The Reconstruction of the Lone Star State proved a chaotic time for Texans, waxing and waning between moderate and Radical control. The Reconstruction of the State of Texas stands alone as a unique case, both in its roots and the events of Reconstruction itself, yet little of the history of the tumultuous era remains within contemporary discourse. This essay will examine the economic, social, and political Reconstruction of the Lone Star State.
Fairing economically better than most of Dixie during and after the War, Texas stood on a firmer foundation at the outset of the Confederacy’s defeat. Many Planters moved their slaves and cattle to Texas to protect their property from the destruction of war. Additionally, Texas remained largely isolated from the destruction and macabre violence of the War Between the States, having thwarted any attempts of invasion by the Union Army under the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi commanded by General Kirby Smith. Upon the dissolution of the Confederate Government, any and all investments in Confederate kismet ceased to exist, leaving many within the eastern region of the state penniless. Additionally, treasury agents acted corruptly when dealing with the monetary affairs of Texans. And, the state, under forced obligation, relinquished what was left of its governmental and monetary holdings to the United States government. Lastly, many Southerners, particularly from the Deep South, began moving en masse to the state to escape the economic problems of the region. While the focus of much of the governing legislatures during the era focused, at least moderately, on the economic future of the state, their primary focus was on that of the political restructuring, and later social rehabilitation.
Lacking in rigidity describes the politics of Reconstruction Texas. Much like most other Southern states during the Presidential Reconstruction period of 1865-1867, Texas’ legislative body lied primarily within the moderate camp, albeit sympathetic to the well being of their Southern constituents. Texas had a number of factions within the legislative body which generated considerable infighting until the Reconstruction Acts were passed in 1867. Initially, the legislature was comprised mostly of moderates, with radicals and secessionists existing loudly within the fringes. The initial constitution was fairly moderate and instituted Black Codes, as did many other Southern states. The legislature was led by James Throckmorton, a Southern Unionist who still served within the Confederate Army anyway, as well as a Democrat. Governor Throckmorton faced opposition from all sides, including the military commanders in the region and was eventually ousted by the Radicals following the implementation of the Reconstruction Acts. His tenure focused on restoring civility and law to the land, as well as, ensuring a worthy constitution was adopted for the state. Additionally, many positions for public officials were given to Confederate sympathizers and veterans due to a lack of quality candidates among the moderates and Radicals.
Despite being successful in his goals, as well as, an objectively good governor, the Radicals eventually replaced Throckmorton with Elisha Pease in 1867. Pease, an ally to the Radicals and a former Governor of Texas, worked as a puppet of the military rulers. They immediately began deconstructing all progress made under the former governor, allowing violence to run rampant throughout the state. His administration, alongside Radical General Sheridan, the commander of the 5th Military District, purged all public officials not sympathetic to the Radical cause but encountered difficulty in replacing them, as so few Texans held the same views. The lawlessness began increasing at an astonishing rate following these actions; as a result, the Radicals’ outcries against the violence in the state grew louder. Eventually, Sheridan was replaced by General Winfield Hancock, a moderate, who eventually resigned his position due to relentless propaganda and blame for the uptick in anarchic behavior.