Notes and Documents
The Durable Society: Austin in the Reconstruction
A. C. GREENE*
T HE END OF THE CIVIL WAR FOUND TEXAS IN RELATIVELY GOOD
condition, but exhausted and confused. Cut off from the South,
news of the military collapse was slow to reach the state and slow
to be accepted." As late as May 3, 1865, Governor Pendleton Murrah
was saying, "They lie who say our cause is hopeless.. ."
As word of Appomattox spread, the Confederate troops in Texas
grew mutinous and unmanageable. On May 23 a Houston mob,
which began with discontented soldiers, sacked most of the Confed-
erate storehouses. Similar scenes occurred in other places as the
rapidly disintegrating force "swept on homeward."'
Austin had survived the war quite well. Being the seat of state
government had given it an added amount of economic stability,
and the sporadic federal invasion attempts during the fighting had
never endangered it. But with the Confederate breakup the town
faced more danger than it had during hostilities. Early in June
Governor Murrah and most of his staff escaped to Mexico, leaving
the machinery of civil government deserted and the offices and state
buildings open to marauders. The capitol was being reroofed under
a state contract when the dissolution of government began. The
contractor, seeing no way to collect for his work, abandoned the
job after having ripped off the old roof over Representative Hall.
Heavy rains came and ruined furniture and records in many offices."
The uneasiness of the breakup hit Austin when returning soldiers,
who considered themselves the rightful heirs of Confederate property,
joined some citizens in rifling several supply points in the city. As
*Mr. Greene is a member of the Quarterly staff.
'Charles W. Ramsdell, "Texas From the Fall of the Confederacy to the Beginning of
Reconstruction," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, XI (January, 19o8),
2Quoted in Weekly Texas State Gazette (Austin), May 3, 1865.
3Ramsdell, "Texas From the Fall of the Confederacy to the Beginning of Recon-
"Weekly Texas State Gazette, July 11, 1865.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/. Accessed May 30, 2015.