Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

A Juneteenth Follow-Up

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 22, 2014



Saturday’s Juneteenth marker unveiling was impressive. I’ve been to a lot of marker dedications, but never one as big or as well-organized as this one. Kudos to everyone involved in putting this together. Both the chairman and executive directors of the Texas Historical Commission came down from Austin (rare for them to travel to the same function), as well as our U.S. Representative and State Senator. They all said the right things and the elected officials, who are all up for re-election this year, didn’t veer off topic. The most important address, one not on the program, was by 83-year-old Rev. Virgil A. Wood, who described his own experience as a seventeen-year-old kid in the 1940s, interviewing an old man who recalled the Federal soldiers coming to the plantation to deliver the news of emancipation, when the man had been ten years old. It wasn’t that long ago, in purely human terms.

This being Texas, though, the attendee who got the most attention was former local high school football player Mike Evans, recently selected by Tampa Bay as the No. 7 in the NFL draft:



Juneteenth arose out of the unique situation of Texas and the Trans-Mississippi at the end of the war, so it’s a little difficult to explain to anyone unfamiliar with that — which is to say, almost everyone among the general public.

The Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department did not formally surrender until June 2, 1865 — TWO MONTHS after the fall of Richmond. During that whole time, except for a few isolated areas, Texas was not occupied by Union troops and the whole area was in a sort of limbo, still officially in rebellion but without a clear course and without a national leadership. The U.S. Navy officially took possession of Texas on June 5, but did not have soldiers to establish a formal presence. General Granger arrived with troops at Galveston on June 17, and two days later issued a series of administrative notices formally notifying all of Texas that the state was now under formal military occupation, who the key officers and departments were, and so on. The third of these notices was General Order No. 3, that formally announced emancipation under the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. These notices were published in papers around the state, first in Galveston (below) and then elsewhere as the news was carried inland by telegraph and railroad.


The wording of Granger’s order was not happenstance; it was carefully crafted based on other officers’ orders and experiences elsewhere. Granger’s order, though, is most famous because it was the last and covered the largest territory. A colleague who’s been researching this subject has found also that this notice was not just pro forma — it really did have a profound and immediate effect as it spread across Texas, and enslaved persons received word of it in various ways, and within a short time June 19, the original date of Granger’s order, had become an important commemoration day among Freedmen. The African American community in Houston pooled its funds to buy and establish Emancipation Park in 1872. Juneteenth is mentioned in several LoC slave narratives, and the word “Juneteenth” itself was established by the 1890s, even as the celebration was being brought by Texans to other states. Parsons, Kansas Weekly Blade, June 22, 1895:


Last Wednesday the citizens of this city and vicinity, native Texans, assembled in the fairgrounds to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary if the liberation of the bonded Afro-American of Texas. After indulging in various pleasures, they were called to the sumptuous repasts that were spread by our energetic ladies and our worthy citizen and coadjuntor [?], R. B. Floyd. At 3:30 the people were called together in the amphitheater to hear the speakers of the day. The exercises were opened by the song, “Hold the Fort,” led by Presiding Elder, A. M. Ward; prayer, led by Rev. J. R. Ransom; “John Brown’s Body” was then led by Rev. Ward; E. W. Dorsey then stated why the 19th of June was celebrated. He was followed by S. O. Clayton, who in an address of twenty minutes delivered volumes of words which were impregnated with varied and bright thoughts. Closely following the speakers an animated game of base ball was witnessed; when the happy throng repaired to their homes expressing themselves highly pleased with their first Juneteenth celebration.



Austin Juneteenth 1900

Emancipation celebration band, Austin, Texas, June 19, 1900. Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, via University of North Texas Portal to Texas History.



Planning gets underway now for a proper sesquicentennial celebration of the end of the war and Juneteenth next year. The Civil War didn’t end at Appomattox in April 1865; it ended here in Texas in June, with the paired events of the surrender of of the Trans-Mississippi Department and Granger’s General Order No. 3. It’s a part of the story that needs a better telling and wider recognition. Here’s looking forward to a grand 2015!





