache Canyon to the east of Santa Fe. Two days later a larger battle was fought in Glorieta Pass (see GLORIETA, BATTLE OF) between federals led by Col. Maj. John M. Chivington and Texans commanded by Col. William R. Scurry. In the fierce engagement the Texans drove the federals from the field. Late that afternoon, however, Scurry's supply train was captured by Union forces. The loss of the supply train was a major blow to Sibley's plans. With Union forces receiving reinforcements from Colorado and California, Sibley determined to retreat down the Rio Grande. By early May the Confederates were back at Fort Bliss, where Sibley issued an address praising his men for their sacrifices. Many of the Texans who served under Sibley blamed the commander for their failure and expressed the view that better leadership would have brought success to the campaign.

Transportation was seriously affected by the war. Stagecoach lines continued to operate, but coaches were overcrowded and behind schedule. Roads and bridges suffered from lack of repair as labor and materials were diverted elsewhere. The outbreak of fighting halted all railroad building for seven years, and difficulties in maintaining rolling stock caused existing service to be interrupted. Texas operated fewer miles of railroads than most other Confederate states. Construction costs exceeded $30,000 per mile, which was the third most expensive in the South. The ten existing railroads in 1861 totaled only 468 miles of track. Three lines extended north from Houston, while others extended inland from the coast at Sabine Pass, Galveston, and Indianola. Confederate officials utilized the Texas and New Orleans line to move thousands of soldiers into Louisiana early in the war, while Gen. Magruder depended on the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson line during the recapture of Galveston. In 1863 Gen. Magruder ordered segments of the Eastern Texas road and the Texas and New Orleans torn up for coastal fortifications. Several miles of track between Swanson's Landing and Jonesville in East Texas were taken up and replaced eastward from Marshall to Waskom for military purposes. The lack of railroads made the transportation of soldiers, supplies, and cotton in Texas dependent upon wagons, teams of oxen, mules, and horses, which were also in short supply.

The defense of the Texas coastline was more successful than the New Mexico invasion. Brig. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, commander of the Texas district from April to September 1861, organized defense companies, authorized the use of slave labor for building fortifications, and worked to secure heavy cannons for coastal defense. His successor as district commander, Brig. Gen. Paul Octave Hébert, also made efforts to secure heavy ordnance, but with only limited success. Hébert concluded that he would be unable to prevent a landing on the coast and determined to fight the enemy in the interior.

In November 1861 Union naval forces began a series of harassing activities along the Texas coast. The Confederate patrol schooner Royal Yacht was partially burned, and Confederate positions near Aransas Pass, Port Lavaca, and Indianola were shelled. The naval blockade of the Texas coastline was intensified in 1862; the United States bark Arthur, commanded by Lt. John W. Kittredge, was especially active along the middle coast. In August Kittredge, commanding a small flotilla, attempted to capture Corpus Christi but was repulsed by Confederates commanded by Maj. Alfred M. Hobby. Another, more successful, Union force commanded by Lt. Frederick Crocker destroyed a small fort at Sabine Pass and burned the railroad bridge at Taylor's Bayou.

The main Union attack against the Texas coast in 1862 was aimed at the state's largest seaport, Galveston (see GALVESTON, BATTLE OF). On October 4, 1862, a small Union fleet commanded by W. B. Renshaw sailed into Galveston harbor. Confederate artillery at Fort Point opened fire but was quickly silenced by superior Union gunpower. Renshaw demanded and received the surrender of the city. The loss of Galveston was followed by a change in Confederate command in Texas. General Hébert, who had never been popular with Texans, was replaced by Gen. John Bankhead Magruder, a Virginian with a reputation as an aggressive soldier. Magruder quickly made plans for the recapture of Galveston. He called for land forces to move across the railroad bridge from the mainland at night to surprise Union garrison troops, while two river steamers converted to gunboats, the Bayou City and the Neptune, sailed into the harbor to attack federal warships. The Confederate assault began shortly after midnight on New Year's Day, 1863. At 1:00 a.m., while federal troops slept, Magruder led his forces across the railroad bridge connecting the island and the mainland. Between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m., Confederate artillery opened fire on federal ships and positions along the waterfront. The two Confederate gunboats attacked the Union fleet soon thereafter. The Neptune was hit by a shell from the USS Harriet Lane, veered into shallow water, and sank. The Bayou City meanwhile moved alongside the Harriet Lane. The "Horse Marines" stormed aboard, captured the vessel, and hauled down her colors. Other Union ships in the harbor had troubles of their own. The Union flagship, the Westfield, ran aground on Pelican Spit, and efforts by a sister ship, the Clifton, to move her were unsuccessful. Three other small Union vessels, Sachem, Owasco, and Corypheus, fired on Confederate troops near the waterfront without much success. In the midst of the excitement, the Westfield was rocked by an internal explosion caused by premature detonation as her commander, Renshaw, prepared to destroy the ship rather than risk capture. The explosion killed Renshaw and fourteen crewmen. Union naval forces pulled out of the harbor, and the Union infantry soon surrendered to Magruder. Galveston was once again in Confederate possession.

