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Texas Tropical Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Civil War


Palmito Ranch Battlefield, Brownsville
Palmito Ranch Battlefield, Brownsville

SACRIFICE, VALOR AND HOPE

The Civil War was a major turning point in American history and one that deeply divided our growing nation. Texas played an important role in the war, resulting in many historic sites, museums, monuments and cemeteries that help tell the story today. Civil War-related resources in Texas include (among many) Fort Clark’s Guardhouse Museum in Brackettville, the Pearce Civil War Documents Collection in Corsicana, Galveston’s Texas Seaport Museum, and the Capitol in Austin, site of the secession convention in 1861. Governor Sam Houston was against secession and his firm belief in the Union cost him his office when he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the new government. Some Texans shared Houston’s belief but many others joined the Confederacy and, during the course of the war, nearly 90,000 Texans served in the military. Confederate and state forces repulsed Union soldiers at Sabine Pass, Corpus Christi, and Laredo. They fought frontier and border raiders, evaded federal blockades, defended internal trade routes and operated prisoner of war camps. But the Union would eventually prevail, ending slavery in America for good, proving the prescience of Houston’s words spoken just days before the passage of the Ordinance of Secession. “Let me tell you what is coming,” Houston predicted. “You may alter the sacrifice of countless millions of treasures and hundreds of thousands of precious lives, win Southern independence, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union.”

News traveled slowly during this time. In May 1865, the last land battle of the Civil War was fought at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville over a month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. It was another month before U.S. Gen. Gordon Granger, commander of the U.S. troops in Texas, arrived in Galveston with orders to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery. An event now celebrated in Texas as Juneteenth.

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Read more about Texas in the Civil War in the Handbook of Texas Online.