Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘southern unionism’ Category

Aumanbook

At the state archives I found the testimony of a wife about the killing of her [Unionist] husband. He was shot while plowing . . .  .  A man walked up, squatted down took aim, and BANG!, shot him. While dying, he told his young daughter, who was right there by his side all the time, that he loved her and wanted her to take good care of the dresses that he recently bought her. Made tears come–this is why I love history. Fiction is boring in comparison.

William T. Auman to Victoria Bynum, January 19, 1987

I recently learned that my favorite historian of North Carolina Civil War Unionists, William T. “Bill” Auman, had revised and published his important 1988 dissertation detailing North Carolina’s inner civil war. I no sooner learned this exciting news when I discovered that Bill passed away in April, 2013, shortly before his manuscript went to press. Saddened by the news, and disappointed that I can never congratulate Bill on his accomplishment, I want, nevertheless, to pay tribute to his work. Certainly, historians and others interested in Civil War dissenters and guerrillas will want to read Bill Auman’s Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt

My friendship and scholarly relationship with Bill goes back to our years as history doctoral students–he, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, me at the University of California, San Diego. I first learned of his research shortly after returning to California from North Carolina after completing a year of research (1982-83) on the dissertation that eventually became my first book, Unruly Women (1992).  While still in North Carolina, I’d become excited by what I found in the Civil War court records of Montgomery County, as well as the Governors’ Papers, of the North Carolina State Archives. So, what began as a study of women during the antebellum years of Granville, Orange, and Montgomery Counties, North Carolina, was  now expanded to the war years in order to include women from pro-Union families who tangled with the Confederacy over the status and whereabouts of their outlier/deserter husbands and sons. With that decision, my research began to dovetail with Bill Auman’s.

Very soon, I discovered Bill’s work on Southern Unionists of the Randolph County area (a region that included Montgomery County). After completing his M.A. thesis on the topic in 1978, Bill had published three articles between 1981 and 1984 on the region’s Wesleyan Methodist Unionists, on the underground Unionist organization known as the Heroes of American, and on Unionist leader Bryan Tyson of Moore County. Carefully researched and meticulously argued, those articles put me on the fast track to understanding the political context in which Montgomery County women (such as Martha Sheets, Caroline Hulin, and Phoebe Crook)  confronted local pro-Confederate citizens for their abuse of local families who opposed secession and refused to support the Confederacy.

On a return trip to North Carolina in 1984, I attempted to locate Bill at the university, but learned that he had returned home for the summer. Instead, we spoke by telephone, and were both excited to share our mutual interest in Quaker Belt Unionists. At that point, we began writing one another (too early for email!), and sharing our ideas. Bill was the expert on the Quaker Belt’s inner civil war; I was the newcomer, and, besides, only a slice of my dissertation concerned the Wesleyan Methodist Unionists of Montgomery County. But it was more than that. Bill’s expertise emanated not only from superb training, but also from his personal background.  A native of Randolph County, he was descended from several of the Unionist families of which he wrote, and thoroughly immersed in the geography, culture, and kinship of the region.

After corresponding for two years, during which time Bill read and critiqued several of Unruly Women’s chapters-in-progress, we met for the first time in Chicago, at the December 1986 convention of the American Historical Association (AHA). We spent a lively afternoon discussing not only our research, but the history profession in general. As anyone who knew Bill Auman can tell you, he was irreverent in his judgments of academia, and preferred to remain outside its hallowed halls as much as possible. He was delighted to learn that I enjoyed country and bluegrass music, and wrote to me about his love of the Sandy Creek Boys, the Bass Mountain Boys, and Raymond Fairchild, who he described as a “genuine North Carolina Cherokee raised on the Reservation.” Bill himself had learned to play a five-string guitar from the “good ole boys” he’d met at fiddler’s conventions.

By then, I was teaching at Southwest Texas University in San Marcos, TX (later renamed Texas State University). Bill did not yet have a teaching position, but in 1988, simultaneously with finishing his dissertation, he accepted a position at Georgia Southern University. By 1990, he’d moved on to the University of the Ozarks.

In 1991, Bill and I served together on a panel of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) in St. Louis. He presented a paper on “The Origins of Dissent in Confederate North Carolina”; I served as a commentor. And that, I’m sorry to say, was our last contact, either in person or by letter.

I can’t say why we lost touch, but I can guess. We were both terribly busy by 1991, working full-time with heavy teaching loads and dissertations waiting to be turned into books. In one of his final letters to me, Bill declared that “the pace is unbelievable. Too much for an old man. Jeepers.” In another, he commented that three of the four courses he was teaching were totally new preparations. And, of course, there were always conference papers and book reviews waiting to be written. Such is the life of the newly-minted PhD–that is, if you’re lucky enough to have a job in your profession.

