Julia Barton at the Texas Observer has a fascinating post about a little-known incident (at least to me) that pushed Texas into the Confederate column. In 1858, Texas had elected a pro-Union slate of officials, including the venerable Sam Houston. Two years later, mass hysteria swept the state about a possible abolitionist plot. Known as the “Texas Troubles,” it led to slave lynchings and pushed the state firmly to the rebel side. Here’s how it started:
“…a drought and heat wave scorched much of the South in the summer of 1860, exacerbating the tense political atmosphere. Water wells dried up and crops withered in the fields as temperatures reached above 100 degrees for days on end. On July 8, most of Dallas’s 678 residents were sweating out their siestas indoors when a fire broke out at Wallace Peak’s drugstore downtown. The townspeople could do little but run outdoors as hot winds blew the flames from one dry wooden building to the next. By the time the fire burned out, half the town’s business district was destroyed.”
Above 100 degrees for days on end? Sounds familiar. And it gets even more familiar:
Similar fires happened at almost the same time in Denton and the hamlet of Pilot Point. The excitable editor of the (burned-down) Dallas Herald, Charles Pryor, sent letters to several newspapers about an alleged abolitionist plot afoot in Texas that aimed to burn the state down.
(Terror babies, anyone?)