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IX
Views on the War
 
        My mother, a history major in 1920, was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, as were her several brothers and sisters. Her parents probably felt the same way.  She was fond of her husband's octogenerian grandfather, that same R.T. Haile who, after wounds in the Confederate army and Federal imprisonment at Camp Douglas, had watched his own father die at Camp Chase.  He was articulate, so was she.  I would love to know what views the schoolteacher and the Confederate soldier might have exchanged.  Did she wonder how he felt about her hero Lincoln?  R.T. may very well have held an opinion about the president who led his rising industrial power against its own farming folk in defiance of the Founders' expressed sentiments and against the opposition of his own generals until he found some willing to wage total war, a concept new to the military in his day.  Did R.T. and Nell exchange views at all about memories so ancient?  Perhaps they followed the Good Lord's counsel, to "let the dead bury the dead."

      To me, a sensible judgment of Lincoln still seems improbable.  Back in his day, long developing sectional differences were being stirred by the self-righteous on both sides, who could not foresee the consequences of their fervor.  The conduct of politicians, diplomats, and finally even generals was judged from partisan perspectives.  How impossible discussion in balanced terms had already become before the War is illustrated by Daniel Webster’s 7th of March Speech (1850). Precisely
Webster’s attempt to speak to both sides outraged both against him. On controversial issues, even-handedness is liable to be regarded as immoral.  In the end, those who had invaded and depredated also emerged victorious.  They were  empowered to prevail as well in the interpretation of what they had done.  By my time, adoration of Lincoln held undisputed sway throughout the land.

        Historians habitually connect the War with the abolition of slavery.  Because of the rôle both white and black bondage played in our family's early centuries here, I have surveyed relevant literature.  The best balanced recent treatment I have been able to find (American Slavery 1619-1877 by Peter Kolchin, 1993) begins by explaining how slavery is universally encountered throughout history, then goes ahead to show how involuntary servitude
in America developed out of voluntary (indentured) servitude.  Yet even this author from time to time convulsively grinds his teeth, as with the remark that slavery was "[r]ooted in the lust for profits" (p. 170), or with a quotation which calls the old agrarian South "inseparable from the bourgeois world that sired it" (p. 173).  On historians' efforts to encompass slavery within shared American experience, this same author blandly writes, "The racism that suffused American scholarship during the first half of the twentieth century made it easy . . ." (p. 171).  --Kolchin may be referring to the even-handed traditionalism of historians like Frank Lawrence Owsley, Plain Folk of the Old South, 1949.  It is fine to impute motives, fine to apply Marxian economic theory to the past, but words like rooted and sired do suggest historical perspective.

        It is not surprising if Kolchin's academic milieu honestly felt the War was undertaken for the sake of the Negro slaves, despite Lincoln's many clear protestations to the contrary.  It even became routine to represent the War
as having benefited that population, despite the catastrophic suffering into which it plunged especially the Negroes, whether one consider their material condition and their relationship to the whites, or gauge how long their recovery is actually taking, against the probable life expectancy of slavery itself, had the factions on either side been ignored, or controlled.  While such questions are necessarily speculative, Lincoln's rôle in precipitating and inexorably prosecuting an egregiously unequal and fratricidious war is not.  The Reconstruction amendments (for which he is admittedly not responsible) are also still represented in such a one-sided manner as to evoke skepticism in any calm mind.*

*A noteworthy exception:  Gregory P. Downs, After Appomattox.  Military Occupation and the Ends of War (Harvard. 2015).

A Few Texas Families before the War

        Prior to the great cataclysm, the major long-range concern of the nation had been with the consequences of Thomas Jefferson's great expansion of its borders to the southwest.  By some interpretations,
Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase extended to the Red River, by others to the vicinity of the Rio Grande.  Stephen F. Austin brought settlers onto Mexican land grants in South Texas. A narrow tidewater settlement had expanded into a continental nation.  This rapid transformation occurred during Amon Haile's boyhood. He and Stephen F. Austin were both born in 1793.
 

