Today in Texas History – January 23

From the Annals of the True Heroes of the Civil War -In 1863, former Texas State Sen. Martin Hart was executed in Fort Smith, Arkansas for his supposed treason against the Confederate States of America.  Hart was an attorney from Hunt County who had served in the Texian Army during the Revolution at age 15.  He later served in the Texas Legislature as a representative and senator.  He was opposed to secession.  After the Texas Legislature passed the vile screed known as the “Ordinance of Secession”, he resigned from the Legislature and organized the Greenville Guards, pledging the company’s services “in defense of Texas whenever she is invaded or threatened with invasion.”   In the summer of 1862 he received a Confederate commission with permission to raise a company and conduct operations in northwest Arkansas.   However, he used his commission to travel through Confederate lines leading his followers to Missouri where they joined Union forces.  He returned to Arkansas where he led a series of rear-guard actions against Confederate forces, and is alleged to have murdered at least two prominent secessionists. He and others were captured on January 18, 1863, by Confederate forces, hung five days later and buried in an unmarked graves under the hanging tree.  After Fort Smith was recaptured by Union forces, his remains were moved to the National Cemetery there.  Contributions from Union soldiers paid for his headstone.

3 thoughts on “Today in Texas History – January 23

  1. cryptomathecian

    He got a commission from the confederates, cheated on his pledge and was consequently hung as a traitor when captured by the same Confederates. Would the Unionists have acted differently in similar circumstances? As far as I know, it wasn’t common practice to hang unionist POW’s among the confederates. Of course, since the Unionists won the war, Hart wasn’t branded as a traitor, but hailed as a hero. History is written by the victors.


  2. cryptomathecian

    Shame and lying were the worst offences to a man’s honor in the South during this time. I’m not sure that the “virtue of a cause” can turn this into heroic behavior. We frequently see contemporary politicians and corporate business using this argument for covering up their lies and broken promises.



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