Union naval forces continued to maintain a blockade of the Texas coastline throughout the war, but its effectiveness is difficult to measure. Ships loaded with cotton sailed out of Galveston and other Texas ports several times a week, while other vessels sailing from Havana and Caribbean ports returned with trade goods, munitions, and Enfield rifles. Unfortunately for the Confederacy, the Texas blockade runners, like those elsewhere in the South, were never adequately directed and organized for the highest degree of efficiency. Furthermore, the number of Union warships in the blockade increased with each passing month of the war. In an effort to tighten control of the Texas coastline, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, the Union commander of the Department of the Gulf, with headquarters in New Orleans, planned a major operation in the fall of 1863. He intended to land a large military force near Sabine Pass, march overland to Houston, and capture Galveston. To this effort he assigned 4,000 troops of the Nineteenth Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin. Transport vessels carrying the troops were to be protected by four light-draft gunboats, the Clifton, Sachem, Arizona, and Granite City.

The Union fleet appeared off the upper Texas coast in early September. Franklin planned to move his gunboats up the narrow channel at Sabine Pass, knock out the guns of the small Confederate fort guarding the waterway, and bring his transport vessels into Sabine Lake, where landings could be made. The only obstacle was the rough earthwork fortification known locally as Fort Griffin and defended by a battery of Confederate artillery of forty-seven men commanded by Lt. Richard W. Dowling, an Irish barkeeper from Houston. On September 8, 1863, the four Union gunboats entered the channel and opened fire on Fort Griffin. The six cannon from the Confederate installation responded with high accuracy, firing 107 rounds in thirty-five minutes. The Sachem was hit on the third or fourth round and driven up against the Louisiana side of the channel, a helpless wreck. The Confederates then turned their fire on the Clifton. A cannonball cut her tiller rope, throwing her out of control, and she soon ran aground. Many of the crew jumped overboard and made it to shore, where they were captured by the Confederates. The two other Union gunboats, the Arizona and the Granite City, turned and withdrew from the pass. General Franklin, overestimating the size and nature of the Confederate defense, ordered a withdrawal back to New Orleans. Dowling and his men were awarded medals by the Confederate government for their victory.

Union troops were temporarily more successful in southern Texas. In November 1863, 7,000 soldiers commanded by General Banks landed at the mouth of the Rio Grande and captured Brownsville thus cutting the important trade between Texas and Mexico. Banks then sent one wing of his army upriver to capture Rio Grande City and another column along the coast to capture Corpus Christi, Aransas Pass, and the Matagorda peninsula. General Magruder called upon state and Confederate authorities for additional forces to halt the advance. Fortunately for the Confederacy, many of Banks's troops were transferred to Louisiana, where a major Union offensive was planned for the spring of 1864. This allowed Confederate and state troops commanded by John S. Ford to retake most of the area occupied by Union forces. In the summer of 1864 Ford recaptured Brownsville and reopened the vital trade link with Mexico. By the end of the war the only Union holding on the lower Texas coast was Brazos Island.

Union campaigns in Arkansas and Louisiana in 1864 involved thousands of Texans. In March, General Banks moved an army of 27,000 men and a naval flotilla up the Red River toward Shreveport. He hoped to link up with federal troops under Gen. Frederick Steele, who was moving southward from Little Rock following the surrender of Arkansas Post, and then extend federal control over Northeast Texas. In an effort to prevent this, Texas troops in Indian Territory commanded by Brig. Gen. Samuel MaxeyGano's Brigade, Walker's Choctaw brigade, and Krumbhaar's battery, which was attached to Gano's brigade—were moved to Arkansas, where they joined Sterling Price in halting the Union advance at Camden.

