Gordon Granger, Union commander of the Department of Texas from June 19 to August 6, 1865, the son of Gaius and Catherine Granger, was born in Joy, Wayne County, New York, on November 6, 1821. After graduating from West Point in 1845, he fought with distinction in the Mexican War with Winfield Scott's army from Veracruz to Mexico City during 1847. Afterward, he served on the frontier until the outbreak of the Civil War and was promoted to first lieutenant in 1852 and captain in 1861. His first Civil War combat came at Wilson's Creek, Missouri, in August 1861. After it he was promoted to colonel, and in March 1862 he became a brigadier general. In the march toward Corinth, Mississippi, he commanded his brigade against New Madrid and Island No. 10, and in September 1862 he was appointed major general. He participated in operations in Kentucky for nearly a year. At Chickamauga, Tennessee, in September 1863 he fought with William S. Rosecrans's army; there his counterattack saved the Union forces from disaster. Although he engaged in other battles around Chattanooga, helped in the relief of Knoxville, and took part in the capture of Mobile, his abrasive personality, which sometimes verged on insubordination, discouraged Ulysses S. Grant from giving him an independent command.
Granger was given command of the Department of Texas on June 10, 1865, by Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, commander of the Military Division of the Southwest. Upon his arrival in Galveston on June 19, he officially declared that the institution of slavery was dead, setting off joyful displays by Texas freedmen. Granger's proclamation formed the basis for the annual "Juneteenth" festivities, which celebrate the end of slavery in Texas. Granger also declared that laws passed by the Confederate government were void, that Confederate soldiers were paroled, that all persons having public property, including cotton, should turn it in to the United States Army, and that all privately owned cotton was to be turned in to the army for compensation. He counseled Blacks against congregating around towns and military posts, remaining unemployed, or expecting welfare; rather he advised them to remain on the plantations and to sign labor agreements with their former owners while awaiting further assistance from the Freedmen's Bureau, which had not yet been established in the state. For six weeks Granger took this message into the interior of the state. On August 6, 1865, he was relieved of his command and replaced by Gen. Horatio G. Wright.
In 1869 Granger married Maria Letcher, daughter of a Lexington, Kentucky, physician. His most important assignment after leaving Texas was to command the District of New Mexico (1871–76). He resided in Santa Fe until his death, on January 10, 1876.