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The Great Hanging at Gainesville, 1862: The Accounts of Thomas Barrett and George Washington Diamond
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- George Washington Diamond, Thomas Barrett
In what may have been the single largest outbreak of vigilante violence in American history, forty suspected Unionists were hanged at Gainesville, Texas, in October 1862. Civil War tensions had been running high. The Cooke County community located just across the Red River from Indian Territory was split between natives of the Deep South who often supported the Confederacy and natives of the Upper South and Midwest who were sometimes indifferent or hostile to it. When active resistance to conscription into the Confederate army combined with long-running rumors of an invasion of North Texas by Kansas Jayhawkers and their Indian allies, many of the former decided action must be taken.
More than 150 suspected Unionists were arrested and put before a “citizen’s court” of twelve jurors. The trial was marked by acrimony and violence, which included the lynching of fourteen men by an angry mob. Minister Thomas C. Barrett served on that jury and attempted to mitigate the vengeful rage of his neighbors. He had some success in the matter, but after two high-profile assassinations, the hangings continued. His 1885 memoir of the trial and the hangings is collected in this volume. Also collected here is the account based on records of the citizen’s court completed in 1876 by George Washington Diamond, whose brother, James J. Diamond, helped organize the trial. Placed together in one volume, these writings offer important insight into the tensions that tore apart American communities during the Civil War era. Renowned Civil War historian Richard B. McCaslin provides an introduction, while L. D. Clark, a descendant of one of the men hanged, reveals the extent to which tensions remain in Gainesville even generations later.
Kelly McMichael, in her book, Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas, takes the reader on a tour of Civil War monuments throughout the state and in doing so tells the story of each monument and its creation. McMichael explores Texans’ motivations for erecting Civil War memorials, which she views as attempts during a period of turmoil and uncertaintysevere depression, social unrest, the rise of Populism, mass immigration, urbanization, industrialization, imperialism, lynching, and Jim Crow laws”to preserve the memory of the Confederate dead, to instill in future generations the values of patriotism, duty, and courage; to create a shared memory and identity based on a largely invented story”; and to anchor a community against social and political doubt.”
Her focus is the human story of each monument, the characters involved in its creation, and the sacred memories held dear to them.
Because most of the great battles of the Civil War were fought east of the Mississippi River, it is often forgotten that Texas made major contributions to the war effort in terms of men and supplies. Over 70,000 Texans served in the Confederate army during the war and fought in almost every major battle. Ordnance works, shops, and depots were established for the manufacture and repair of weapons of war, and Texas cotton shipped through Mexico was exchanged for weapons and ammunition.
The state itself was the target of the Union army and navy. Galveston, the principal seaport, was occupied by Federal forces for three months and blockaded by the Union navy for four years. Brownsville, Port Lavaca, and Indianola were captured, and Sabine Pass, Corpus Christi, and Laredo were all under enemy attack. A major Federal attempt to invade East Texas by way of Louisiana was stopped only a few miles from the Texas border.
The Civil War had significant impact upon life within the state. The naval blockade created shortages requiring Texans to find substitutes for various commodities such as coffee, salt, ink, pins, and needles. The war affected Texas women, many of whom were now required to operate farms and plantations in the absence of their soldier husbands. As the author points out in the narrative, not all Texans supported the Confederacy. Many Texans, especially in the Hill Country and North Texas, opposed secession and attempted either to remain neutral or work for a Union victory. Over two thousand Texans, led by future governor Edmund J. Davis, joined the Union army.
In this carefully researched work, Ralph A. Wooster describes Texas's role in the war. He also notes the location of historical markers, statues, monuments, battle sites, buildings, and museums in Texas which may be visited by those interested in learning more about the war. Photographs, maps, chronology, end notes, and bibliography provide additional information on Civil War Texas.