"Private and Amateur Hangings": The Lynching
of W. W. Montgomery, March 15, 1863
THE UNEASY STATE OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN MEXICO AND
Texas, ever balancing on the verge of a large scale conflict, con-
tinued on its precarious course into the middle years of the Ameri-
can Civil War. Mexican forays into Texas and the Confederate-
Texan intrusions into Mexico were fairly common, and they prompted
a brisk correspondence between the government and military leaders
of the two nations. One series of events in particular, the Confederate
kidnapping of prominent Texas unionists Edmund J. Davis and Wil-
liam W. Montgomery and the subsequent hanging of Montgomery,
threatened to close the important border trade during March, 1863. Al-
though the diplomatic situation was smoothed over within weeks, the
consequences of those impetuous and ill-conceived acts could be traced
for many years thereafter, particularly in the life of George W.
Chilton, the leader of the Confederate force.
Chilton, a native of Kentucky, had moved to Tyler, Texas, in 1850
from Alabama, where he had studied law. His previous military ex-
perience had consisted of a brief period of service under John Coffee
Hays in the Mexican War, including participation in the battle of
Monterrey. A prominent attorney and popular speaker, he was known
as "always fond of adventure-emphatic in his views," a man with a
hot temper and a desire to be a military leader. The district court in
Tyler had indicted him in 1855 for sending a challenge to a duel; he
was associated with the Knights of the Golden Circle, and he had or-
ganized at least two prewar military units. Chilton was elected to the
*Vicki Betts is a reference librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler. She wishes to
acknowledge the research assistance provided by the late Chilton O'Brien, a descendant of
George W. Chilton. The title quotation is from R. H. Williams, With the Border Ruf-
fians: Memories of the Far West, r852-1868 ... ,ed. E. W. Williams (London, 19go7), 298.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/. Accessed August 27, 2014.