Thursday, December 4, 2008

ed. Grear: "The Fate of Texas: The Civil War and the Lone Star State"

[The Fate of Texas: The Civil War and the Lone Star State ed. by Charles D. Grear (Univ. of Arkansas Press, 2008). Cloth, 2 maps, charts, tables, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total: 204/294. ISBN: 1-55728-883-6 $37.50]

From past to present, The Fate of Texas examines a number of broad social issues associated with the Civil War experience of the citizenry of the Lone Star State. Like many recent essay collections published by major university presses, this volume carries a heavy race/ethnicity, gender, and public history focus. No battle or campaign articles were included*, but the first chapter by Joseph Dawson seeks to explain Texas's role in the Confederacy's strategic military planning. It includes a summarization of the state's importance as a key jump off point for the new nation's planned expansion into the southwest. Coastal and border defense are also discussed.

Readers familiar with the scholarship of Richard Lowe and Richard McCaslin** will be familiar with the material presented in their chapters. Through a thorough examination of soldier letters, Lowe discovers that Texas fathers at war, far from the stern taskmasters of Victorian era stereotype, openly expressed great affection for their wives and children, respectful of the former and intimately involved in the raising of the latter. McCaslin reopens his investigation into the tragedy of large scale pro-Confederate vigilantism in North Texas, focusing on the infamous Gainesville hangings.

Concentrating her own study on Colorado County, Angela Boswell, through the use of legal documents and private correspondence, relates to the reader the new public and private roles assumed by Texas women during wartime. Issues covered include farm and business management, divorce, estate execution, and lawsuits, all lying within the male domain in the pre-war period.

Walter Kamphoefner weighs the evidence surrounding the German immigrant attitude toward slavery and secession. He convincingly refutes the contention that, over time, Germans tended to adopt the attitudes of the general population of the state. Of course, selective bias can be problematic in studies such as these, but Kamphoefner's research into slaveholding and voting patters [he supports his case with economic and voting pattern data arranged in tabular format], private correspondence, and German support for Republicans during Reconstruction, is solid.

Picking through tax and census records, Dale Baum was able to, for the first time, provide fairly reliable numbers [approx. 47,800-51,000] concerning the number of slaves relocated ("refugeed") to Texas by their owners -- east and west -- to keep them away from advancing Union armies. Baum also looked at the accompanying planters, finding them to not be additionally motivated by conscription avoidance (contrary to the conjecture of others). Also, both previous owner and ex-slave tended to stay in Texas when the war ended.

General editor Charles Grear explored the reason why so many Texans were motivated to fight on the other side of the Mississippi River, far away from their homes. Narrowly focusing his study on members of the Texas Brigade that fought in Virginia and the western theater's Terry's Texas Rangers, Grear came to the very reasonable conclusion that much of this was based on extended family connections to other states (surprisingly, only 25% of white males living in Texas in 1860 were born in the state). A subject for future inquiry might be to broaden the sample base and also examine how such attitudes changed over time.

Other chapters explore the post-war period. Carl Moneyhon studied the experiences, attitudes, and public roles of Confederate veterans in Texas during Reconstruction and beyond; and Randolph Campbell examined the post-war lives of Harrison County veterans. The final two essays bring the reader to the present, addressing the many challenges and disparate points of view inherent to memorializing divisive figures from the past and in presenting public history. In both content and presentation, The Fate of Texas is a fine addition to University of Arkansas Press's The Civil War in the West series.

* - the degree of lament associated with this will vary with the reader, but, as military operations within the state remain comparatively neglected in the literature, I thought the editor missed a good opportunity here.
* - Lowe, Walker's Texas Division (LSU, 2006) and McCaslin, Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, 1862 (LSU, 1994).

Links to other CWBA reviews of Univ. of Arkansas Press titles:
* Guide to Missouri Confederate Units, 1861-1865
* A Thrilling Narrative
* Confederate Guerrilla
* Guerrillas, Unionists, and Violence on the Confederate Home Front
* Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Tennessee in the Civil War
* Civil War Arkansas: Beyond Battles and Leaders
* "I Acted From Principle": The Civil War Diary Of Dr. William M. McPheeters, Confederate Surgeon In The Trans-Mississippi
* Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand

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