The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

Racial Violence and Reconstruction
Politics in Texas, 1867- z868
GREGG CANTRELL*
W HEN THE ARMIES OF THE CONFEDERACY SURRENDERED AFTER FOUR
years of bloody conflict, Northern leaders were eager for accu-
rate information on the state of affairs in the defeated South. Before a
policy of Reconstruction could be implemented, key questions had to
be answered. Would the Confederates accept the reality of defeat and
the end of slavery? Did the South desire rapid reconciliation and, if so,
on what basis? Although much of the South had been occupied by
Union armies during the war, the answers to these questions were only
partially known when Robert E. Lee surrendered. Especially in Texas,
reliable information was extremely scarce. The Lone Star State never
had been successfully invaded, and Texas had been almost completely
isolated from Northern observers. Therefore, in the fall and winter of
1865 a number of Union officers were sent to the state on fact-finding
missions. Their reports told a story that was far from encouraging to
those whose task would be to "reconstruct" Texas.'
One of the officers who toured Texas in late 1865 was Insp. Gen.
William E. Strong. Sent by the commissioner of" the Freedmen's Bu-
reau, Gen. O. O. Howard, to observe the condition of the freedmen
and the manner in which they were being treated by their former mas-
ters, Strong penetrated beyond the coastal areas controlled by federal
troops and found "a fearful state of things." Wherever the military was
absent, he reported, the ex-Confederates "seem to take every oppor-
tunity to vent their rage and hatred upon the blacks. They are fre-
* Gregg Cantrell is assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University. He is cur-
rently researching the Populist movement in Texas.
'Michael Perman has examined the Northern obsession with the state of Southern affairs
and attitudes immediately following the war. He argues that observers lacked objectivity, tend-
ing to find what they wanted to find. The evidence on Texas, however, indicates that it would
have been difficult to exaggerate the degree of lawlessness existing in the Lone Star State in
1865. See Michael Perman, Reunion without Compromue: The South and Reconstruction, T865-
1868 (New York: Cambridge University Press, i973), 13-21

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed September 1, 2014.