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The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas in the Civil War

edited by Kenneth W. Howell, University of North Texas Press

On September 22, 1860, Texas Governor Sam Houston, 67 years old and in poor health, spoke passionately at a rally in Austin about the folly of disunion. “Whence, then, this clamor about disunion,” he asked; “…are we to sell reality for a phantom?” Texans of course ignored Houston’s warning and voted overwhelmingly on February 23, 1861, to become the seventh star in the Confederate flag.

Kenneth Howell of Prairie View A&M University has selected 18 historians to chronicle many of the unique wartime experiences of Texas soldiers and civilians on the battlefront as well as the home front. This compilation of well-chosen and complementary essays takes readers inside the walls of the largest Confederate prisoner-of-war camp in the Trans-Mississippi as well as into the homes of families left to fend for themselves while husbands, fathers and brothers were away in battle. Included are excellent commentaries on military actions, including the Union occupation of Galveston; the August 1862 massacre of German Unionists on the banks of the Nueces River; the 1863 Yankee invasion at Matagorda Bay; and the role of Texas cavalry in the Union’s ill-fated Red River Campaign. The social and cultural aspects of life in Civil War Texas, including the experiences of African Americans, women and other non combatants, also get fresh and insightful analysis here.

“Galveston is a feisty little seaport with a colorful and bizarre history,” opines Donald Willett at the opening of his essay on life in Galveston during the 84 days Union forces controlled the Queen City of the Gulf. Charles D. Grear’s essay on the combined operations of the 5th Texas Cavalry and the Cherokee Indian Brigade led by Brig. Gen. Stand Waite “provides a much needed study into the role of race relationships in the Trans-Mississippi during the Civil War.” And Carol Taylor focuses on the dilemma Texas beef contractors faced during the drought years of 1857-64 and its effect on shipments to Confederate forces east of the Mississippi River. Taylor addresses the logistical problems associated with long-distance cattle drives because of the paucity of railroads in Texas and the closure of the Mississippi after the fall of Vicksburg.

On March 16, 1861, the Texas Secession Convention called for all the state’s elected officials to take a loyalty oath to the new government. Sam Houston, twice president of the Republic, as well as U.S. senator, governor and slave owner, sat silent. He never did pledge allegiance to the Confederacy, and he died in 1863 still convinced that his fellow Texans had made a terrible mistake.


Originally published in the October 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here