The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

A "Very Muddy and Conflicting" View:
The Civil War as Seen from Austin, Texas
DAVID C. HUMPHREY*
ON THE MORNING OF FEBRUARY 8, 1862, READERS OF THE NEW YORK
Times awoke to headlines proclaiming the Union capture two days
earlier of Fort Henry on Tennessee River, a victory that punctured the
Confederate defensive line in the West by giving Yankee gunboats a
river highway deep into the Confederacy. Almost two weeks later, on
February 21, John T. Allan of Austin, Texas, opened a letter from a
friend in New Orleans and was astounded to learn that the Federals
had "gone up the Tennessee river." Austin's State Gazette finally an-
nounced the surrender of Fort Henry the next day, sixteen days after
its fall.'
Situated on the periphery of the Confederacy, beyond the reach of
railroad or telegraph, 1,400 miles from the Confederate capital at
Richmond and remote even from the war in the West, Austin residents
found recent news about the Civil War hard to come by. "The war is the
all absorbing topic; & its events become history with you before rumors
of them reach us," lamented one resident in a letter to a friend in
Arkansas. The flow of rumors that did reach the Texas capital-some-
times wildly erroneous reports disguised as reliable news-made an ac-
curate picture of the military struggle all the more elusive. In late July
1863, three weeks after the battle of Gettysburg, Austin's newspaper re-
assured its readers that Gen. Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North had
produced stupendously successful results-highlighted by the capture
of' Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania's capital city of Harrisburg, and
* David C Humphrey is Senior Archivist at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library. His publica-
tions include Austizn An Illustrated Ilstovy (1985) and "Prostitution and Pubhc Policy in Austin,
Texas, 1870-1915," which appeared in the April 1983 Southwestern Historical Quarterly He
would like to thank Gary W. Gallagher for sparking his interest in the Civil War and for provid-
ing support and advice during the preparation of this article.
'John T Allan to D C. Osborn, Feb. 2 , 1862 (quotation), John T Allan Letterbook (Eugene
C. Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas, Austin; cited hereafter as BTHC), State
Gazette (Austin), Feb. 22, 1862 During the Civil War, Austin's weekly State Gazette was titled
variously the State Gazette, Texas State Gazette, Weekly State Gazette, and Weekly Texas State Gazette.
The weekly will be cited as the State Gazette throughout these notes

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/. Accessed April 24, 2014.