I think around this time Bill abandoned his teaching position in the Ozarks and headed back home. It was always the scholarship, after all, that he loved. His research was inseparable from his love of North Carolina, and when he did return to teaching it would be there, in his home state.

As the preeminent historian of Civil War dissenters in central North Carolina, Bill has long been, and remains, the authority on that region’s most notorious Civil War guerrilla, Bill Owens. No one, I believe, knows more about Owens’ anti-Confederate activities and his violent death in 1865 at the hands of a lynch mob than Bill Auman. In fact, the guerrilla Bill lived at the apex of Randolph, Montgomery, and Moore Counties, very close to the ancestors of the historian Bill.

At a certain point, Bill Auman told me long ago, an old-timer of the neighborhood had taken him to the original home of Bill Owens.  And so, much of what I wrote about Bill Owens and his wife–who was famously abused by local Confederate officials–in Unruly Women, and later in Long Shadow of the Civil War (2010), was enhanced by Auman’s insights into an otherwise elusive couple.

A problem emerged for me, however, as I wrote about Bill Owens and his wife for my latest book, Long Shadow of the Civil War. Based on Auman’s own research, Bill Owens was lynched in 1865. And yet, Auman identified William Bailey Owens and his wife, Mary, of Moore County as the guerrilla couple, although that Bill Owens was still alive in 1880 according to federal manuscript population censuses. Furthermore, the same censuses revealed another William Owens living just a few miles away, over the county line in Montgomery, who, appropriate to having been lynched, disappears from the census after 1870. This William Owens had a wife named Adeline, and this Bill Owens, I suspected, was the guerrilla Bill Owens.

Frankly, I wasn’t certain that I was correct. Bill Auman, after all, was thoroughly familiar with the people and neighborhoods of the Randolph County area. And what about the old timer who had taken him to visit Bill Owens’s original homestead? Still, I kept coming back to the fact that a man lynched in 1865 could not be alive in 1880, and so I respectfully presented my theory that Bill and Adeline Owens of Montgomery County were the “real” Owenses in my 2010 book, Long Shadow of the Civil War.

Turns out I was in for a third surprise when I received my Kindle edition of Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt. I was shocked and delighted to discover that Bill had read Long Shadow of the Civil War, seen the footnote in which I reported my belief that he had incorrectly identified Bill Owens, reconsidered the evidence, and now agreed with me.

I guess that makes it official: William Owens and his wife, Adeline, of Montgomery County, NC, and not William Bailey Owens and his wife Mary, of Moore County, is our guerrilla couple. Thank you, Bill, for this final posthumous judgment. Oh, how I wish I’d written directly to you about my concerns so we could have reached that conclusion together while you were still alive.

R.I.P. Bill Auman.

 

Vikki Bynum

William T. Auman’s Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt is available via Amazon.

 

 

Read Full Post »

If you’re interested in Southern Unionism, especially within the Lone Star State, the upcoming symposium will be of great interest to you. Lots of great scholars and papers, and I’m honored to be included. My talk will be on Warren Jacob Collins, leader of the Unionist “Jayhawkers” of the East Texas Big Thicket. Warren was part of a Unionist family that included Jasper Collins of Mississippi, a member of the Knight Company of “Free State of Jones” fame.

Hope to see you there!

Vikki Bynum

Unionism symposium image

APRIL 5, 2014, SATURDAY   |   SYMPOSIUM
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
LONE STAR UNIONISM AND DISSENT: The Other Civil-War Texas

Support for the Union in Texas and rejection of the Confederacy did not solely consist of Sam Houston’s famous refusal to take oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. Before, during, and after the Civil War, significant numbers of Texans of all social, economic, and ethnic groups actively opposed the dominant southern slaveocracy for a variety of reasons. This symposium explores the diversity of that opposition and challenges the myth of a monolithic pro-Confederate Texas.

Presented by Texas State’s Center for the Study of the Southwest, this all-day symposium offers two morning sessions and one afternoon session of three presentations each, followed by keynote address and a Q&A period.

