Murder and Mayhem
The War of Reconstruction in Texas
Texas History - Southern History
6.125 x 9.25, 200 pp.
16 b&w photos., 1 map.
Pub Date: 11/03/2003
Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce
Price:        $24.95

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Murder and Mayhem

The War of Reconstruction in Texas

By James M. Smallwood, Barry A. Crouch and Larry Peacock

In the states of the former Confederacy, Reconstruction amounted to a second Civil War, one that white southerners were determined to win. An important chapter in that undeclared conflict played out in northeast Texas, in the Corners region where Grayson, Fannin, Hunt, and Collin Counties converged. Part of that violence came to be called the Lee-Peacock Feud, a struggle in which Unionists led by Lewis Peacock and former Confederates led by Bob Lee sought to even old scores, as well as to set the terms of the new South, especially regarding the status of freed slaves. Until recently, the Lee-Peacock violence has been placed squarely within the Lost Cause mythology. This account sets the record straight. For Bob Lee, a Confederate veteran, the new phase of the war began when he refused to release his slaves. When Federal officials came to his farm in July to enforce emancipation, he fought back and finally fled as a fugitive. In the relatively short time left to his life, he claimed personally to have killed at least forty people—civilian and military, Unionists and freedmen. Peacock, a dedicated leader of the Unionist efforts, became his primary target and chief foe. Both men eventually died at the hands of each other’s supporters. From previously untapped sources in the National Archives and other records, the authors have tracked down the details of the Corners violence and the larger issues it reflected, adding to the reinterpretation of Reconstruction history and rescuing from myth events that shaped the following century of Southern politics.

A native Texas, James M. Smallwood recently retired from Oklahoma State University, where he had been a professor of history since 1975. He has also taught at Texas A&M–Commerce, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Seton Hall, and the University of Kyoto, Japan. His 1981 book Time of Hope, Time of Despair: Black Texans during Reconstruction won the Texas Historical Association’s Coral H. Tullis Award for best book of the year on Texas history.

The late Barry A. Crouch was a long-time professor of history at Gallaudet University where he taught U.S. history and history of the South. He is the author of The Freedmen’s Bureau and Black Texans and coauthor of Cullen Montgomery Baker: Reconstruction Desperado, which he wrote with Donaly Brice.

Larry Peacock is a genealogist and historian who lives in Burleson, Texas, and recently retired from WFAA-TV. He owns the Handgun Academy of Burleson and has an avid interest in Texas history, particularly that of the North-Northeast region of the state.

What Readers Are Saying:

Murder and Mayhem may sound like a book for Halloween, but more than one history buff would like this nugget of Texas Reconstruction history right now.” --Victoria Advocate

“These three authors have now made a significant contribution to the literature of the post-Civil War period in Texas with this study, which focuses on what has become known as the Lee-Peacock Feud of the “Four Comers” area of northeast Texas. . . .These three historically minded individuals combining their knowledge and talents could not have been more fortuitous: together they have produced an outstanding study of the period of Reconstruction in Texas.” --Chuck Parsons

“The book presents the history in a well-organized, well-documented way that is hard to refute, no matter how you feel about the period in question. If you believe all of the old stories about Reconstruction this book is bound to cause you some annoyance, perhaps a great deal of consternation, and it will turn your beliefs topsy-turvy on almost every page. If you favor the Northern view of Reconstruction, you will still be forced to rethink some of your presumptions. Anyone who reads this book will Think with a capital T. You cannot help but wonder about this slice of history that has been retold incorrectly so often that the legend has far outstripped the facts. Until now.” --The Cowboy Chronicle

“The important reinterpretation of Reconstruction history sorts out both villains and heroes but lets the reader choose where he’d pin those titles.” --True West

“The book presents a much needed look at this volatile period in Texas’ history that has all too often been supported by myth and prejudice.” --Review of Texas Books

“. . . fills a gap in Texas Reconstruction historiography.” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“. . . by focusing on postwar violence in northeast Texas, the authors help to illuminate the overwhelming odds Republicans faced in maintaining control in the wilder South.” --The Journal of Southern History

“. . . a well-researched account that makes a worthy contribution to the history of both Texas and Reconstruction.” --The Journal of America’s Military Past

“. . . by relying on heretofore neglected materials in the National Archives, including the Freemen’s Bureau Papers and the correspondence of the Fifth Military District’s Office of Civil Affairs, the authors have written a definitive version of this prolonged and grim conflict that killed upwards of two hundred white and black men and women.” --Western Historical Quarterly


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