- Paperback: 296 pages
- Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (March 9, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0806151838
- ISBN-13: 978-0806151830
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,665,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas Paperback – March 9, 2016
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First, I want to thank the kind people at the University of Oklahoma Press for sending me a review copy of "Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas" (2016), edited by Jesús F. de la Teja.
One of the great benefits of an edited volume of essays is that it gives the opportunity for scholars to write on interesting, but focused, topics that may not warrant book-length treatment; this book also makes accessible a collection of scholarship presented at a symposium at Texas State University in 2014. On both counts, OU Press has done readers a great favor.
I was originally attracted to this book for several reasons:
a) my own reading, research, and writing as relates to Civil War-era Texas, as expressed in my own book, "Galveston and the Civil War" (2012)
b) an interest in Southern Unionists and other examples of dissent and resistance (including slaves and abolitionists), especially in Texas
c) I was already acquainted with and admire the work of four of its contributors: Victoria E. Bynum, W. Caleb McDaniel, Richard B. McCaslin, and Walter D. Kamphoefner.
If one takes the main title of the book as its presumed mission, I'd say it satisfies it only if very broadly defined. However, in terms of the subtitle - "Other Sides of Civil War Texas" - it excels in its scope, originality, and scholarship.
I'm going to start with what I thought were the strongest contributions:
Victoria Bynum's "East Texas Unionism: Warren J. Collins, Big Thicket Jayhawker" is excellent. It's Bynum's book, The Free State of Jones, Movie Edition: Mississippi's Longest Civil War, that is the basis for the forthcoming film, and the chapter comes closes to what I hoped the book would encompass in terms of exploring themes of Texas Unionism. It's a terrific integration of folklore, geography, family migration from Mississippi to Texas, backwoods life, conflict between poor whites and commercial planters, participation of Collins family members in Newt Knight's Unionist guerilla band in Mississippi, and a transition into 20th century political life. The research is exceptional and the story is very interesting.
I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing Walter D. Kamphoefner speak about Germans and the Civil War several years ago when I still lived in Texas. Like Bynum, his chapter - "New Americans or New Southerners? Unionist German Texans" - also comes close to what I was hoping from in the book's mission. It's a very good summary of German-American sentiment in Texas in the Civil War era, and in other states, including Missouri, where I live now, so it also appealed to me on that level. Her examines slave ownership, voting records, enlistment in Union and Confederate units, post-war recriminations and/or assimilation, analysis of German-American correspondence and more. An especially interesting aspect was the adoption of the German language by some African-Americans in Texas. Apart from a disappointing, unnecessary, and uncharitable ad hominem insult that closes the chapter, it is an excellent piece of work.
I have interviewed Caleb W. McDaniel before and admire his scholarship very much, and his chapter - "Involuntary Removals: "Refugeed Slaves" in Confederate Texas" - does not disappoint. The focus of the chapter is the influx of slaves into Texas in the war years - swelling the estimated slave population by an additional 50,000-150,000, owing to an exodus of slaveholders from other states, especially Louisiana and Arkansas. The best part of this chapter dispels the myth of the "faithful slave" and discusses African-Americans Unionism and dissent, especially in terms of runaways. What's especially impressive about McDaniel's contribution - and most others in the book - is that they are original contributions to scholarship and literature and that shows up in the diligence in the research as evidenced in the endnotes. Especially interesting in McDaniel's case is his utilization of the Weeks family correspondence.
McDaniel's chapter is actually one of at least four chapters that focuses on the African-American experience in Texas in the era. Other chapters focuses on "Slave flight," "African-American women and racial violence," and "Juneteenth."Of the three besides McDaniel's, "Slave flight" relied too heavily on newspaper accounts and did not exhibit the breadth or depth of research that other contributions in this book did; likewise, the chapter on Juneteenth did not add much in the way of new scholarship in my opinion. However, Rebecca A. Czuchry's chapter, ""In Defense of Their Families: African-American Women, the Freedmen's Bureau, and Racial Violence During Reconstruction in Texas," was exceptional and one of the strongest in the book. It makes for interesting, if uncomfortable, reading owing to an emphasis on the sexual crimes against African-American women in post-war Texas.
Richard B. McCaslin's Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, 1862, is one of my favorite books, and he builds on it with his excellent chapter, "A Texas Reign of Terror: Anti-Unionist Violence in North Texas."
Another chapter in the book - on Edmund J. Davis - was interesting, but offered little more than straight biography. The introductory chapter on "Collective Memory of a Confederate Texas" was interesting but seemed an odd choice t introduce the other subject matter.
In terms of learning something new, I really enjoyed Omar Valerio-Jimenez's chapter, "Although We Are the Last Soldiers: Citizenship, Ideology, and Tejano Unionism," as it was an entirely new subject to me and it was an outstanding contribution to this group.
Of the 10 chapters in the book, 6 are truly outstanding, and the others are average or above - it's a good mix of material and highly recommended reading. 4 to 4 1/2 stars out of 5, for sure.
The one thing I would have liked to seen covered was a discussion of institutionalized suppression of civil liberties in Texas by the Confederate government - something along the lines of Mark Neely's (1999) Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism. My own research indicates there is a lot to explore in terms of secret police activities, imprisonment, confiscation of property, etc., against Unionists in Texas.
Geography played a role in how Texas looked at the Civil War--it was on the frontier, on an international boundary, and well west of the heaviest fighting, and the first essay discusses why Texans today look back at the war differently than do people in Southern states east of the Mississippi.
Slaves were of course most opposed to the Confederacy, but they were joined in their opposition by Germans in the Hill Country, yeoman farmers in East Texas, Tejanos, settlers in North Texas, and others. Many in the latter groups did not support slavery or were ambivalent about it, and the essays recall how those who supported the Union, even those who did so for reasons having nothing to do with slavery, were in extreme peril during the war years in Texas.
While the war ended slavery, the newly freed blacks were unfortunately not free from threats of violence, and essays here on the Reconstruction period recount how blacks stood against violence and attempted to gain political and civil rights, and how they established the annual Juneteenth commemorations to celebrate the end of slavery.
The book closes by chronicling the unique career of Edmund Davis, who despite his Southern background served in the Union Army during the war and eventually became governor. The ten essays in this volume thoroughly cover who in Texas opposed the Southern cause and why, and the book is well worth reading for those who would understand the other side of the Civil War in Texas.