Big Thicket jayhawkers

Lone Star Unionism: Warren J. Collins profiled in New Civil War Anthology

By Vikki Bynum

Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas, the much-anticipated anthology edited by distinguished historian Jesus F. de la Teja,*  makes its debut from the University of Oklahoma Press on March 9, 2016.

About the book: Most histories of Civil War Texas—some starring the fabled Hood’s Brigade, Terry’s Texas Rangers, or one or another military figure—depict the Lone Star State as having joined the Confederacy as a matter of course and as having later emerged from the war relatively unscathed. Yet as the contributors to this volume amply demonstrate, the often neglected stories of Texas Unionists and dissenters paint a far more complicated picture. Ranging in time from the late 1850s to the end of Reconstruction, Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance restores a missing layer of complexity to the history of Civil War Texas.

Lone Star Unionism

Lone Star Unionism, Edited by Jesus F. de la Teja

I’m delighted to have contributed an essay about guerrilla leader Warren Jacob Collins to this volume. From the Big Thicket swamps of East Texas, Warren Collins headed a band of Confederate army deserters labeled “jayhawkers” because of their support for the Union. My essay, “East Texas Unionism: Warren J. Collins, Big Thicket Jayhawker,”** adds a new twist to this story—Warren, it turns out, hailed from Jones County, Mississippi, and had personal connections to Newt Knight and his famed guerrilla band, the Knight Company.

Although the Big Thicket jayhawkers are well known in Texas lore, few readers know that Warren Collins was born and raised in Jones County, or that his Mississippi brothers, Jasper Collins, Riley Collins, and Simeon Collins, as well as his brother-in-law, James Morgan Valentine, were “officers” in the guerrilla uprising headed by Newt Knight and known as the Free State of Jones.***  Clearly, there were intimate connections between these two legendary insurrections that erupted in two different states!

More about the book: The authors—all noted scholars of Texas and Civil War history—show that slaves, freedmen and freedwomen, Tejanos, German immigrants, and white women all took part in the struggle, even though some never found themselves on a battlefield. Their stories depict the Civil War as a conflict not only between North and South but also between neighbors, friends, and family members. By framing their stories in the analytical context of the “long Civil War,” Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance reveals how friends and neighbors became enemies and how the resulting violence, often at the hands of secessionists, crossed racial and ethnic lines. The chapters also show how ex-Confederates and their descendants, as well as former slaves, sought to give historical meaning to their experiences and find their place as citizens of the newly re-formed nation.

Concluding with an account of the origins of Juneteenth—the nationally celebrated holiday marking June 19, 1865, when emancipation was announced in Texas—Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance challenges the collective historical memory of Civil War Texas and its place in both the Confederacy and the United States. It provides material for a fresh narrative, one including people on the margins of history and dispelling the myth of a monolithic Confederate Texas.

Featuring the groundbreaking research of both established and rising scholars, Lone Star Unionism is an important contribution to the burgeoning field of Civil War dissent and home front turmoil, providing the perfect showcase for the story of Warren Jacob Collins, and reminding us of the breadth and depth of human struggle during Civil War. –vb


*Dr. Jesus F. de la Teja is Regents’ Professor of History and Supple Professor of Southwestern Studies Director, Center for the Study of the Southwest, Texas State University, San Marcos.

**Portions of this essay were previously published in chapter 5 of Victoria Bynum, The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

**The movie, The Free State of Jones, is set for release on May 13, 2016, and stars Matthew McConaughey as Newt Knight.

8 replies »

  1. My Grandfather (Edmond Jasper Collins), son of Ulysses Collins, said his Great Uncle Warren was so mean he once shot a dog because it wouldn’t stop barking.

    • Interesting! I’m curious, however. It’s my understanding that Ulysses lived in Mississippi all his life, whereas Warren J.Collins lived in Texas from 1852 until his death in 1926. When would Ulysses’s son, Edmond Jasper Collins, have witnessed this shooting? Did he ever live in Texas? Or might he have had another great uncle named Warren?


      • From what I understand Edmond (1894-1980) probably heard about it from his father, Ulysses, and didn’t witness it. I guess Ulysses did but I don’t know when the dog was shot. I was told the story many times by my Daddy, Edmond’s son.
        Edmond lived in Ellisville/Laurel area until he married my Grandmother in 1922 then he moved to New Orleans. He moved to Hattisburg when he and my Grandmother separated sometime in the 1940’s while Daddy was in service in WWII so he never lived in Texas. Off topic funny thing: both my big brothers now live in Houston. My oldest brother was born in Houston while my parents lived there for a short time but we all grew up in Baton Rouge, LA. Some Collins’ just naturally gravitate towards Texas!

      • Maggie, those Mississippi to Texas roads are for sure well-traveled by Jones County folks! Many Bynums made the trek, too. But you’re right, the Collinses were especially inclined to head for Texas.


  2. Warren Jacob Collins wascUncle to my Grandmother France’s Collins Loftin! Both lived near each other in Hardin Co . Warren with his parents Stacy &’Sarah Collins & other brothers settled in Hardin County in 1850’s near Honey Island community’s! Leonard & France’s with their two children plus other members of Leonard Lee ‘s Loftin family came in 1872 settled down in the Thicket community within ten miles of thecCollins families! My father Leonard Harrison was eighth of nine more children born to my Loftin grandparents in Thicket! All are buried there in Felps Cemetery with exception of a boy James Millard Loftin buried in Alto. Will hold additional history for now but there is so much more! Thanks for the blog!

      • So glad you discovered this site! Warren J. Collins and his siblings of both Texas and Mississippi were remarkable 19th century Southerners. Against type, Warren was a Unionist, Populist, and Socialist who was uncompromising in his principles. I’ve enjoyed researching the Collins family immensely, and it’s great to hear from another descendant!

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