Banks, meanwhile, continued his advance in northwest Louisiana. On April 8, 1864, part of his army was defeated at Sabine Crossroads, near Mansfield, by Confederates under the command of Richard Taylor. Texans played a major role in the battle, which halted Banks's advance. Confederates resumed the attack the next day at Pleasant Hill, fourteen miles to the south, but superior Union numbers prevented a Southern victory (see RED RIVER CAMPAIGN). Once again Texas units—including Walker's Texas Division; Thomas Green's cavalry, which consisted of five brigades in three divisions led by Hamilton P. Bee, James Patrick Major, and William Steele; and Polignac's Brigade—figured prominently in the fighting. Walker’ Division was the largest Texas unit during the war but dwindled from 12,000 to 4,000 by the end of the Red River campaign from disease, death, desertion, and wounds. Green, one of the most popular of all the Texans, was killed three days later while leading an attack on the retreating federals at Blair's Landing. Banks continued to retreat and in mid-May crossed the Atchafalaya River, thus ending attempts to invade Northeast Texas.

Texas was the only Confederate state to border a foreign country. Trade with Mexico made more materials available to Texas than to other states. Confederates managed to smuggle 320,000 bales or 144 million pounds of cotton through Mexican ports and past the Union blockade. In return for cotton, Texans received military supplies, medicines, dry goods, food, iron goods, liquor, coffee, and tobacco. Matamoros, on the Rio Grande across from Brownsville, and Bagdad, Tamaulipas, a seaport village at the mouth of the Rio Grande, were the centers of this activity, in which hundreds of vessels from Europe and the United States engaged in a flourishing business. The trade was interrupted from time to time by Union military activities along the lower Texas coast, but even so it provided many items needed by Texans during the war (see WARTIME COTTON TRADE).

The large battles of the Civil War were fought beyond the Mississippi River, far from Texas. The state contributed thousands of men who participated in the great battles of the war. Texan Albert Sidney Johnston was killed in the battle of Shiloh in April 1862 while commanding a major Confederate army. Another Texas officer, Gen. John Bell Hood, lost the use of an arm at Gettysburg and a leg at Chickamauga. The Texas Brigade, originally commanded by Hood, had one of the finest reputations of any military unit. The brigade, including the First, Fourth, and Fifth Texas Infantry regiments, fought with honor at Gaines' Mill, Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. A Texas regiment, the Eighth Texas Cavalry, better known as Terry's Texas Rangers, distinguished itself on battlefields in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and South and North Carolina. Another brigade, commanded late in the war by Lawrence Sullivan Ross, won praise for combat in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia. Granbury's Texas Brigade, commanded by Waco lawyer Col. Hiram B. Granbury, also saw extensive action in Georgia and Tennessee. Granbury himself was killed in the futile Confederate assault at Franklin, Tennessee, in November 1864. Ector's Brigade, consisting of the Tenth, Eleventh, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Texas Dismounted Cavalry and commanded by Brig. Gen. Mathew Duncan Ector, saw action in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia and participated in Hood's invasion of Tennessee.

The war transformed life for women across Texas. Secessionists encouraged Texan women to support Confederate nationalism by contributing to the war effort. The war changed societal requirements of elite White women in the South regarding patriotism and hierarchy. The mothers, daughters, and sisters of soldiers sewed flags and banners for local regiments, as well as uniforms, clothing, and tents for soldiers. The women of San Antonio formed the Southern Defense Aid Society, which employed nearly 850 citizens, including hundreds of seamstresses, to make uniforms. Confederate women marched in parades, authored editorials in newspapers, attended political gatherings, raised funds for soldiers, urged enlistment, participated in aid societies, and even organized local militias.

