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!





Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 18, 2011

Items that don’t warrant posts on their own, but are worth mentioning.

  • The Galveston Historical Foundation will host another Battle of Galveston weekend on January 13-15, 2012. The program includes lectures, tours and a reenactment of the battle on the Strand. Looks to be a full weekend with lots to do. Thoughts on the 2011 event here.
  • The other day, a person (or persons) unknown affixed homemade plaques honoring Barbara Johns, Mildred and Richard Loving, and a leader of a slave insurrection named Gabriel to several Confederate monuments around Richmond. The act prompted the predictable huffing and puffing about “vandalism” and “defacement,” but lost in the self-righteous posturing is the fact that whoever did this went to considerable trouble to clamp the plaques onto the fences around the monuments in a way that avoided damaging them (below). Regardless of what one thinks of the activist’s message, that’s something that ought to be acknowledged. (h/t Kevin)

  • As expected, the Texas SCV is suing to overturn the state’s rejection of a special license plate honoring Confederate soldiers promoting the SCV. The constitutional basis for their legal argument is built, in part, on one of the “Reconstruction Amendments” passed immediately after the Civil War, specifically the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Irony is alive and well.
  • Over at Past in the Present, Michael Lynch has a funny take-down of The History Channel, and its line-up, which includes a new spin-off called Cajun Pawn Stars. (No, really.) Or as the channel’s general manager calls it, “vérité documentaries on people doing history today.” Asshats.
  • Finally, posts may be less frequent here over the next few months, as I recently signed a contract for a book on local maritime history. This particular story has been a research interest of mine for many years, and I’ll be glad to see it come to a tangible result. But to make that happen, I’m under a deadline. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Anything else? Put it in the comments.

Image: Top: Glass-plate image of Confederate reenactors at Battle of Galveston weekend, 2011, via Galveston Historical Foundation. Middle: Clamps used to affix homemade plaques to the fence around Confederate monuments in Richmond, via

Rosewood Cemetery Marker Dedication, Galveston

Posted in African Americans, Leadership, Memory by Andy Hall on April 13, 2011

Update: A new reader asks about the title Dead Confederates juxtaposed with a story about an African American cemetery. It’s the name of the blog, which generally deals with the American Civil War, and I didn’t even realize how it would look. I hope folks will understand and not be offended, because that was not my intent. I apologize for how this looks, and hope readers will consider the blog as a whole, and not by this particular whiplash-inducing combination of phrases.

Tucked away in a nearly-impossible-to-find part of Galveston is Rosewood Cemetery, a burial ground for African Americans between 1911 and the last known interment, in 1944. Historical records identify 411 burials there, but only a handful of graves remain clearly marked. The site was originally a couple of hundred yards from the Gulf beach, but after the Seawall was extended past the site in the 1950s, and subsequent fill operations closed off the cemetery’s natural drainage, leaving the site subject to periodic flooding. Over time, grave markers succumbed to natural deterioration, vandalism or simply settled into the soil. Many of the markers that remain have been displaced from their original locations.

There’s only one marker clearly identifying the person interred there as a former member of the military, that of World War I veteran Ben L. Scott (c. 1896 — Feb. 21, 1937). Many more burials there are of freedmen and -women who were born into slavery. William Lewis (c. 1840 — November 22, 1913) is almost certainly one of those.

Eventually the land including the cemetery passed into the hands of local developers John and Judy Saracco. The Saraccos, well-known members of the local community, were aware that the cemetery lay within the boundaries of their new holdings, and had the property surveyed to define its limits. The Saraccos then had the cemetery fenced to maintain its boundary while development went on around it.

In 2006, the Saraccos donated the Rosewood Cemetery land to the Galveston Historical Foundation, which now maintains the property. The formal re-dedication of the cemetery was held in June 2007. In January 2008, local Boy Scout Sean Moran raised money and organized a crew to construct a new rail fence to surround the cemetery property. That fence was destroyed nine months later, during Hurricane Ike, so Moran — by now a college student — raised yet more money and organized volunteers to re-install a new fence again in March 2010.

This coming Saturday, April 16 at 10 a.m., there will be a dedication ceremony for the new Texas Historical Commission Historic Cemetery marker for Rosewood Cemetery, on 63rd Street, just back from Seawall Boulevard. The Galveston Historical Foundation is still seeking information on persons interred at Rosewood; if you have any information on such persons, please contact Brian Davis at 409.765.3419 or

Two photos of the cemetery in 1999:

And pictures from last Saturday’s cleanup project after the jump: