Beyond Redemption: Texas Democrats after Reconstruction

Beyond Redemption: Texas Democrats after Reconstruction

Beyond Redemption: Texas Democrats after Reconstruction

Beyond Redemption: Texas Democrats after Reconstruction

Synopsis

At the end of Reconstruction, the old order reasserted itself, to varying degrees, throughout the former Confederate states. This period-Redemption, as it was called-was crucial in establishing the structures and alliances that dominated the Solid South until at least the mid-twentieth century.

Texas shared in this, but because of its distinctive antebellum history, its western position within the region, and the large influx of new residents that poured across its borders, it followed its own path toward Redemption.

Now, historian Patrick G. Williams provides a dual study of the issues facing Texas Democrats as they rebuilt their party and of the policies they pursued once they were back in power. Treating Texas as a southern but also a western and a borderlands state, Williams has crafted a work with a richly textured awareness unlike any previous single study. Students of regional and political history will benefit from Williams' comprehensive view of this often overlooked, yet definitive era in Texas history.

Excerpt

On the morning of September 28, 1874, federal troops under the command of Col. Ranald Mackenzie overran a sprawling encampment of Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes in Palo Duro canyon, where a fork of the Red River cuts into Texas’ high plains. Although only a few Indians died in the engagement, the rout doomed any prospect that these native peoples might yet enjoy of an independent existence beyond the confines of Indian Territory. Mackenzie’s men put the Indians’ villages to the torch, seized a winter’s worth of food and fodder, and slaughtered over one thousand of their horses.

The Indians of the southern plains had in 1867 agreed to base themselves in Indian Territory but had insisted on their right to hunt buffalo elsewhere. Enraged by white hunters’ decimation of the bison, the federal government’s failure to provide adequate alternate sustenance at their agencies, and depredations of their own stock, bands of Comanches, Kiowas, and Southern Cheyennes had in 1874 gone to war in western Texas and Kansas. Palo Duro represents the most decisive moment in the army’s counterinsurgency campaign—a campaign that represented the deathblow to native resistance on the southern plains. Sporadic raiding continued through the end of the decade, but the danger of any comprehensive threat from Plains Indians to Euro-American expansion in Texas had certainly ended.

A mere eight months before Palo Duro, Texas had passed another milestone. With a bristling of arms though not actual bloodshed, Democrats had forced the Republican governor, Edmund J. Davis, from the Capitol in Austin—a moment usually taken to mark Reconstruction’s end in the state. in the language of the day, Texas had been “redeemed,” its deliverance the work of “Redeemer Democrats.” Those Democrats assembled the following year to write their party’s triumph over Reconstruction into the organic law of the state. Their constitutional convention followed closely on the heels of the final surrender of Quanah’s holdout band of Quahadi Comanches. That . . .

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