Texas, as in the rest of the Confederacy,
Era between 1865 and 1877 saw little more than a continuation
of the Civil War in a new guise. The Union won the first phase of
the war that pitted professional armies against each other between
1861 and 1865, but the South won the second phase that developed into
In Texas, terrorist groups, such as the
Ku Klux Klan, operated in at least seventy-seven counties, including
much of East Texas. The
number of men belonging to such groups were legion.
Returning Confederate veterans organized outlaw gangs that functioned
much like the terrorist groups, their goal being to continue the war
and to take the battle to Yankee occupiers, native white Unionists,
and their allies, the slaves freed by Abraham Lincolnís Emancipation
The proclamation was applied to Texas
on June 19, 1865, at Galveston,
a day still celebrated as ďJuneteenth.Ē
In Texas, the Democratic Party, the party of secession and war, used
the terrorist groups to retake power and defeat the process of Reconstruction.
Devilís Triangle,Ē a new book by James M. Smallwood, Kenneth W. Howell
and Carol C. Taylor, provides a fascinating look at this turbulent
Ben Bickerstaff, a Confederate soldier who spent time in a Union prison
camp, founded terrorist Klan groups in at least two northern East
Texas counties and led a gang of raiders who, at times, numbered
up to 500 men.
He joined the ranks of guerrilla fighters like Cullen Baker and Bob
Lee and, with their gangs often riding together, they brought chaos
and death to the ďDevilís Triangle,Ē the northern East
Texas region where they created one disaster after another.
The incessant violence spelled the defeat of Reconstruction policies
that might have transformed the South into a progressive region.
Instead, the racist, violent South remained the nationís number one
political, social and economic problem for the next hundred years.
ďThe Devilís TriangleĒ can be purchased from the East Texas Historical
Association in Nacogdoches at 936-468-2407 or via e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds from the bookís sales will help fund new East Texas books.
September 17, 2007 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of
Lufkin is the author of more than 30 books about