        Another born in that same year was Sam Houston.   Houston's Virginia family had become, like Amon's, part of the great influx into Tennessee.  Amon witnessed Houston's rise to prominence in Nashville, as well as
Houston's ignominious fall from grace.  Houston wandered off to Arkansas, spent some years among his Indian brothers in Oklahoma, then seeing great promise across the Red River, rode down into Mexican territory.  He was received as a leader in Nacadoches by the wealthy planters from across the Sabine out of Arkansas and Louisiana.   Up along the Red River, small farms were being established by southerners, mostly from Kentucky and Tennessee, but cotton planters had also found the black land profitable for their slave operations. "Gone to Texas" became a slogan during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, especially after the Battle of San Jacinto (1836), when Houston accomplished his brilliant, total defeat of a much larger and better equipped Mexican army. In just a few years his new Republic of Texas had attracted so many immigrants from the United States that annexation would be accomplished by Polk's administration.

        Central Texas had been settled only as far as the Trinity, and that was already dangerous territory.  In the same year of Texas Independence from Mexico (and of Arkansas statehood), the Parker family and some of their neighbors had been killed in a raid by Comanche Indians.  Cynthia Ann Parker, then nine years old, and her brother were taken.  It was one incident among many, but it was made notorious by Charles Goodnight's telling of Cynthia Ann's recapture in 1860.  She was by that time wife of a Comanche chieftan and mother of a prominent warrior.  Having acquired horses from the Spaniards, the Comanche had become so expert, able to shoot arrows with great accuracy and rapidity from almost any position on or under their galloping mount, that they drove the notorious Apache out to New Mexico. West of the Trinity, these accomplished warriors, horse and child thieves retained sway.  Settlers west of the Trinity looked to Federal troops for some protection.

        Those were the years when the Goodsons, the Cranks, and the McClures were crossing from out of the Carolinas through Alabama into southern Arkansas.  These particular families do not fit the familiar stereotypes of southerners:  grand plantation owners or ignorant subsistance farmer
.*  But they did share the typical, vague hopes entertained by many about Texas.  Hopes depended, in the 1830s, on the Texas revolution, then in the 1840s on annexation, and at last on the federal forts, which shielded settlers against the Indians).  These were small farmers, sometimes school teachers or Methodist ministers who also farmed.  The Goodson family probably included one or more "servants" (slaves--some may also have accompanied the Cranks, but the McClures no doubt rejected the institution).  During the boom years in cotton, families could sell their small holdings to expanding cotton planters. Then they might move on west, lured by the wonderful fertility of newground. Of course, the big cotton operations were moving with them, or ahead of them. The Red River bottom was already committed to cotton, gins located up and down the River.

*S
ee a contemporary authority, Daniel R. Hundley, who in 1860 depicts the antebellum south as populated by "farmers, planters, traders, storekeepers, artisans, mechanics, a few manufacturers, a goodly number of country school teachers, and a host of half-fledged country lawyers, doctors, parsons, and the like" (Social Relations in our Southern States [New York: Price, 1860], edited by  Wm. J. Cooper, Jr., for the Louisiana State University Press in1979).  Ironically, it was Hundley's chapter headings which coined the cant indispensable to academic historians, e.g.,  "The Southern Gentleman," "Poor White Trash," "The Negro Slaves."  Other chapters turned out to be less serviceable to tendentious purposes:  "The Middle Classes," "The Southern Yankee,:" "The Southern Yeoman."

                   Many families on their way to Texas passed through Miller County, which at one time comprised northeast Texas as well as the southwest counties of Arkansas.  The Goodsons came that way from the South Carolina tidewater about 1850, venturing as far as the Grand Prairie beyond present-day Dallas. When the Federal troops withdrew in 1861, the Goodsons had to turn back also, settling among Tennesseans who had come up the Red River from the Mississippi.  John Wesley and Elizabeth Goodson eventually filed for a homestead in Miller County under Lincoln's new Homestead Act.  Their son married into the McClure / Crank clan, who had come across from Alabama.  Whether Cohee or Tuckahoe, such families were among that majority of white Southerners ambivalent about slavery.  How they might have felt about the Confederacy, or about the War, is of course quite a different question.

       
The Goodsons, Cranks, McClures found very few white people resident in the rich, malarial Red River bottom, where they saw a vast Negro population planting, chopping, picking cotton. It all looked pretty much the same in my own youth, and is little changed even today, despite Emancipation and air conditioning. The white families farmed, preached, and taught school in the "hills," less conducive to fevers and  agues (pronounced  "aygers").  Some of  them crossed the Sabine River into the old communities which had attracted Sam Houston in the 1830s.  Robert McClure established a tanyard in Shelby County, Texas (leather was in universal demand).  Robert's younger brother Daniel is also listed  in the 1860 county census, a merchant aged 2 7.   This is where Dan courted Martha Crank.  The couple was not without means, or plans.  Dan had already purchased an old Spanish land grant far out in the Comancherìa beyond where Cynthia Ann Parker had been lost.  The North / South conflict was not going to turn him back.