8:00 AM—CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST

8:30 AM — OPENING REMARKS
J. Frank de la Teja, director of Texas State’s Center for the Study of the Southwest

8:45–10:15 AM — SESSION ONE

Gray Ghost: Collective Memory of a Confederate Texas 
— Laura McLemore 
The “collective memory” of Confederate Texas is as elusive as a ghost. It is as lacking in definite shape as any restless spirit, and tracing manifestations of it is a challenge worthy of any ghost hunter. This nebulousness, like so many aspects of Texas history and memory, is inextricably linked with Texan identity, in itself a loaded term. From a survey of primary and secondary sources, however, a few conclusions emerge, the first and foremost of which is that Texans viewed and many continue to view themselves as “Texan” first and foremost. A second is that vast differences of geography and ethnic heritage mitigated against the formation of a genuinely “collective” memory of a Confederate Texas. A third is that Texas men were much more interested in getting back to making money than they were in memorializing a lost cause. This left the cultivation of “memory” to the ladies. McLemore explores the evidence for and the nature of collective memory of Confederate Texas through time.

The Problem of Slave Flight Before and During the Civil War 
— Andrew J. Torget
This presentation will focus on the problem that slave fight posed for Anglo Texans and Confederates, as enslaved people during the 1850s and 1860s escaped from plantations. The position of Texas along the far-western frontier of the American South, alongside Mexico, presented unique opportunities for enslaved people to flee their masters, leaving the state’s planters particularly concerned about the problem of slave flight and rebellion. The outbreak of the Civil War threatened to destabilize slaveholding in the state as it brought new opportunities for Texas slaves to escape, even as slaveholders from other parts of the Confederacy began shuttling slaves into Texas to isolate them from Union armies (and the opportunity to run to freedom across Union lines). Dr. Torget will examine both how the course of the war affected slave escapes in the state, and how Anglo Texans thought about both the threat of emancipation and the central problem that their enslaved servants posed: unionists in their midst.

Slaveholding Refugees in Wartime Texas 
— Caleb McDaniel
As Union armies occupied New Orleans and moved up the Mississippi River in late 1862 and 1863, slaveholding refugees from Louisiana poured across the border into Texas, bringing with them tens of thousands of enslaved people. As these slaveholders rented land, hired out slaves, moved back and forth across the border, and sometimes straddled the line between commitment to the Confederacy and grudging acceptance of Union gains, their presence created tensions with many native Texans who questioned their loyalty or feared the influx of “strange” people of color. As “outsiders” who were neither Unionists nor fully accepted by Confederate Texans, these refugees and the enslaved people they brought with them did not always fit neatly into the categories historians have used to understand wartime Texas. They reveal the heterogeneous and shifting nature of the state’s population as well as the multiple motives—economic, practical, familial, and ideological—that brought many strangers to Texas during the War.

10:15–10:30 AM — BREAK

10:30 AM–12:00 PM — SESSION TWO

New Americans or New Southerners? German Texans 
— Walter Kamphoefner
Texas, which was home to more than a quarter of Germans residing in the eleven Confederate states, was the only place with an appreciable rural German element, one that was large enough to play a role in politics and war. Just what role they played, however, still remains under dispute. In the popular media, various characterizations of Germans have portrayed them as everything from “fire-breathing secessionists” to “virtually all Unionists.” The range of scholarly opinion is nearly as broad. Older accounts often reflect the characterization of antebellum traveler Frederick Law Olmstead, portraying 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. Kamphoefnel re-examines the role and attitudes of Texas Germans (and smaller continental European groups often allied with them) toward slavery, the Confederacy, and Reconstruction, drawing particularly on evidence from letters and from voter behavior. It also explores personal factors which made individuals more or less sympathetic to the Confederate cause.

Although We Are the Last Soldiers: Citizenship, Ideology, and Tejano Unionism 
— Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez
Mexican Texan resistance to the Confederacy and Tejano Unionism along the South Texas border will be examined by Valerio-Jiménez. He argues that Mexican Texans’ reactions to the U.S. Civil War were rooted in the relationships Mexicans had established with African Americans in the villas del norte (towns along the Rio Grande) during the Spanish and Mexican periods. Following U.S. annexation, Tejanos assisted runaway slaves who sought freedom in Mexico and they also intermarried with African Americans. The paper demonstrates that Mexican Texans who joined the Union Army did so for various reasons including anti-slavery sentiment, opposition to pro-Confederate local politicians, and expressions of U.S. citizenship. Although they endured hardships during the war and were not politically rewarded afterwards, Tejanos invoked their military service as a claim to U.S. citizenship.