7 Responses

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  1. Sam said, on June 23, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Great job Andy. Thank you for your post about the event. This location for a marker had been discussed as early as 1998 and now it is a reality. Here is a link to that article

    • Andy Hall said, on June 23, 2014 at 11:17 am

      Sam, thanks. Y’all did a great job, and Saturday’s event reflects great credit on everyone involved in making it happen.

  2. Neil Hamilton said, on June 23, 2014 at 11:00 pm


    It’s really nice to see “the rest of the story” that began with the firing on Fort Sumter.

    Thanks for posting it.


  3. n8vz said, on June 25, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Well, that historical marker is inaccurate. The oldest, continuous Emancipation Day celebration is in Gallia County, Ohio. They started the celebration on Sept. 22, 1863, on the first anniversary of the preliminary proclamation. I’ve been personally involved with this celebration for a number of years, and have recruited many of their keynote speakers during that time. Juneteenth is very applicable and appropriately celebrated in Texas, it has little to do with other parts of the country. There are other celebrations of emancipation that occur in other parts of the country that also predate 1866. I think that Juneteenth has caught on in some places because of the catchy name and because of the time of year — June is a nice time for an outdoor celebration in many areas of the nation. In Ohio, the Juneteenth thing got so out of hand — with ridiculous claims about being “the first in the nation” — that the Ohio General Assembly had to pass a bill recognizing September 22nd as Emancipation Day in the Buckeye State. That hasn’t shut up some of the Juneteenth advocates, who can still be relied upon to annually tell reporters about the great significance of their celebration for the entire universe. Give me a break!

  4. n8vz said, on June 25, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Here’s a link to more information on the Gallia County Celebration:

  5. Hank Thierry said, on June 27, 2014 at 9:32 am

    The word Juneteenth is a homonym defining both the events that occurred in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 as well as defining how that historic date is celebrated.

    Many folks are quick to use superlatives to describe Juneteenth. Here in Galveston, words like national, official, first, and longest-running are often used to describe the types of celebrations related to how Galveston celebrates Juneteenth.

    I would agree that other regions of the country may have celebrated Emancipation prior to the arrival of Gordon Granger. Ohio, Washington DC, and SW Kentucky are regions of the country that have documented celebrations of Emancipation.

    However, for me, Juneteenth is more about the events that actually occurred on June 19, 1865, and how those events should be seen as part of American history. What Granger intended upon his arrival could be considered an act of war, an act of liberation, along with an act of Civil Rights. Among his five General Orders, General Order No. 3 gave definition to the word freedom. General Order No. 3 defines freedom among the new Freedmen from the aspect of “absolute equality.” The Emancipation Proclamation nor the 13th Amendment define what it means to be free.

    The military component of 2000 Union troops in Galveston and the quartermastering of all cotton from the Galveston Port ended the economic engine that sustained the Texas Confederacy. Union troops maintained the peace, in spite of a willingness among former slave owners to place them in menial jobs and work for free.

    Emancipation and the abolition of slavery and how it is interpreted among historians will bring a great many interpretations. However, there is no mistaking the historic events on Galveston island that occurred on June 19, 1865. This past weekend, we honored Juneteenth in a manner we believe is consistent with an official state of Texas acknowledgement.

  6. Sam said, on September 3, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    There are several Emancipation Days that pre-date June 19, 1865. One example is the Ohio celebration and another is Florida’s May 20, 1865 date. While men and women in OH or FL or other areas in the United States were celebrating freedom, Texas still had enslaved men, women and children. Therefore while some areas of the United States were free, other areas were not. I think the reason Juneteenth and the Texas story continues to be celebrated nationally is because it represents to many the end of slavery in the entire United States not just in one state or area. Juneteenth does take away from other Emancipation Day celebrations. For the former enslaved men, women and children of Texas they chose to recognize June 19, 1865 as the day in Texas that they were freed. Slavery in the US was not over in 1863. Slavery may have ended in OH in 1863, but that did not represent the entire US. June 19th is the day that celebrates the freeing of the last slaves in the entire US. Some would argue that officially slavery did not end until Dec. 6, 1865. The marker celebrates June 19th the day former enslaved men, women and children of Texas chose to celebrate. They chose June 19th long before it was popular or passage of any laws or bills by elected officials.

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