Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999 Page: 3
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Consider the Lily:
The Un gilded History of Colorado County, Texas
by Bill Stein
The Civil War had perhaps a more profound impact on the population of Colo-
rado County than any other event in history. Many of the county's men had been killed in
the war; many others had deserted the army and, of course, did not return to the county.
Those who did return found their lives forever changed by the sudden presence in their
midst of thousands of new citizens, all emancipated from their previous condition of sla-
very. The labor of the so-called freedmen, then controlled by their owners, had constituted
the backbone of the county's economy before the war. Though the war had left them free to
sell their labor as they pleased, because most of them were both impecunious and unedu-
cated, they had little else besides their labor to offer. Indeed, Gordon Granger's proclama-
tion of June 19, 1865, by which Texas slaves were declared free, advised the freedmen "to
remain at their present homes and work for wages." The plantation owners, therefore, had
every reason to expect that the freedmen would continue to work on their plantations, albeit
as paid field hands rather than as slaves. The freedmen, however, imagined that their lives
as free men would be substantially different from their lives as slaves, and were understand-
ably reluctant to return to their labors on the plantations. The resulting reduction of the
supply of labor and its concomitant increase in cost was the subject of endless public and
As word of the Confederate surrenders in the east reached Texas, large num-
bers of the remaining Confederate soldiers in the state deserted, and their units began to
dissolve. With the end of the Confederate States of America a certainty, many of her former
soldiers took it upon themselves to confiscate (some might say steal) the nation's property.
To be sure, such actions had widespread public support. Who, after all, had more right to
the Confederacy's property: her underpaid former soldiers or her enemy, the United States,
which would soon take it for herself? So it was that when a number of former Confederate
cavalrymen raided La Grange on May 22, 1865 and seized all the government property they
could find, their action met with little objection. Two days later, and again on May 27 and
May 28, a number of Colorado County men, most of whom were German, went to a build-
ing near Frelsburg that was owned by Samuel Joseph Redgate, forced their way past his
1 Ernest Wallace, David M. Vigness, and George B. Ward, Documents of Texas History (Austin: State
House Press, 1994), p. 201.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999, periodical, January 1999; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151405/m1/3/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.