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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

Except Texas

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Spring, from booming thunderstorms to blooming bluebonnets, had come again to Texas that April of 1866.

Only a year before, Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Confederate forces at the courthouse in Appomattox, Va. and John Wilkes Booth had assassinated President Lincoln in Washington. But now, most of the people of the United States hoped to move on with their lives after four horrible years of Civil War.

The fine print of history tells a different story, however.

That spring of 1866, more than a year after the last great battles between North and South, the United States still officially considered Texas in a state of insurrection.


On April 2, 1866, according to Congress, the "President of the United States ... did promulgate and declare, that there no longer existed any armed resistence of misguided citizens, or others, to the authority of the United States in any, or in all the States mentioned [earlier in the resolution], excepting only the State of Texas."

The act went on to note that the letter of the law "could be sustained and enforced" in all the states that had participated in the rebellion "except Texas." Further, "the people of said States, except Texas, are well and loyally disposed, and have conformed or will conform in their legislation to the condition of affairs growing out of the amendment to the Constitution of the United States, prohibiting slavery within the limits and jurisdiction of the United States."

The words "except Texas" continued to pop up here and there in the long resolution. In other words, Washington considered Texas the last stronghold of the lost Southern cause, generally known simply as the Lost Cause. Every state of the former Confederacy had given up, "except Texas."


From the federal perspective, Texas did not officially get with the program until Aug. 20, 1866. On that date, President Andrew Johnson signed a proclamation declaring that "the insurrection which heretofore existed in the State of Texas is at an end, and is to be henceforth so regarded in that State."

Johnson went on to further proclaim "that peace, order, tranquility and civil authority now exist in and throughout the whole of the United States."

Actually, at least in portions of Texas, the April 2, 1866 Congressional wording still more accurately described the situation.


The Lee-Peacock feud
One of the better examples is what continues to be best known as the Lee-Peacock feud, though feud is a significant misnomer. Bob Lee - former Confederate soldier, KKK member, and outlaw - was not feuding, he was still fighting the Civil War.

The leader of the other faction, Lewis Peacock, was not quarreling over family issues either. He was a Unionist also still fighting the Civil War.

The result, in the contiguous corners of Collin, Fannin, Grayson, and Hunt counties in Northeast Texas, was a second rebellion that claimed more than 200 lives. Lee killed 42 people himself.

Paying no attention to fancy words from Washington, or even the usually-chilling effect of federal troops, these two men and their partisans continued to fight the Civil War well after a President's pen had officially ended the matter.

Partisans ambushed and killed Lee in 1869, but the Lee-Peacock war went on for nearly another two years. What ended it was not fancy language, but plain old buckshot and bullets.

As Flake's Bulletin reported from Galveston, "Last evening a squad of men ... arrived with double-barreled shotguns, revolvers, et cetera rode leisurely into our burg.... After staying a few minutes, they mounted their horses and rode off in an easterly direction. Since their departure, we are creditably informed that the famous Lee Peacock ...was shot to atoms."

Lee died on June 13, 1871, arguably the date the insurrection really ended in Texas.

Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" April 11, 2004 Column
 
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