“Confederate Soldier Walter W. Williams Dies in Houston, Funeral Held Wednesday” The Franklin Texan
This is the December, 1959 edition of the Franklin Texan. In this issue, the story concerns the death of Walter Williams, a man who claimed to be a former confederate soldier and the last veteran of the Civil War. Texas seceded in 1861, alongside other southern states to form the Confederacy. The Civil War experience for Texas, was different from other states.
Despite the obvious threat of the Union army, there were other threats that were more serious in the minds of many Texans. With the withdrawal of Union troops at the start of the conflict, Texans were concerned that the immediate threat to Texas was from Native American raids. Texan and Native American relations had been complex in Texas, and at the time of the Civil War they had been very strained. Sam Houston, who was the first president of Texas, tried to build better relations. He attempted to enforce trade laws, remove trespassers from native land, uphold hunting rights, and establish fairer treaties. However, successive presidents would reverse these programs. Due to this strain between Texans and Native Americans, conflict would persist throughout the Civil War.
In 1862, Texas would be placed into Trans-Mississippi Department. This was a group of Confederate states, west of the Mississippi river, that were placed under the command of Kirby Smith in 1863. This department was seen as necessary because of the massive distance between these states and the Confederate capital in Richmond. When the Mississippi was taken in 1863, the department would effectively be cut off from the rest of the Confederacy.
In 1863, the invasion of Texas was headed by Nathanial Banks. This invasion was made possible by the Union control of Vicksburg, securing the Mississippi river for the north. Texas was a strategic target for the Union for several reasons. Texas’ border with Mexico allowed them to get around the Union blockade of Confederate ports. Cotton was transported across the border, and shipped to Europe, and supplies and guns were shipped back through the same route. The Union couldn’t blockade Mexico, so they would have to invade to stop the shipments. Another reason also had to do with Mexico. After the start of the Civil War, France invaded Mexico to place a friendly government on the throne. The Union saw this as a threat, and wanted to show force in the region. If Texas and other confederate states could continue to sell its cotton and buy goods, there was a risk that European powers would get involved in the conflict.
In 1865, the last battle of the Civil war would be fought in Texas. The Battle of Palmito Hill would mark the end of resistance in Texas and the remaining confederate states. Next would come reconstruction, and the emergence of a new Texas. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]