From the Annals of the Freedom Loving Germans – In 1854, delegates from various local German political clubs met at the annual Staats-Saengerfest (State Singers’ Festival) in San Antonio. The meeting might otherwise have escaped notice, except that the delegates adopted a declaration against slavery declaring it to be evil. The declaration went on to state that abolition was to be the work of the various states who should seek help from the federal government (in the form of payment for freed slaves) to help end the moral abomination of chattel slavery. The Texas Germans were falling in line with other organizations such as the Freier Mann Verein (Freeman’s Association) from Northern States who had enacted similar declarations. As one might imagine, the declaration was not well received in the strongly pro-slavery (and virulently racist) Texas of the time. In conjunction with ongoing antislavery newspaper articles in the German language press, many Anglo-Texans grew more and more hostile to their German-Texan neighbors. This was clearly evidenced at the outset of the Southern Rebellion by the murder of many German Texans who were attempting to go north to fight for the Union.
From the Annals of the Southern Insurrection – In 1862, Texas Rebel forces under the command of General Henry Hopkins Sibley were soundly defeated at the Battle of Glorietta Pass in northern New Mexico. Sibley’s force had a relatively easy time in coming up the Rio Grande. Sibley first attempted to capture Fort Craig under the command of Col. Edward Canby. Sibley outmaneuvered Canby at the Battle of Valverde in February driving Union forces back into the fort, but failed to force Canby’s surrender. Sibley bypassed the fort and advanced north through the Rio Grande Valley capturing Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
In March, Sibley sent a Rebel force of 200-300 Texans under the command of Maj. Charles L. Pyron on an advance expedition over Glorieta Pass a strategic location on the Santa Fe Trail. Control of the pass would allow Rebels to advance further north and attack Fort Union and move on to control of Raton Pass on the Colorado border. Sibley also sent six companies under the command of Col. Tom Green to block the eastern end of Glorieta Pass.
The battle itself was fought over the course of three days with fighting on March 26, a lull on March 27 as both sides sought reinforcements and culminated on March 28. Rebel forces had the upper hand until Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves of the 2nd New Mexico Infantry and commander of the New Mexican volunteers, informed Maj. John M. Chivington that his scouts had located the Confederate supply train behind Rebel lines. Chivington’s force attacked the lightly guarded supply train driving off or capturing the small guard with few casualties on either side. The forces confiscated what they could carry, burned 80 supply wagons, spiked the cannon, and killed, captured or drove off about 500 horses and mules before returning with their prisoners to the Union rear. The destruction of supplies forced the Rebel forces to retire and ultimately retreat to Santa Fe, and finally San Antonio. Chaves’ discovery turned a Union defeat into victory and effectively ended the war in New Mexico.
From the Annals of the Southern Rebellion – In 1864, Rebel commander Hiram B. Granbury was killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. The battle was a near-complete disaster for the Rebel forces under the command of John Bell Hood and they lost more soldiers in that battle than in any other one-day battle of the entire war. The loss was not quite the end for Rebel forces in Tennessee as that came shortly afterwards at Nashville.
Granbury was born in Mississippi and graduated from Oakland College. In the 1850’s Granbury moved to Waco where he was admitted to the Texas State Bar and served as chief justice of McLennan County. After secession, Granbury recruited the Waco Guards and was elected by the troops as Major.
On February 15, 1862, he was captured with his command at the Battle of Fort Donelson – one of U.S. Grant’s first brilliant victories. He surrendered and was taken as a POW. Later that year, the Rebel officers were paroled as part of an officers exchange from prison. Granbury was given an early parole to take care of his terminally-ill wife Fannie. Granbury returned to service after his parole and was ultimately commissioned brigadier general.
The city of Granbury in Hood County is named for him and a statute of the Rebel leader sits on the Courthouse square.
So is Red honoring Granbury by relating this history? No, he is stating the known facts. Are Hood County and the State of Texas honoring Granbury by continuing to have a city named after him and a statute on the Courthouse lawn? Yes, and Red fully supports taking down such monuments to traitors. Renaming entire cities is a more difficult proposition that will take some time to deal with.
From the Annals of the Insurrection – In 1862, insurrectionist troops under Confederate command surrendered Galveston to Union forces. Commander William B. Renshaw led a squadron of eight ships into Galveston harbor to force surrender. The rebel commander, Brig. Gen. Paul O. Hebert, had removed most of the heavy artillery from the island believing it to be indefensible. As the squadron approached, the Fort Point garrison fired on the federal ships, return fire dismounted the rebel cannon. Col. Joseph J. Cook, in command on the island, arranged a four-day truce while he evacuated his men to the mainland. The Union ships held the harbor. Union forces did not contral the town until the arrival of the Forty-second Massachusetts Infantry, led by Col. I. S. Burrell on December 25. Union control was short-lived as rebel forces recaptured the island and drove off the Union squadron about a week later.
