one of the worst atrocities of the Civil War occurred in Gainesville,
Texas in Oct. 1862, when 40 men, suspected of Union sympathies, were hanged.
Although they were condemned by a questionalble "People's Court," and found guilty
by a simple majority of 7 slaveholders, Dr. Richard Peebles characteried the act
as "the great lynching," for which statement he was exiled.|
and 4 of its Red River neighbors were a center of opposition to secession from
the Union. Five counties voted an average of from 61% to 70% against secession.
When the Butterfield Stage Line connected the region with Kansas and elsewhere,
many new residents resettled there from Kansas and Missouri, but the opposition
to secession stemmed mostly from a fear for personal safety, rather than Northern
sympathy. The 369 slaves in Cooke County were owned by only 10% of the population,
and 95 of those were owned by the 2 men, Cols. James G, Bourland and William C.
Young, who were principally responsible for the atrocity.
was quiet until the Confederate Conscription Act of April, 1862, was announced.
Thirty men, calling themselves the Peace Party, sent a petition to the Confederate
Congress, protesting the exemption from the draft for the largest slaveholders
of Cooke County.
Bourland was commander of a battalion of Texas State
Troops, called the "Border Regiment." Young commanded the 11th Texas Cavalry,
but as of Oct. 1862, he was home on extended sick leave.
On Oct. 1, 1862,
the two colonels arrested 150 men, who were accused of treason and conspiracy.
The colonels impaneled to try them, an extralegal "People"s Court" (unlisted in
"Gammells Laws of Texas"). Conviction came upon a simple majority of 7, and Bourland
and Young made certain, that of the impaneled jurors, 7 of them were the county's
largest slaveholders. Hence it became a contest between the slaveholders and the
90% who owned no slaves.
The 40 defendents were convicted by the "People's
Court," and the first 21 were hanged during the same week. About Oct. 10th, Col.
Young was murdered by an unknown assassin, and as a result, his son, Capt. James
Young of the 11th Cavalry, took his place, exhibiting a real vengeance; and he
soon hanged the other 19 defendents. Young tracked down 2 men, accused of killing
his father, and he shot one, and lynched the other, using his own family slaves
to do the dirty work.
Bourland was also accused of other atrocities, but
the Confederate Army took no action concerning them. At the end of the war, he
obtained a pardon from President Andrew Johnson, but there is no record that he
was ever subjected to a Union court martial. He was also acquited of wrong-doing
by a civil court at Gainesville.
He died in seclusion, a lonely and broken old man, on Aug. 20, 1879.
other atrocities and harassments were committed against the Central Texas immigrant
Germans, even though many of them served in the Confederatre Army. Generally the
Germans opposed slavery, and like Gov. Houston, opposed secession as well. Yet
enough Texas Germans went north to fight in 1861, that they comprised the nucleus
of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Texas Regiments of the Union Army. Neighbors harassed, pillaged
and burned the farms of Germans who were loyal to the North.|
In Aug. 1862,
65 Germans from Comfort,
Texas attempted to flee to Mexico,
hoping to go north to fight. They were intercepted by a Confederate company, which
killed 19 at the Battle of Nueces, and executed 15 others that were captured.
In 1866, their bones were gathered and buried in the Comfort
Cemetery, beneath the tall "True
der Union" monument.
W. T. Block, Jr.
December 1, 2006 column