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.


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