As statues of Confederate icons are removed from public spaces across the South, the common refrain against removal is “You can’t change history.” That’s true to an extent. The established facts of history as they can be best derived typically do not change that much unless new sources of information are discovered. The interpretation of historical events, however, is subject to constant change. And what we think of as “history” is the analysis and interpretation of the historical record by those who have studied what is available. So history does in fact “change” as either new pieces of the record come to light (the Dead Sea Scrolls for example) or the existing evidence actually supports a different interpretation.
As long as we are talking about the Civil War, let’s take U.S. Grant as an example. The long-standing narrative on Grant was that he prevailed in the Civil War by sheer brunt of numbers and industrial might. That ignores the fact that his predecessors were unable to use those advantages to achieve victory and it ignores Grant’s background. He was trained primarily in the Quartermaster Corps. Grant knew exactly what an army needed to fight and win. His armies were well-equipped to fight because he made sure of it. Grant also recognized the unfortunate fact that just being in the Union Army was about as deadly (because of disease) for the average soldier as actually fighting in a battle for that army. The sooner the war ended, the sooner more soldiers would be out of harm’s way and back home where they were much less likely to die from communicable diseases than in the close quarters and rough conditions of an army camp. If that meant more men dying in battle to foreshorten the war, it was a matter of the grim economics of war that Grant faced. Grant’s battlefield tactics were not genius, but neither were they middling or incompetent. He knew that standing and fighting – something he equipped and trained the Union Army to do – would ultimately defeat the South.
The narrative on Grant’s presidency was even more dire. He was roundly considered a major failure who led a corrupt administration. There was corruption but not on Grant’s part and the achievements of Grant’s presidency were considerable. He negotiated the Treaty of Washington which resolved all of the North American disputes between the U.S. and Great Britain and set in place the greatest alliance of the last 170 years. He almost single-handedly stopped for a time the planned extirpation of the Plains Indians. He led efforts to fight the Ku Klux Klan and supported the rights of the Freedmen. Under his leadership, Congress passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1870 and 1875 and the 15th Amendment guaranteeing voting rights for Black Americans (a promise which the Republicans failed to keep after his administration). He brought the country out of the Panic of 1873 with a strong dollar policy. He guided legislation creating the Department of Justice, the Weather Bureau and the first National Park – Yellowstone. He began Civil Service Reform in an attempt to end the prevalent patronage system and professionalize government service. He would have secured the annexation of the Dominican Republic and provided the U.S. with a foothold in the Caribbean but it was rejected by Congress. Yet, he was regarded as a failure until some recent biographies began to rethink his legacy.
Rethinking of the legacy of the Confederacy is why we have all of these monuments to American traitors in our midst. Most of these statues and memorials were erected in response to attempts by black Americans to secure the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution. The first wave of such monuments largely coincided with the passage of Jim Crow laws institutionalizing segregation across the South in the wake of the Supreme Court’s absurd “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. The second wave came with the growing civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s for the end of segregation and institution of full citizenship. These monuments were primarily erected in support of continuing white supremacy and a public warning to those who would challenge that orthodoxy. And the honoree of many such memorials, Robert E. Lee, himself stated that it was “wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
So is removing such monuments “changing history.” The answer is mixed. It is changing (or attempting to ameliorate) the history of the placement of such monuments in the context of the white supremacist movement that erected them in the first place. It is not changing the history of the Civil War – the time of America’s greatest test. The Civil War will continue to be studied and hundreds of new books will be written every year from many different viewpoints.
You cannot change history – if you mean the fact of the Civil War and its aftermath. You can, however, change who you choose to honor. Do you honor those who fought to tear the country apart, to continue a crime against humanity and who lost that fight? Red says no; you don’t honor those folks on the wrong side of history no matter how bravely they may have fought in a losing cause. Removal of some monuments that were erected in a revisionist attempt to justify the “Lost Cause” have outlived their ignoble purpose and it is time for them to go.
Vintage postcard of Confederate Memorial on the Texas State Capitol grounds.
From the Annals of Reconstruction – In 1866, the Texas State Central Committee of Colored Men met for the first time in Austin. The group was founded to address the concerns of African Americans arising after the conclusion of the Civil War. The group was one of the first to focus on the social, economic and political problems facing freed former slaves and free blacks. Jacob Fontaine, a Baptist minister, presided over the convention. Fontaine was also the publisher of The Gold Dollar, said to be the first black newspaper published in Austin and the greater Travis County area. The promise of real freedom was short-lived in Texas as successive Republican administrations abandoned efforts to fully integrate African Americans into American social and political institutions. It would be another hundred years before minorities in Texas would obtain full federal protection for their rights. Ironically, it would be a president from Texas who shepherd through the required legislation.
From the Annals of Bad Decisions – In 1861, Texas citizens (meaning white, property-owning men) voted on the Texas Ordinance of Secession. The vote was overwhelmingly for secession from the Union with 46,153 voting for secession and only 14,747 against. Of the 122 counties casting votes, only eighteen cast majorities against secession. Only eleven other counties had votes of as much as 40 percent against. For those who claim the Civil War was not about slavery, please take a look at the vile racist screed that is the Texas Ordinance of Secession.