Hardships on the home front challenged traditional gender and class roles of the time and required unusual commitment, sacrifice, and contributions from Texan women. Southern women were long accustomed to managing the household while men traveled on business, but the war kept enlisted soldiers away from their families and communities for extended amounts of time. Sarah Jane Newman Scull lived on the southern frontier and worked as a freight driver during the war. Caroline Sedberry was representative of a “Confederate Woman” who was initially insecure in decisions related to overseeing slaves, planting, sowing, harvesting, and selling farm products, yet thrived in an unexpected leadership role. Her husband William Rush Sedberry was a judge and state representative who joined the Confederate army along with their two sons. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Neblett kept a diary throughout the war to document her feelings of isolation and struggle to maintain the plantation in the absence of her husband. Many Texan women, such as Ann Coleman, experienced the terrifying assault of the Union Navy along the coast. Letters between husbands, wives, and other relatives exchanged news, gave instructions, and offered advice related to business or accounting. Widows, single women, and wives adjusted to shortages, created debts, leased and sold slaves and land, and directed slave labor. These written exchanges included reassurances, encouragement, and emotional concerns for the wellbeing of children, family, and neighbors.

The life of ordinary Texans was much affected by the war. Although the state suffered less economically than other Confederate states, many adjustments were necessary. The blockade resulted in shortages of many commodities, especially coffee, medicine, clothing, shoes, and farm implements. Texas beef contractors struggled to supply Confederate soldiers east of the Mississippi River following the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, and ranchers did not have the manpower to initiate large cattle drives. Furthermore, an extended drought lasted from 1857 through the fall of 1864 that devastated the wheat crop in Texas and wiped out many cattle raisers. Homespun clothing was worn as in early days; Governor Lubbock was inaugurated in a homespun suit. The British visitor Colonel Fremantle reported that "the loss of coffee afflicts the Confederates even more than the loss of spirits; and they exercise their ingenuity in devising substitutes, which are not generally very successful." These substitutes included barley, corn, okra, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. Salt was so scarce that some Texans dug up the floors of their smokehouses and leached the dirt to recover the salt drippings. Thorns were used for pins, willow-bark extract and red pepper were mixed to substitute for quinine, and pieces of wallpaper served as writing paper. Several Texas newspapers suspended or discontinued operations for periods of time due to the lack of paper.

The task of recruiting and equipping the thousands of Texans in military service required diligent efforts by state authorities. Francis R. Lubbock, who served as governor during the first half of the war, was a most capable and energetic chief executive. At his request the legislature provided for reorganization of the state militia system, passed a revenue act raising taxes, and established the Military Board of Texas, which had power to purchase military supplies and establish ordnance foundries and arms factories. Lubbock met frequently with Confederate political and military leaders in efforts to provide better cooperation in the war. Although Texas and the Southwest were cut off from the rest of the South with the fall of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, Lubbock continued to emphasize the need for unity in support of the Confederacy.

During the first two years of the war there was no centralized command for quartermaster operations west of the Mississippi River. Individual unit quartermasters appealed to the public to donate wagons, harnesses, and teams to assist the government. In May 1862 the Trans-Mississippi Department was divided into two regions. The Texas District included Texas, areas west of Texas, and part of Western Louisiana. Brigadier General Paul O. Hébert initially commanded the Texas District. Unification of district quartermasters in the region under Maj. Gen. T. H. Holmes in Little Rock, Arkansas, shifted in March 1863 to Shreveport, Louisiana, with Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who established the Trans-Mississippi Clothing Bureau. He directed Maj. W. H. Haynes and Maj. E. C. Wharton to direct the Texas bureau. As a result, the Confederate quartermaster department operated, or contracted for, nearly fifty facilities across the state, including those located at Houston, Dallas, Austin, Tyler, Rusk, Paris, Jefferson, Marshall, Waco, and Hempstead for the manufacture of clothing, shoes, iron products, wagons, tents, harness, and saddles. In San Antonio, Maj. Thornton A. Washington established a government tannery, shoe shop, and clothing factory. He held the power to seize private goods at prices below market value, which posed a threat to local merchants and manufacturers. A major ordnance works was established at Tyler, and smaller plants were located in or near Rusk, Jefferson, Houston, and Galveston (see GUN MANUFACTURE DURING THE CIVIL WAR). A beef-packing plant at Jefferson provided meat for the Confederate Army. Meanwhile, the Nitre and Mining Bureau of the Confederacy authorized mining bat guano from Hill Country caves for the production of gunpowder, which spawned operations such as the Confederate Bat Guano Kiln in the New Braunfels area.

