The Flight of Slaveholders to Texas

Author:   William Tecumseh Sherman


As the war dragged on, enthusiasm faded and class tensions flared. In the North, the worst mob violence in American history took place in New York City in July 1863, two weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg. About 120 people were killed, mainly by police and soldiers. Irish Catholic immigrants and their children had been egged on by Democratic leaders who told them that Republicans wanted to free the slaves in order bring them north to replace Irish workers. During four days of rioting, mobs lynched at least a dozen African American men, destroyed draft offices, burned and looted black neighborhoods and the homes of leading Republicans and abolitionists.

In the South, the imposition of a military draft in April 1862 produced protests that this was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Although the law made all abled-bodied men ages 18 through 35 liable for three years’ service, the draft law allowed draftees to pay a substitute to serve for him (the North adopted a similar draft law in March 1863). Further aggravating tension was enactment of the “Twenty Negro Law” in October 1862 which exempted one white man from the draft on every plantation with 20 or more slaves.

In the following selection, General William Tecumseh Sherman (120-1891) mentions that some slaveowners were fleeing with their slaves to Texas to avoid wartime disruptions.


They are all moving to Texas with their Negroes. God grant all may go there and that our Government will open the Back door wide and promise to let them stay there in Peace.


Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: General William Tecumseh Sherman to Admiral David D. Porter