The Wars in Texas

       
The sparse settlement in the Comancherìa was provisionally protected by a line of forts which ran right through the area where Dan and Martha had acquired their two and a half sections of prairie land, not very far from Charlie Goodnight's ranch.  Some twenty miles to the south of them lay Fort Blair, near present-day Desdemona.  In this very year of Dan's purchase, Abraham Lincoln was elected President.  Before he could take office the next year, South Carolina seceded from the Union.  When Lincoln declined to surrender a federal fort in South Carolina, the state militia seized it.  Still, most people clung to the hope that states like Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky would mediate some solution.

        Sam Houston, erstwhile president of of the Republic of Texas, now governor of the new state, strongly opposed Texas secessionists. When Lincoln issued his Proclamation and troops were mobilized, McClellan's invasion into Virginia precipitated a crisis.  There was terrible violence in Missouri, strife in West Virginia and East Tennessee. 
Kentucky remained with the UnionHouston predicted, as had Daniel Webster before him, that secession would lead to disaster, but the Texas legislature overrode their governor.  As former president of the Republic of Texas, Houston naturally now interpreted the vote as returning Texas to her independent status, and he refused to swear allegiance to the Confederacy.  But the hot mood of the young Texans forced him to relinquish the governorship.  The old man retired to cultivate his excellent skills whittling.

        The Texas populace was divided.  From the liberal-minded Germans who had joined the Austin colony in the 1840s, a contingent of young men attempted to escape via Galveston to join Union forces.  They were massacred by Tennessee boys, who set a monument marking "Meyer's Rebellion."  Most notorious was the town of Gainesville up on the Red River, where wealthy slave owners in charge of the judiciary summarily hanged forty-odd small farmers for allegedly conspiring to aid the Union. Still in my lifetime, deep-seated prejudice all across north Texas went back to this small farmer's resentment of slavery for its devaluation of labor, and for the ruthlessness of the slave-owning society. To the modern, enlightened question, "Should one not have sympathized with the slaves rather than blame them?" the poor white's reply would probably have been, "What kind of man is it who endures being enslaved?" As we have seen, this same redneck's people had
themselves come to America bonded to servitude--as did many blacks--and felt himself the victim of forces far beyond his understanding.

        When I was a boy my father sold his tractor dealership in Texarkana and acquired another in "West Texas."  A devoted employee followed him, worked in the dealership and also helped out with the
peanut farm, for a time.   After my father died, my management of the farm brought me into closer association with some of the farmers.  I might be invited to  chat with fellows around a cooler of beer in a barnyard.  Once when they were discussing old times I heard the story of how neighbors had come out into the field where the Negro was working, to persuade him that there were plenty of white boys who needed that work.  Frightened, he had returned to Texarkana.  This had occurred in the 1950s.  It was thirty years later when I heard the tale, from men whose professed sentiments now conformed wholeheartedly with the intervening Civil Rights Movement.

        Certainly Martha Crank and Dan McClure had got in beyond their depth by 1862, as had their country. They had married on March 2nd, probably in Shelby County, Texas.  Dan was signed up in the CSA army the very next month, on April 12th.  A little girl was born in Shreveport on October 17th.  Dan took a "sick leave."  They named their daughter Mary Elizabeth (Mollie).  Again in May through August of the next year, the Army reports Dan absent on sick leave "in Texas."  A second child is born on December 18th, 1863. Again after that birth, in the early months of 1864, army records show Dan absent in Texas with a "hip joint out of place."  Dan died shortly after Mollie's second birthday. A third child was born on July first of 1865.  Martha named him after his father. Obviously, the war years had been eventful ones for the young couple. The 1870 census finds Martha Crank McClure with her three children back in Lafayette County, Arkansas.


