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.
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.
Categories: Big Thicket jayhawkers