In, Brush Men and Vigilantes (2000), written by David Pickering and Judy Falls, white racist terror was spread by gangs in Texas. As a result of widespread vigilante activity, justice was non-existent during the Civil War. In the North Texas Counties of Fannin, Hunt, Lamar, Hopkins, Dallas, Bowie, and others, blacks and those favorable to staying in the Union were hanged by mobs of crazed and fanatical Texans. Pro-secessionist vigilantes, operating outside of what little law existed, hanged blacks and groups of men that deserted the Confederacy or supported the United States. According to Donald Reynolds in a TSHA (Texas State Historical Association) online write up, a white Methodist minister, a Rev. Anthony Bewley, after being accused of anti-slavery activity, was murdered by hanging, buried, then resurrected from a shallow grave, and his remaining flesh removed from his bones for the purpose of his remains being put on public display on top of a store in 1860.
Research shows that these killers operated with artificial legal authority and “hanged “dissenters” on the Trinity River, slaughtered German Unionists along the Nueces River, and lynched Federal recruits by the Rio Grande.” These killers even killed their neighbors often using the charge of being a “Yankee” or a supporter of Lincoln to settle old grudges or disputes over property. Some vigilantes attacked at night and disguised themselves in “black face” to mask criminal activity. They sought to create an atmosphere of murderous revenge against blacks and to reinforce the idea that “Texas must be a slave country.”
Racist mobs were extremely active in East Texas. In the cities of Paris, Greenville, Tarrant, Clarksville, Marshall, and in the Sulphur Springs area dozens of men were murdered and hundreds had to flee crazed mobs that were intent on killing them or politically cleansing the area of pro-Union men. The legal authorities did very little to stop this and in some cases were part of this criminal activity. Suspected abolitionists were the main target and were often chased down or kidnapped on dirt roads and hanged on the spot. Germans in the Texas Hill Country mostly opposed slavery and expressed their opposition by forming Union Leagues. German citizens from Comfort, Texas and other areas in the hill country were massacred by racist soldiers and irregulars in 1862 at the Nueces River (Underwood, 2000). In fact, Germans in Bexar County issued appeals to all Germans to unite and to “hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree.”
“Vigilance Committees,” which were nothing more than illegal gangs of murderers, were organized to watch slaves and people that they fingered as “suspicious.” Texas broke from the Union in March of 1861, and wrote the Articles of Secession in which they unmistakably acknowledge that the Civil War was about slavery, white supremacy, and obstructing abolitionists, all under the phony pretext of “states rights.” Scholars have pointed out that violence was the accepted norm in the South. Racism was connected to internalized psychological customs that produced a boastfulness that was displayed as a facial scowl, squinting eyes, a chip on the shoulder stance, and braggadocio declarations about being a multiple-generation Texan. Originally Texas settlers never came from Texas, as this was Comanche and Spanish territory, but came from the slave owning southern states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, and others. Cultural customs were instilled with violence and aggression that thought it acceptable to see people hanging from a rope if their ideas were different from white supremacy or the so-called southern way of life. Southern tradition (heritage) has a very bizarre and bloody history.