Book Review: Texas Terror: The Slave Insurrection Panic of 1860 and the Secession of the Lower South

Archives

by Donald E. Reynolds

Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2007. Pp. xii, 237. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $45.00 . ISBN:0807132837

 In July of 1860, fires destroyed central Dallas and portions of two nearby towns.  Although the fires were probably the result of an unusually dry spell coupled with temerpatures that climbed to 114° F, in the aftermath of John Brown's "Raid" on Harper's Ferry, and in the midst of a ferocious presidential campaign which many Southerners believed might lead to the installation of an abolitionist administration in Washington, the disaster was immediately blamed on an abolitionist conspiracy to instigate a slave rebellion.  A number of slaves were subject to brutal interrogations, and 'evidence' of such a conspiracy was soon forthcoming. 

There followed a widespread hunt for anyone suspected of "abolitionist" sympathizers and "rebellious" slaves.  The result was numerous deaths, how many remains unknown, and increaed restrictions of slaves and free black people. 

This "insurrection panic" sparked considerable unease across a large swathe of the slave states, and directly fueled the rush to secession of Texas and other states in early 1861. 

The author, a specialist in Texas history, provides an excellent analysis of these events.  Although he sympathizes with the victims of the panic, he is quite even-handed.  In his overall conclusions, Reynolds notes how both pro-slavery advocates and apologists seized upon this incident, and presumably others, to "prove" that slave unrest was being caused by "outsiders,"  anti-slavery advocates and historians have also treated these events as "evidence" of systematic slave conspiracies which probably did not exist. 

A very good read for anyone interested in American slavery and the causes of the Civil War.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


Buy it at Amazon.com




X

ad
$0
$2500

Don't Let Us Go Up In Smoke!

January, February and March are notoriously low ad revenue months online. And StrategyPage has not been spared. We need to raise $2500 in combined subscriptions and contributions to keep us moving forward.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close