Coerced Unionism: African American Testimonies of Violence During Reconstruction 
— Rebecca Czuchry
Immediately following the Civil War in 1865, African Americans in the former Confederacy faced extremely brutal violence perpetrated by whites. This was particularly true in Texas, a state known during the period for both violence and racial intolerance. Texas has been viewed by Reconstruction scholars as one of the most violent of the former Confederate states. Even so, the violent experience of former slaves in the state has not been fully examined. Although white Texans used violence to injure, kill, or control individuals, violence also served the larger purpose of creating a climate of fear in order to more easily subjugate and control the entire black community. Despite this brutal atmosphere, black Texans risked their lives by reporting acts of violence that occurred in their communities. Kosary  examines the testimonies of African Americans as a form of resistance; in testifying to federal officials, black Texans resisted re-subjugation and established a degree of autonomy and power over their own lives.

12:00 –1:30 PM — LUNCH BREAK

1:30 –3:00 PM — SESSION THREE

East Texas Unionism 
— Victoria Bynum
During the Civil War, Warren Jacob Collins of Hardin County, Texas, led a band of guerrillas that hid out in East Texas’s Big Thicket. Collins’s occasional appearance in Texas folklore as a backwoods, bare-knuckled fighter or, alternatively, the “Daniel Boone” of East Texas, has long obscured the deeply-held political views that led him (and six of his brothers) to support the Union against the Confederacy. A careful study of the Texas Collins brothers and the Big Thicket uprising reveals the uprising’s yeoman roots as well as its direct ties to the more famous yeoman uprising in Mississippi known as the “Free State of Jones.” The political postwar evolution of Warren J. Collins in turn provides a window on connections between Southern Unionism and the rise of third party challenges to the Democratic Party.

A Texas Reign of Terror: Anti-Unionist Violence in North Texas 
— Rick McCaslin 
Despite popular lore that tends to focus on events reinforcing common perceptions of Texan exceptionalism and virtues—which leads many Texans to assume their state emerged from the Civil War virtually unscathed—facts reveal many regions were deeply scarred by wartime experiences, and the violence did not come from invasions.  Confederate Texans proved just as intolerant of dissenters as Southerners in many other states, and they reacted just as violently to internal challenges. North Texas became the arena for many brutal operations against Unionists, which undermine claims of both exceptionalism and virtue by Texans concerning the Civil War. Instead, residents of the Lone Star State, like Southerners who lived elsewhere in the former Confederacy, had to reflect on a divided legacy that included not just the heroism of units such as Hood’s Texas Brigade, but also the viciousness of events such as the Great Hanging at Gainesville.

Three Cheers to Freedom and Equal Rights to All: Juneteenth and the Meaning of Citizenship 
— Elizabeth Hayes Turner
Occupying Union troops entered Texas in June more than two months after the Civil war had ended, but it was on June 19 (Juneteenth) that a portion of the 250,000 slaves—the last within the Confederacy—learned of their freedom. The emancipation announcement, made by General Gordon Granger in Galveston, tested the resolve of slavery supporters and began in earnest the development of a freedom tradition that has lasted to this day. During Juneteenth’s evolution from 1865 to the turn of the century, black communities came together annually to celebrate their liberation and to honor the president who had freed them. Over time, leaders and social justice activists used Juneteenth gatherings as a pragmatic way not only to remember with pride black state office holders but also to launch important goals for African Americans. The creation of Reconstruction government demonstrated that democracy could be carried out by a black and white voting populace, a memory that would later be suppressed by whites seeking to disfranchise black voters. As Reconstruction faded and Redeemers returned to state office, African Americans, through Juneteenth celebrations, kept alive the meaning of freedom, the history of their political participation, and the quest for full citizenship under the law.

3:00–3:15 PM — BREAK

3:15–3:45 PM — KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Edmund J. Davis: The Radicalization of a Texas Unionist 
— Carl Moneyhon
Edmund J. Davis was a prominent Texas politician in the antebellum era who supported the Union in the secession crisis of 1860-1861, fled the state and became a general in the Union Army, then returned after the war to become an important figure in the state’s Republican Party and ultimately the state’s governor. In the latter position he urged a new course for Texas, even supporting full rights for the state’s newly freed slaves. Moneyhon examines Davis’s course during these years, assessing the causes for the decisions he made. This examination shows, ultimately, the plight of an individual whose constitutional and legal views precluded his endorsement of the actions of the state’s Democratic majority. It illustrates how the uncompromising stance of the latter and their refusal to tolerate any wavering on the issue of secession and their justification of it following Confederate defeat forced unwanted decisions on a fundamentally conservative man. The fanatical position held by the Democratic leadership, in the end, radicalized Davis and accounts for the emergence of an individual willing to challenge their leadership and even the socio-economic status quo in Texas.

3:45 PM — GENERAL Q&A

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers