The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999

New Perspectives on Texas Germans
and the Confederacy
WALTER D. KAMPHOEFNER*
TEXAS, WHICH WAS HOME TO TWENTY THOUSAND OF THE SEVENTY
thousand Germans residing in the eleven Confederate states, was the
only place where the German element was large enough to play an
appreciable role in politics and war. Just what role they played, however,
still remains under dispute. In the popular press, various characteriza-
tions of Germans have portrayed them as everything from "fire-breath-
ing secessionists" to "virtually all Unionists."' The range of scholarly
opinion is nearly as broad. Older accounts often reflect the characteriza-
tion of antebellum traveler Frederick Law Olmsted, who portrayed
Germans as largely abolitionist in sentiment. More recent scholarship
has cautioned against generalizing from a few radical forty-eighters to
the bulk of ordinary German immigrants. But perhaps this scholarship
has gone too far in attempting to place Texas Germans into the main-
stream of the Lone Star State.
One of the most influential of these revisionists, geographer Terry
Jordan, has pointed out important distinctions between East and West
Texas Germans as far as attitudes toward slavery and the Civil War are
concerned. Eastern settlements were older, their immigrants more
acculturated to American values, and their local economy well suited for
plantation agriculture and slavery. The Hill Country west of Austin, by
contrast, was more recently settled. With its semiarid ranching economy
it had very few slaveholders, Anglo or German. A frontier region, it
faced exposure to Indian attacks should Federal military protection be
withdrawn-a consideration that also promoted unionism among Hill
Country Anglos. In a more recent work, Jordan outlines four "myths, or
* Walter D. Kamphoefner is professor of history at Texas A&M University. He has published
extensively on the social and political history of German immigrants and has edited an antholo-
gy of their letters. He is currently at work on an edition of Civil War-era letters of German-
Americans throughout the United States.
'"True to the Union," Houston Chronzcle, Aug. so, 1989, sec. E, p. 4.

SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

VOL. CII, NO. 4

APRIL, 1999

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed August 21, 2014.