The Making of a Secessionist:
The Antebellum Career of Roger Q. Mills
C. ALWYN BARR*
R OGER QUARLES MILLS, BECAUSE OF AN EXCEPTIONAL TALENT FOR
politics, became an important Texas and national figure during his
years in the United States Congress between 1873 and I899. "A quick
tongue and opposition to federalism made him an outstanding 'Confederate
Brigadier,' " and combined with his growing economic expertise to thrust
him forward as a national Democratic spokesman on the tariff issue.
During the I89os he became a vocal nationalist, offering some of the
earliest appeals for United States intervention in Cuba. Yet in his ante-
bellum career he had appeared surprisingly typical of the young Texas
and southern politicians who, although not long-term fire-eaters, provided
much of the leadership and backbone of the secession movement on the
local level. Mills's decision for secession in 1861 came as a result of events
which spanned his earlier life, however, and it requires that broad per-
spective for full understanding.
Mills descended from the Quarles and Mills families of Virginia, who
traced their beginnings in America back to the landing of Nicholas Mills
at Jamestown in 1620. The Quarleses and the Millses generally established
themselves as slaveholding tobacco planters, although some answered a call
to the Baptist pulpit. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mills left his agricultural
pursuits in Hanover County, Virginia, to serve with George Washington
in the American Revolution. By the time fighting began Charles's son
Nathaniel had moved to Orange County, Virginia, where his wife gave
birth in 1776 to their son Charles Henley Mills.2
*C. Alwyn Barr, professor of history at Texas Tech University, began to study the ca-
reer of Roger Q. Mills under a grant from the Purdue University Research Foundation.
1H. Wayne Morgan, From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896
(Syracuse, 1969), 279 (quotation); Ernest R. May, Imperial Democracy: The Emer-
gence of America as a Great Power (New York, 1961), 75, 77.
2Russell A. Purifoy, Jr., "Statesman From Texas, Roger Q. Mills" (M.A. thesis, North
Texas State University, 1954), 1-2; "Revolutionary Army Orders For the Main Army
under Washington, 1778-1779," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XVI
(July, 19o8), 59; Rossiter Johnson and John Howard Brown (eds.), The Twentieth
Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans (Io vols.; Boston, 1904), VII,
s.v. "Mills, Roger Quarles"; Charles Mayfield Meacham, A History of Christian County,
Kentucky, From Oxcart to Airplane (Nashville, 1930), 589.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/. Accessed May 4, 2015.