        On file in the Palo Pinto, Texas Court House is record of the sale in Shelby County, Texas on July 30th, 1860 by Blackburn Pease of one third of his father's (Hiram Pease) Spanish head right grant of a league and a labor (=26 labors) to Daniel W. McClure for $500. Dan had therewith received title to something over 1,500 acres just west of what is today the line between Erath County and Eastland County (later formed out of Palo Pinto).  Also at Palo Pinto is record of Martha McClure's sale of the tract on August 18th, 1869.  She executed the sale back in Shelby County, for $320 (when one figures the wartime inflation, that amounts to considerably less than half Dan's purchase price).  I can report that I have walked out the tract of land Dan bought. It would make fair pasture, and may at some time have been farmed, but today it is dotted with oil wells. The sorry road running up Bear Creek to the confluence of Deer Creek and Jenny Creek is for heavy equipment only. I made it to the little Tudor Cemetery, where the markers are uninscribed pieces of sandstone or breccias. My guess was at the time that I was at Dan McClure's gravesite.



Dan McClure  (1833-1864)
   
       We can read today how the Civil War era saw also the vicious culmination of the Indian Wars.  In 1860, the Sherman family in Palo Pinto County was tortured to death by a Comanche tribe.  Texas Rangers who pursued the Indians caught and slaughtered their women.  One squaw was taken alive--none other than Cynthia Ann Parker, now a matron with an infant daughter, Prairie Flower, at her breast.  One of her sons, Quanah, had escaped with the war party led by his father, Peta Noconah.  During subsequent years, Quanah would continue
forays against the sparse, decimated white families remaining in the Comancherìa.  Cynthia, forcibly returned to the Parker family, longed for Noconah and freedom.  She died in 1871, in captivity.  Her son went on to lead his tribe in the Red River War of 1874-75.  Eventually, however, Quanah surrendered his warriors and led them to live in the reservation at Fort Sill.

 
Quanah Parker (1845-1911)

        As a child I heard the story of how, after Dan McClure had died "from a fall off a horse," and was buried in Palo Pinto, Martha with a child in her womb and two more in her covered wagon made her way back home to Arkansas. 
She said she always pitched camp not too far from some homestead.  She was welcomed and protected by denizens of that scrub oak, mesquite and chaparral prairie.  As she crossed back east of the Trinity, she found the more prosperous blackland less perilous, but also less hospitable. She liked to tell how a grand plantation house had received her in a less than cordial way.  I believe the master said he was expecting guests, and that she should not pitch her camp on his property. One can imagine that Martha, with her passel of children and live stock (a cow and a calf, at least, if her babes were to have milk) may have resembled strays from a gypsy band.  After ascertaining the boundaries of this elegant plantation, she sought out a site beyond, but still conspicuous from the plantation's veranda, there to bed her young ones, tether her cow, and hang out her laundry.  Such stories were frequently told to illustrate family character. Martha and Mollie and Nelly no doubt had a message for us.

         Times are much changed, of course, and our assumptions with them.  I suspect that the Cranks and the McClures, small farmers but with some means and a degree of literacy, shared deep-seated resentment toward cotton growers who had possessed not only South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, but now also the bottomland up and down the Red River.  Disputes over secession and over Texas's joining the Confederacy had made the rift most sharp and painful.  When Martha told of her spiteful trick on one of these prepossessing plantations her story was no doubt received by an appreciative audience, who well knew her attitude and sympathized with her.  The tale may help understand why Martha's version of the family's whereabouts after 1862 does not quite match the official Confederate Army records.  

        Whatever the young couple's motives for their wartime trek out into the West Texas Cross Timbers, that arid region must have offered little comfort to eyes
accustomed to the big, cool woods, to fertile ground with plenty of rainfall, and out of every hillside a spring branch. Dan was probably good with an axe, perhaps a fair hand behind a plow, and knew how to bring home small game with his smoothbore muzzle-loader. The huge transition one had to make in order to survive out here in the land of the lariat, six-shooter, and windmill has been described in eloquent detail by Walter Prescott Webb in The Great Plains (Ginn & Company, 1931).  Webb's own family had left East Texas (Panola County, just above Shelby) a generation or two later than Dan's, and settled just one county west of Palo Pinto. Even with Webb's help, though, we would need a novelist's imagination to envisage the little McClure family on their journey from the Sabine across the Trinity, to the Brazos and beyond, over the chalk hills and the salt flats through the cactus and dense chaparral out to where the rainfall seemed just to have give out. Their main worry, however, were the Indians. During the very months when the family was trying to survive out there, President Lincoln was recalling his troops from the Texas forts in order to launch his relentless attacks on the Arkansas homes of Dan and Martha and on their families back in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia.  In Texas, the Comanche were in effect Lincoln's allies.



