Thursday, March 17, 2016

de la Teja, ed.: "LONE STAR UNIONISM, DISSENT, AND RESISTANCE: Other Sides of Civil War Texas"

[Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas edited by Jesús F. de la Teja (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016). Softcover, map, illustrations, tables, notes, bibliography, index. 296 pp. ISBN:978-0-8061-5183-0. $19.95]

With the possible exception of South Carolina, serious anti-government forces appeared in every Confederate state during the Civil War. In recent decades, these dissenting voices have received increased attention in books and scholarly journal articles and all are given the stage in the new essay anthology Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas, edited by historian Jesús de la Teja.

The first chapter by Laura Lyons McLemore surveys the difficulty (or rather the impossibility) of arriving at a consensus memory of the Civil War in Texas given the various and opposing actors involved, from both pro and anti-Confederate white and Tejano populations to recent foreign immigrant groups (i.e. the Germans) to slaves. In terms of memorialization and monumentation (movements headed by women's groups like the the UDC), McLemore also demonstrates how Confederate memory was also in competition with Texas's own unique independent and frontier history and identity, all of which made it distinctly different from the standard Lost Cause attitudes adopted by other Deep South states. Many Texans did not even consider themselves part of the Deep South.

Andrew Torget's following piece examines the issue of runaway Texas slaves during the war. Interestingly, what started as a steady trickle of escapes (over the national border into Mexico, out to blockading ships at sea, or into Union-held Louisiana) had increased to such an extent by the mid-point of the war that some newspaper editors publicly advocated mass enlistment into the Confederate army as a method of social control, seemingly with little regard for how this would affect operations and how much strain it would place on already tenuous army logistics in the Trans-Mississippi. Forced to adopt the admittedly flawed methodology of tracking escape notices published in the newspapers, Torget also highlights the difficulty of counting the number of slaves that fled their masters during a given time period of the war.

Beginning in 1862, the inexorable Union advance down the Mississippi River Valley led to a mass exodus of white families and their slaves to Texas and Caleb McDaniel argues that these tens of thousands of "refugeed" slaves constituted a body of anti-Confederate dissent, always on the lookout to advance their own circumstances. This might be obvious but McDaniel seeks to break away from what he sees as a still popular characterization of refugeed slaves as "passive dependents" or, in an even more archaic view, "faithful servants." The essay also discusses the primary employment of these enslaved newcomers to Texas, as workers of land leased by their owners or contract labor for industry (domestic and war-related) and agriculture.

Victoria Bynum's contribution tells the tale of anti-Confederate resistance in the Big Thicket region of East Texas, specifically a small band under the leadership of Warren Collins. Noting the general lack of official documents related to the area as well as reliable firsthand sources pertaining to the political views of Warren's band of jayhawkers, Bynum (who would know this perhaps better than any living scholar of the war's inner conflict) appreciates the research value of family folklore and local history but also the significant shortcomings of both. She also writes about family connections between the Mississippi branch of the Collins clan and famed Newt Knight, while also drawing parallels between Warren Collins's late life Socialist Party political opposition to large timber interests in East Texas and his earlier stance against what he viewed as Texas's planter dominated politics of the Civil War period.

The traditional reputation of German-Americans as the most reliable pro-Union and anti-slavery immigrant ethnic group in the Civil War era has received some scholarly push back in recent years but Walter Kamphoefner's essay emphatically reasserts German exceptionalism. His critical reassessment of some of the data used by other scholars and his own personal examination of many soldier letters lend support to his main arguments that Germans were not generally integrated into the mainstream of Texas society and politics by 1860, were never enthusiastic about slavery, and were lukewarm supporters of the Cause at best (with expedience trumping ideology). That said, rather than taking German-Texans as a whole, Kamphoefner might have directly addressed Charles Grear's analysis in Why Texans Fought in the Civil War of a clear contrast between the Unionist and abolitionist stances of direct German immigrants and the more acculturated ones from those that had lived and worked in other southern states prior to arriving in Texas. Nevertheless, even when it seems the evidence is sometimes stretched to fit the conclusion, the writer's arguments remain on the highly plausible end of the spectrum.

