Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

What Did You Think Would Happen, Colonel Perry?

Posted in Genealogy, Memory by Andy Hall on January 27, 2011

On January 28, 1861, seventy members of the Texas House of Representatives voted to endorse a convention to determine whether Texas should follow South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana out of the Union. Only nine representatives voted “nay.” Though the vote was nominally just to authorize the convention, the outcome of such a meeting was a forgone conclusion, and the House vote was, to all intents and purposes, a vote on secession itself.

The Texas Senate passed the resolution that same day, by a vote of 25 to 5. Governor Sam Houston, who opposed secession and would soon be removed from office as a result, signed off on the resolution on February 4, with an appended notation cautioning the convention “against the assumption of any powers on the part of said convention, beyond the reference of the question of a longer connection of Texas with the Union to the people.” It was a moot gesture; the Secession Convention had been called to order in the Capitol the same day the Legislature voted to approve it, and had adopted an ordinance of secession on February 1. The following day the convention adopted its Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union. Texas’ secession was already a fait accompli.

My great-great-great-grandfather, Aaron Perry, was one of the men in the House of Representatives who voted in favor of the resolution to authorize a secession convention. He was born in North Carolina around 1804, lived for a time in Alabama, and moved to Texas in 1846. He farmed in Limestone County, near present-day Waco. In the 1850 U.S. Census non-population schedules, Perry is shown as farming 625 acres, most of which was left uncleared for raising hogs. In the previous season he’d produced 1,500 bushels of corn as well, most of which I suspect went to hog feed before killing time in the fall. By the time of the 1860 census, the value of his land holdings (which may have been expanded in the preceding decade) had grown to $3,000, and the value of his personal property had grown to $11,150. Much of this latter number represented the value of seven slaves he held.

He was known as “Colonel” Perry, although I don’t know what military service of his such a title would be based on. He was active in politics, serving as a delegate from Limestone County to the Texas Democratic Convention in 1857. Later that year he began serving the first of two terms (1857-61) in the Texas House of Representatives. By the time his second term ended, Texas had seceded from the Union, Sumter had fallen, and the Battle of Manassas had been fought. Aaron Perry disappears from the historical record at that point, so far as I’ve been able to determine; I don’t know how or when he died. Two of his sons, William and Marcus, went on to serve in the Confederate cavalry. Both survived the war.

There are lots of Confederate soldiers in my family tree. But “Old Colonel Perry,” as he was recalled in the family, is the only direct ancestor I know of who was a civil official, a legislator, who took an affirmative step toward secession. He voted “yay.” I wonder what he thought the ultimate outcome of that would be.

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Image: Texas State Capitol, Austin, in the 1870s. Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library.


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5 Responses

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  1. Mark said, on January 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Interesting. I read some time back, don’t remember the source now, sadly, but a little while after this vote, some people took office if anyone had not voted for secession.

    They ARRESTED fourteen men who were suspected of having voted to stay in the Union — and put them on trial! Seven were convicted and hung — seven aquited.

    They had so much fun hanging the seven guilty, they found the seven the found innocent, and hung them too.

    Fortunately for everyone, Texas got it’s ass kicked, lost slavery lost their fake God of slavery.

    An interest read was the Rebel Wife of Texas, by a cruel woman who abused her own 10 month old infant, but was incredibly caring for sick slaves not out of kindness, but to keep them alive to do the work. She had the slaves beat, but then, she was a violent woman against her own children.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 27, 2011 at 10:01 pm

      You may be thinking of the statewide referendum that followed the secession convention. In the actual secession convention, 166 men voted for secession, and 8 against. (Perry was not part of the secession convention.) I’m not aware of any reprisals taken against the 8, at least not of the sort described. But it is true that Texas was a very violent place just then, and dissent was often met with threats and violence.

  2. Lyle Smith said, on January 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Andy,

    Respectfully, it seems like Colonel Perry understood the value of his chattel property quite well… as did his constituents. You’re not seriously questioning whether or not Colonel Perry didn’t know where his “yay” vote was headed are you? Or are you wondering whether he thought his “yay” would ultimately prove to be a death nail to slavery in Texas?

    To Mark,

    Texas, as in the actual physical land of the State, arguably didn’t get its “ass kicked” during the Civil War. Certainly Texas’ soldiers took a beating throughout the Civil War from battle to battle (a good example being the Texas soldiers before Battery Robinett at Corinth, MS)… but those battles were very rarely in the State of Texas. And even in places like Corinth, MS the Texans gave as good as they got, i.e. both sides apparently “ass kicked” one another.

    … and two of the more famous battles in Texas: the Battle of Galveston and the Battle of Sabine Pass are considered Confederate “victories”.

    Texas did lose the war along with the rest of Confederacy though, so if that is what you meant, that is fact.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

      My question is the latter — a bit snarky, for sure. And the answer (to me) is that they’d mostly closed their eyes to the possibility of the calamity that would follow.

  3. Craig said, on February 1, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Hi Andy,

    Just wanted to let you know I’ve added your blog to my blogroll. I haven’t posted on my own blog for quite some time, a year and a half now, but who knows, I could start feeling motivated again. The four years I lived in Texas in Houston and Galveston forty years ago are an important part of why the Civil War became the central focus for my understanding of my own family history.

    I’ve translated three poems written in German about the Civil War by my great great grandfather’s commanding officer. He wrote about Little Rock, New Orleans and Brazos Santiago. The regiment took part in the capture of Vicksburg in 1863 and Mobile in 1865, yet the poems say nothing about anything that happened in Mississippi or Alabama. I’m convinced that the future of these translations depends on whether I can generate interest in them through the German-Texan Heritage Society.
    I haven’t joined yet and probably should if I really want them to take me seriously.

    I remember reading a collection of essays by Larry McMurtry a few years ago. He talked about encounters he had with German Texans while growing up there during WWII. I’ve got that book around here someplace. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.


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