Up Next, Monday, Nov. 10, 2022: Texas Terror: Revolution and Secession in the Lone Star State


This talk will be given by Brian Schoen, chairman of the Ohio University Department of history and published Civil War scholar. Here is the description he supplied of the talk:

At first, Texas might seem an odd place to look for the processes that led to the American Civil War.  Far removed from the traditional centers of power, it was only the 7th state to secede from the Union, and its governor and former President Samuel Houston was a noted Unionist. Yet few places had more going on in the late 1850s, and this talk will argue that few states are more illustrative of the dynamics that contributed to the coming of war than the Lone Star State.  By 1860 Texas was at the center of multiple foreign and domestic crises that rippled throughout the Union. Instability on both sides of the recently drawn border with Mexico reflected and exacerbated political tensions in the US and Mexico, generating an international crisis.  American filibusters, including the mysterious “Knights of the Golden Circle,” sought to use the state as a launching pad to seize more Mexican lands and eventually channeled their efforts towards ensuring that state’s secession. Black freedom seekers looked to Mexico as a haven, reminding us that the underground railroad flowed South as well as North. The threat posed by powerful Comanche and Apache Empires in the Southwest meant that Texas was a, perhaps the, primary test of federal power as evidenced in the new Department of the Interior’s efforts and the build-up of the U.S. Army. There was a reason why future Civil War generals–Robert E. Lee and Albert Sydney Johnson most famously—became known national figures in the Southwest prior to the war. By the summer of 1860, all these concerns combined with mysterious fires that white Texans saw as part of a vast abolitionist plot.  All of this meant that Texas was a tinderbox, one that secessionists exploited to convince other southerners of secession’s benefit and one that unionists like Houston hoped might convince southerners of the continued benefit of Union. This talk will provide an overview of some of these developments, showing how a state that had eagerly joined the Union just 15 years prior, would by early 1861, (with the signatures of Bird Holland, the presumed father and ex-master of local-legend Milton Holland) decide to leave the Union, a decision that also loomed large in northerners’ response.