The near universal illiteracy of rank and file Tejano Civil War soldiers has always taxed the ability of scholars to interpret their reasons for joining the volunteer armies of either side. Historians have traditionally centered either on economic motivations, local and familial ties, or practical hopes that service might result in social and citizenship rewards previously denied them, but Omar Valerio-Jimenez's chapter dealing with Tejano Unionism in the lower Rio Grande Valley posits that ideology comprised a far greater enlistment factor than previously credited by scholars. While it may or may not have been true that illiteracy did not form a barrier to understanding the national politics that divided North and South, or that poor Tejanos were indeed politically engaged on these issues, the essay's inferential evidence is not entirely convincing. As other scholars have discovered*, making sense of the frontier West's borderland loyalties is very difficult and the ability to separate principled Unionist stands among the vast majority of resistors from those attitudes simply anti-Confederate, anti-Texas or anti-authority in nature is practically impossible. But that doesn't mean one can't try. On a related front, another major theme of the essay involves Valerio-Jimenez's discussion of the social acceptance and integration of ex-slaves (to include intermarriage) into Tejano and Mexican border communities.

Tainted Breeze author Richard McCaslin discusses in his contribution perhaps the most well known pocket of anti-Confederate resisters, the Unionists of North Texas, and the harsh suppressive measures directed against them by state and Confederate military authorities (the most infamous being the "Great Hanging" at Gainesville in 1862). Rebecca Czuchry next addressed how black women, with Freedman's Bureau assistance, protected their families from racial violence during Reconstruction. Following Czuchry is Elizabeth Hayes Turner's summary history of emancipation in Texas and her examination of the Juneteenth celebration of black freedom and newly won citizenship. The final essay is Carl Moneyhon's biographical feature on Edmund J. Davis, a Union general and convert to radical politics who served as a Republican Texas governor supporting black suffrage and civil rights.

Taken together, the essays collected in this volume offer a more than reasonably comprehensive survey of the many groups that internally resisted Confederate Texas and what it stood for during the Civil War and Reconstruction years. No other single volume in the literature gathers together such an impressive host of topics under the common theme of anti-Confederate Texans. Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance splendidly reveals many common features of the inner wars that raged across the Confederacy as well as many aspects unique to the Texas experience. It is highly recommended.



* - Most recently, in their in-depth studies of native Spanish-speaking volunteers in the Union Army, both Tom Prezelski [Californio Lancers: The 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry in the Far West, 1863 - 1866 (2015)] and Jerry Thompson [A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia (2015)] ranked ideology low on their lists of possible enlistment motivators. Thompson also discovered abundant evidence of ingrained remnants of the old peonage system in New Mexico (one that some volunteers sought to escape). If this was also a motivating factor among the poorest residents of South Texas, it is unmentioned in Valerio-Jimenez's essay.


More CWBA reviews of OU Press and associated imprint titles:
* Kill Jeff Davis: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864
* Californio Lancers: The 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry in the Far West, 1863 - 1866 (Arthur H. Clark)
* Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit
* The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861
* Battles and Massacres on the Southwestern Frontier: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives
* The River Was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest & Fort Pillow
* Civil War Arkansas 1863: The Battle for a State (PB edition)
* Torn by War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Adelia Byers
* Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and the Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864
* Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865
* Historical Atlas of Oklahoma, 4th edition
* George Crook: From the Redwoods to Appomattox
* Violent Encounters: Interviews on Western Massacres
* A Perfect Gibraltar: The Battle for Monterrey, Mexico, 1846
* Patrick Connor's War: The 1865 Powder River Indian Expedition (Arthur H. Clark)
* Texas: A Historical Atlas
* Civil War Arkansas 1863: The Battle for a State
* Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane
* Powder River Odyssey: Nelson Cole's Western Campaign of 1865 the Journals of Lyman G. Bennett and Other Eyewitness Accounts (Arthur H. Clark)
* Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester
* The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare In The Upper South, 1861-1865
* The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865

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