The requirements of the military and the impact of the blockade caused rapid expansion of manufacturing in the state. Governor Lubbock encouraged the effort through the Texas State Military Board, which promoted manufacturing as one of its responsibilities. Under its direction a percussion-cap factory and a cannon foundry were established in Austin. The board utilized inmate labor at the textile mill and other workshops located inside the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. In 1861 the facility sent nearly half of the total output to Nashville and Memphis to support the Army of Tennessee. Meanwhile, quartermasters in Galveston and San Antonio each requisitioned 100,000 yards of cloth to produce 20,000 uniforms. During the war three million yards of cotton and wool cloth produced at the Huntsville facility was primarily sold to the quartermaster department with the remainder sold to civilians. Still, shortages of cloth required women and children to utilize spinning wheels to produce and wear homespun cloth. A shortage of cotton cards across the state limited home production. In response, the military board imported 40,000 pairs of woolen and cotton cards to distribute among the counties.

The governor entered the military in December 1863 and did not seek reelection. In the contest to choose his successor, Pendleton Murrah, a Harrison County lawyer and former state legislator, defeated Thomas Jefferson Chambers, four-time gubernatorial candidate and pioneer Gulf Coast rancher. The election centered upon support for the war effort. Although Murrah was less well-known than Chambers, the Marshall lawyer benefited from Chambers's reputation as a political maverick and a critic of Jefferson Davis's administration. Most Texans regarded Murrah as the safer candidate. Shortly after taking office, Governor Murrah furthered conscription in Texas by utilizing the recently passed “Act to Provide for the Defense of the State,” to retain all state militia for a six-month period. At the same time, the legislature exempted men in all or part of fifty-nine counties in the frontier districts to enroll in the Frontier Organization, which led to a state-rights clash over conscription. In office Murrah soon found himself involved in yet another controversy with Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. The disagreements related to a variety of relationships between the state and the central Confederate authority, including conscription laws, impressment of slave labor, transfer of Texas troops outside the war area, and supply matters. Particularly bitter was the controversy over government purchase of cotton, a disagreement that divided Smith, who had set up the national Cotton Bureau for purchasing and selling cotton, and Murrah, who developed a state plan for the same purpose. The matter was resolved in a meeting between Smith and Murrah at Hempstead in June 1864. Shortly thereafter, the governor requested that the people of Texas deliver their cotton to the army's agents for compensation and declared that the state would no longer compete with the military for the cotton.

The war brought other changes to Texas. Some adjustments were made in agriculture as farmers planted more corn to meet food needs and requests of the government to reduce cotton production. On occasion, military units were assigned harvesting duties. The shortage of free labor was partially offset by an increase of at least 50,000 refugeed slaves transported from other Southern states to Texas in an attempt to avoid the invading enemy armies. The slave population in Texas increased dramatically from 182,000 in 1860 to more than 230,000 by the end of the war, as a result of slave owners seeking a safe haven for their property. The mass relocation across the South and use of slave labor on Confederate fortifications across the state led to increased separations of slave families. Incidents of localized rebellion and the number of runaway slaves increased dramatically in Texas throughout the war. Authorities in Bastrop, Denton, and Nacogdoches discovered plans by slaves to secure weapons to murder slaveholders before escaping to Mexico or Union lines. As the war progressed, slaveholding Texans realized that their expectations of faithfulness and loyalty from slaves were mistaken.

The status of Black Texans was precarious. The official number of free Blacks in Texas fell to 355 before the war, however those figures from the census are almost certainly undercounted and overlooked people in a state of flux between slavery and freedom. Enslaved people endured longer hours, harder work, and harsher punishments under the control of White owners, while free Blacks found little support from White laws and courts. Rachel Hamilton Hornsby gained her freedom from Andrew Jackson Hamilton, but newly-freed slaves were not allowed to remain in the state without permission from the legislature. She was arrested and chose to be re-enslaved rather than separated from her family. Fanny McFarland, a free Black woman with four enslaved children, defied the law to work as a laundress and real estate speculator in Houston until her death shortly after the war. Enslaved Black women found encouragement and support through religion, music, singing, dancing, family ties, and female networks. Following the war, freedwomen such as Ellen Evans Lewis Payne, Rachel Patton, and Mary Vaughn Reynolds recounted their lives as enslaved people to the Texas Writers’ Project as part of the larger Federal Writers’ Project under the Work Projects Administration (WPA).

