Academic journal article Civil War History

Pendleton Murrah and States Rights in Civil War Texas

Academic journal article Civil War History

Pendleton Murrah and States Rights in Civil War Texas

Article excerpt

Secession in Texas, as in the rest of the Confederacy, made Southern rights and the embracing of separation the foundation of a new national loyalty. Confederation created a new political entity to which all Texans suddenly owed their allegiance. Since opposition to secession in Texas had been minimal, insurrectionists found it easy to suppress dissent whenever it surfaced in the months and years that followed. Once Texas joined the Confederacy, loyalists found it difficult to pledge fidelity to a government they believed usurped the powers of the United States. As unionist J. Walker Austin observed, "Every man that is not willing to support the Southern Congress is to be beheaded." For most Texans, fealty to section prevailed over attachment to nation. They joined the secessionist ranks in response to Lincoln's decision to use force against the wayward states, or they simply resigned themselves to accepting the South's fate as their own.(1)

At the beginning of the war, the Confederate government was a distant entity, little more than an idea to which Southerners pledged allegiance. Moreover, traditional Southern political values had prescribed a limited role for the central government and primary reliance on state and local authorities. The war upset this established system just as it did many others. To direct a conflict that quickly reached an unprecedented magnitude, the Confederate government had to expand its authority in many areas. Under Jefferson Davis's strong leadership, the central government unhesitatingly assumed the task of directing the war effort. However, since the Confederacy was structured with strong powers reserved to the states, many state officials believed it was incumbent on them to protect those privileges, war or not. In many instances the actions of state officials obstructed the policies of the Davis government, which was trying to instill in Southerners a greater sense of nationalism.(2) In the conflicting reactions of Confederate officials and local leaders to the exigencies of war lay one key to the fate of the Southern nation: Southerners' search for aid led them to support either those who believed in Confederate nationalism or the advocates of an obstructive state particularism.

Although Zebulon Vance of North Carolina and Joseph Brown of Georgia have become the two most noted opponents of Confederate policies, Texas senator Louis T. Wigfall emerged as one of the administration's most severe critics, railing against every attempt by the Davis government to impose greater uniformity and centralization upon the Southern war effort. From the establishing of supreme court to the building of railroads, Wigfall resisted such measures because they would undermine state authority and destroy localism.(3) Wigfall made life difficult for Jefferson Davis, but it was not until Pendelton Murrah was elected governor of Texas in 1863 that Lone Star localism more directly affected the Confederate war effort. Like his counterparts in the east, Murrah constantly criticized Jefferson Davis's "dictatorial power," and by 1864 his dislike for the Richmond government's "centralizing" war measures drove him to obstructive resistance.

Unfortunately for the Confederacy, in 1863 one of its most loyal supporters, Francis Lubbock, chose to enter the Confederate service rather than stand for re-election as Texas's governor. From the moment he took office in 1861, Lubbock zealously championed the war effort, winning the gratitude of Confederate officials in Texas and in Richmond. As governor he did all in his power to place Texas's strength behind the Confederacy. He was one of the few Southern governors who ever asked Jefferson Davis what his state might do to support the war.(4) With Lubbock deciding not to run, the 1863 gubernatorial race became a contest between Thomas Jefferson Chambers, a native Virginian and candidate for the fourth time, and Pendleton Murrah, a Harrison County lawyer originally from South Carolina. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.