Reconstruction in Texas, 1865-1874

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The period of Reconstruction brought together old and new problems.

By the end of the Civil War, the Confederacy had sustained heavy losses with 483,026 in casualties.  In July 1865, the Texas Legislature passed an act to ‘organize a company to defend the northern and western borders.’  The act reduced the scope and size of the Texas Rangers.  The Texas Rangers returned to their pre-Civil War purpose: defend the frontier. Called the Frontier Forces, these Rangers policed the vast Texas borders with twenty companies of 25 men each.

Elsewhere in Texas, Federal troops and the newly created State Police combated lawlessness during Reconstruction.  Created by the Police Act of July 1870, the State Police assisted local law enforcement. Their biggest supporter, Republican Governor Edmund J. Davis, faced opposition to this new police force from Democrats.  The opposition was due in part to the employment of African Americans as police officers.

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In the spring of 1873, the 13th Texas Legislature sought to abolish the State Police.  Davis moved to defend it.  He commissioned the Adjutant General to provide a report on ‘the present condition of the State.’  Despite the 17-page report and a letter from Davis to M.D.K. Taylor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Legislature voted to repeal the act and abolished the State Police.

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The links shown below to the items displayed in this exhibit will open in PDF format in a separate window or tab. The documents are shown here in their entirety so some of the files contain multiple pages.

General Order No. 3, August 3, 1870. Adjutant General Department, Ranger Records, Frontier Forces Correspondence, 401-1156.

This act authorized the Governor of Texas to establish twenty companies of Texas Rangers for the “protection of the northern and western frontier.” These companies became known as the Frontier Forces.  The act specified the number of men, officers, pay, terms of service and deployment of forces to the frontier.

Journal of March by Captain A.H. Cox, Company B, September 16, 1870.  Adjutant General Department, Ranger Records, Frontier Forces Correspondence, 401-1156.

Captain A.H. Cox of Company B reported on his company’s travel from Austin, Texas to their new base of operation at Fort Griffin, 334 miles away.  From September 16 to October 11, 1870, the 25-year old Cox documented the location of their campsites along the way, daily miles marched, weather conditions, and other notes of interest.

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Report from Adjutant General and Chief of Police F.H. Britton to Governor Edmund J. Davis, April 18, 1873. Governor Edmund Jackson Davies records, 2014/110-25.

A 17-page report compiled by Adjutant General Britton to document the ‘present condition of the State’ as it related to cases of murder and attempted murder in 29 Texas counties.  The report was created in response to pending legislation to repeal the act which established the State Police.  Each of the 29 counties is enumerated by the name of the reported victim, offender, and date of offense.

Warrant of John Hill, November 23, 1870. Adjutant General Department, Reconstruction Records, State Police Correspondence, 401-863.

A warrant sent to Edmund Schmidt Purdle of the State Police from the Clerk of District Court in Gillespie County.  Schmidt, or one of his men, was tasked with arresting and bringing to court John Hill, who was charged “with the offence of murder.”

Broadside, Gonzales County, March 7, 1872. Adjutant General Department, Reconstruction Records, State Police Correspondence, 401-864.

Mrs. E.B. Laird offered a reward of $50 for “thieves and property” who stole her five year old horse.  This broadside was circulated to the State Police in Gonzales County.

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Page last modified: May 20, 2016