The Texas Homefront, 1861
This account is taken from Marc-William Palen’s 2012 article, “A Canadian Yankee in King Cotton’s Court” (Civil War History 58:2, 224-261). The unknown author, a Canadian, was traveling across Texas in the late spring or summer of 1861, on his way back to Ottawa.
The country from Waco to Nacogdoches, passing through the towns of Crockett and Rusk, as monotonous enough . . . the horrors of civil war could now be painfully realized in the sight of many abandoned settlements and small farms, and private residences either in a state of neglect or closed up. There was a sullenness amongst the population, and a suspicion of all men, which let a sad impression on the mind. In some of the towns and villages two-thirds of the white male population had gone of to join distant detachments of the Southern army; and, though there was no open insubordination, or expressed discontent at the war by those let behind, there was decidedly no enthusiasm manifested auguring either of future hope or satisfaction at the Secession steps already taken. A slight incident will show the state of public feeling. As the road was very heavy and sandy, the passengers in the stage coach got out and walked for about a mile and a half. In company with a gentleman who, like myself, felt thirst, we let the main road about a quarter of a mile, to call at a farm house, in order to procure some water. As we approached, the premises seemed to be abandoned; but, ater knocking and calling, a colored man came to the door and asked our business, but almost immediately in his footsteps followed a woman and a couple of formidable looking dogs. She immediately ordered the “chattel” into the house, seemingly afraid that he might hold any communication with two white strangers. After considerable coaxing she left us to bring the desired beverage, but the dogs were left behind, and to judge from their occasional sulky growling were intended as our custodians for the time the good woman was absent. After the water was drank and paid for, (at the moderate rate of 50 cents!) and we returned to join the stage, we found ourselves followed by two armed men on horseback who did not seem satisfied until they had seen us safely in the coach, and assured from our passes, and the information of the driver, that we were not incendiaries, kidnappers, or secret agents of those “D—d Abolitionists!”