        The only point of agreement between Martha's story and that of the CSA is the account that Daniel W. McClure had "fallen off a horse." It strikes me that the easiest way to reconcile all the evidence requires us to discount army reports of illness.  I suspect that
Dan's sick leaves from the Confederate Army were occasioned by his newly acquired holding in West Texas (and helping Mollie bring forth the hands to work it). Daniel McClure's death may well have been a violent one. It did probably involve a fall from a horse.  What further details need a mother pass on to a two-year-old daughter, her eldest child?

         Does
that photograph above depict Martha née Crank and her daughter Mollie McClure?  I have it from Mollie's much battered and worn scrap book of the kind beloved in those days, filled with pictures of the family, but also with clippings from periodicals of the day--anything particularly touching, especially little poems, and often embellished with the owner's effusively worded sentiments.  My own children, from a more laconic culture, chuckle at Mollie.  --How old are the women in the picture?  If they are Mollie and her mother, and if that is a wedding ring on the girl's finger, then she may be nineteen or twenty, her mother in the middle forties.  Among Mollie's mementos is also a little leather notebook, about 4" x 6 2 ".  The owner's name may be written on the inside back cover--:



--but my best guess is that "Mary E. McClure" has appropriated this notebook, and that the person who used it for school and household records during the years 1871-1876 (this little girl's ninth to fourteenth years) was her mother, Martha (who was thirty-six in 1871).  Among loose leaves tucked in is a scrap of a land transaction involving Daniel W. McClure, with mention of Louisiana and Texas.  This suggests that Mollie's little "coppy book" was originally her mother's.  Martha seems to have inaugurated the slim volume to record school attendance:




but also tuition payments--often in kind--as well as provisions.  Her entries are usually neatly done in ink, but there is an occasional pencil note, as

                                        girls & boys playing together
                                        Sping [sparking?] at same time
                                        cursing swearing.

The document suggests that Martha was earning a living at a school
not far from Holly Springs, if we compare her attendance lists with the grave stones at the cemetery:  Crank, Friday, Hutt, Roberson, Philyaw.  Martha left several pages blank, used some in later years for shopping lists.  After Martha finished with the notebook her daughter liked to use it for practicing her name,




        If Mollie was about fourteen when she took over her mother's notebook, then this "Charlie W. McClure" would be sixteen.  Charlie was Mollie's double cousin.  His parents, Elisha McClure and Mary Wooding Crank, had an older son named Capers, whose handsome portrait painted by Mollie's daughter Florence hangs in my dining room.  When the double cousins Charlie and Mollie married the brother and sister named Lizzie and Thomas Goodson, the once so separate Tuckahoe and Cohee cultures became almost incestuous.

        To recapitulate for a confused reader, Cranks (c
hildren of Samuel Cunning Crank & Christiana Colquett) had married McClures (children of William McClure & Sarah Susan Woodard):
                   
Mary Wooding Crank          married       Elisha McClure                               
                    Robert Henry Crank            married        Martha Ann McClure 
                   Martha Elizabeth Crank        married       Daniel McClure                           
 
In the next generation then, the double cousins--Charlie W., son of Mary Wooding and Elisha McClure, and Mary Elizabeth (Mollie), daughter of Martha Elizabeth and Daniel McClure--themselves married a brother and sister, Elizabeth and Thomas Watts Goodson.   Charlie and Elizabeth's son Herbert maintained a dry cleaning establishment on State Line Avenue in Texarkana when I was a boy.

        Not very long after Martha and her children had made it back to the shelter of familiar piney woods, a young Haile passed that way out of Tennessee, headed to Texas.  By 1873, the Comanche Chief reports that "R. T. Haile" has arrived "from Arkansas";  By 1875, R. T. is a founding member of the new Masonic Lodge. While moving up the Red River, he and his young Arkansas wife had worked for some years "on the shares," that being the new arrangement between land and labor so decried by authors like John Steinbeck and Erskine Caldwell.  In the third quarter of the twentieth century I was myself responsible for the productivity of a plot of land in Texas.  Still at that time sharecropping seemed somewhat tainted, and most farmers preferred to pay a cash rent in advance, even if that might be less profitable to them. 

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