Religion helped Texans to cope with the war. Both soldiers and civilians maintained religious practices and discussed their devotion to God in their letters and diaries. Confederate soldiers, like their Union counterparts, prayed for protection and victory on the battlefield. Chaplains held regular church services and distributed Bibles to improve morale among the soldiers. Robert F. Bunting, who served as chaplain of the Eighth Texas Cavalry, documented descriptions of revival among Confederate soldiers and tried to sustain civilian and soldier morale through his letters. Throughout the war, women and children attended church for spiritual support, social interaction, comfort, and a sense of normalcy.

Although political and military leaders attempted to keep up the morale of Texans, military defeats in Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia in late 1864 caused increased anxiety in the state. Newspaper editorials urged civilians to remain calm, and Governor Murrah and General Smith asked Texans to continue the struggle. News of Robert E. Lee's surrender in April 1865, followed by that of Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina, made further resistance appear futile. Rip Ford defeated Union troops in the battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, on May 13, 1865, the last battle of the war. From captured prisoners Ford learned that Confederate forces were surrendering all over the South. Kirby Smith attempted to keep his command intact but found his soldiers heading for their homes. Some Texans, including Murrah and former governor Clark, joined other Confederates in fleeing to Mexico. On June 2, 1865, generals Smith and Magruder signed the formal terms of surrender for their commands. The remaining slaves in Texas achieved freedom with the arrival of Gen. Gordon Granger and Union forces of occupation on June 19, 1865, (Juneteenth),but newly-freed African Americans endured racism, violent reprisals, and discrimination throughout Reconstruction.

Allen Coleman Ashcraft, Texas, 1860–1866: The Lone Star State in the Civil War (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1960). Alwyn Barr, "Texas Coastal Defense, 1861–1865," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 65 (July 1961). Dale Baum, The Shattering of Texas Unionism: Politics in the Lone Star State during the Civil War Era (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998). Robert C. Black III, The Railroads of the Confederacy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998). Angela Boswell and Deborah M. Liles, eds., Women in Civil War Texas: Diversity and Dissidence in the Trans-Mississippi (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2016). Walter L. Buenger, Secession and the Union in Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984). Brad R. Clampitt, “The Breakup: The Collapse of Confederate Trans-Mississippi Army in Texas, 1865,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 108 (April 2005). Edward T. Cotham, Jr., Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998). Jesús F. de la Teja, ed., Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016). Vera Lea Dugas, A Social and Economic History of Texas in the Civil War and Reconstruction Periods (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1963). Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996). Robert Pattison Felgar, Texas in the War for Southern Independence, 1861–1865 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1935). Kenneth W. Howell, ed., The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas during the Civil War (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2009). James A. Irby, Backdoor at Bagdad: The Civil War on the Rio Grande (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1977). Robert L. Kerby, Kirby Smith’s Confederacy: The Trans-Mississippi South, 1863–1865 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1972). Richard Lowe, Walker’s Texas Division C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004). Paula Mitchell Marks, Hands to the Spindle: Texas Women and Home Textile Production, 1822–1880 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996). David McDonald, José Ángel Navarro: In Search of the American Dream in Nineteenth-Century Texas (Denton: Texas State Historical Association, 2010). Fredericka Meiners, The Texas Governorship, 1861–1865: Biography of an Office (Ph.D. dissertation, Rice University, 1974). James L. Nichols, The Confederate Quartermaster in the Trans-Mississippi (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964). Stephen B. Oates, "Texas under the Secessionists," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 67 (October 1963). Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies (Washington: Department of the Navy, 1894–1927). David Paul Smith, Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas' Rangers and Rebels (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992). Jerry Thompson, Tejanos in Gray: Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza & Manuel Yturri (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2011). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Harold S. Wilson, Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2002). Ralph A. and Robert Wooster, "`Rarin' For a Fight': Texans in the Confederate Army," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 84 (April 1981).

Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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Ralph A. Wooster Revised by Brett J. Derbes, “Civil War,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

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