Robbery--And a Texas Giveaway
by Susan Page DavisImmediately after the Civil War, Texas was in chaos. This was at least partly due to the hasty disbanding of the Confederate army at the end of the war. There were 60,000 troops in Texas in the spring of 1865. Morale was horrible. Many Confederate soldiers deserted and plundered. Soldiers pillaged the quartermaster’s stores in Galveston in late May and plundered a train. A mob demanded that a government warehouse be opened to them, and a blockade-running ship was overrun by civilians. Troops sent to calm the mob joined in the plunder. Other episodes of rioting and stealing exploded across Texas.
When word reached Austin that the Confederate forces had surrendered to Grant, the Texas legislature couldn’t raise enough members to repeal the secession ordinance. Rather than stay and face the uncertainty of their status under the Reconstruction government, Governor Pendleton Murrah and several other Confederate officials fled into Mexico. Most other state officials were removed from office. Union occupation troops were on the way, and Texas temporarily was denied readmission to the Union.
During this time of disorganization and fear, violence continued. Mobs and bands of outlaws terrorized towns. In the capital, Austin, citizens got together in an attempt to protect the people and their property.
Captain George R. Freeman, a Confederate veteran, organized a small company of volunteers in May, 1865, to protect the state capital until the Union army could get there. A mob had taken control of the streets, plundering stores and causing riots and general havoc.
Freeman’s volunteers restored a measure of peace, and they then disbanded, agreeing to gather again if needed. A church bell would sound the alarm if necessary.
On the night of June 11, Freeman was informed that a gang planned to rob the state treasury. The bell tolled, and about twenty of the volunteers gathered at the Christian Church on the south end of Congress Avenue. Some of them came directly from church services.
By the time the volunteers arrived at the treasury building, the estimated fifty robbers of the gang were already inside, breaking into the safes. A brief gun battle broke out. One of the robbers was gravely wounded. Freeman was shot in the arm.
The thieves got away with more than $17,000 in specie, that is, in gold and silver coins. That’s a lot of weight to carry! A later audit report stated that a total of $27,525 in specie had been located in the treasury at the time of the robbery, as well as $800 in Louisiana bank bills. Several million dollars of U.S. bonds and other securities were also in the vault, but the robbers didn’t take them. One package of bond coupons was recovered from the floor after apparently being dropped by a fleeing member of the gang.
Before he died, the wounded robber told the outnumbered volunteers that the leader of the gang was “Captain Rapp,” but this man was never caught. No other members of the gang were ever captured, and the loot was not recovered, though some money was found outside, between the treasury building and Mount Bonnell.
Captain Freeman and his company of volunteers were later recognized by the state for their service, but the resolution providing a reward for them never passed the legislature.
In 2009, Freeman was honored by a historical marker placed at his former home in Hamilton, where he later practiced law. He is credited with interrupting the robbery and preventing the bankruptcy of Texas. He had served prior to this incident as a Confederate officer, as captain of Company D, Twenty-third Texas Cavalry.
Federal troops arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865, and it took a while to restore order.
Ex-Confederates were granted amnesty if they promised to support the Union in the future, but it wasn’t until March 30, 1870 that Texas’s representatives were once again allowed to take their seats in Congress.
If you would like to enter the drawing for a copy of one of my Texas books, leave a comment below. The winner can choose either Captive Trail or Cowgirl Trail.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than fifty published novels. A history major, she’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com .
Loved the information in your post, Susan. And I thought looting during a crisis was more a modern thing.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Debbie Lynne! The more I read about post-war Texas, the worse I realized it was then. Talk about wild and woolly!Delete
Hi Susan! I have lived in Texas my whole life so it is especially interesting to read these wonderful Texas facts. Thank you for this very interesting post and for the giveaway.ReplyDelete
mauback55 at gmail dot com
Being a native New Englander, I was a bit shocked to learn how long some of the southern states were disenfranchised. I've studied Reconstruction before, but they don't teach us these things in school.Delete
Hi Susan, thank you for an interesting post. It's especially timely since Texas now has a mob of a different sort to contend with.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Margaret! Yes, it seems Texas has never been without turmoil.Delete
I love hearing stories of people who stand up and make a difference. I'm glad Captain Freeman finally got honored for what he did. I wonder how different history might have been if he and those other men hadn't taken a stand that night to protect the treasury.ReplyDelete
Oh, I know it. For one thing, they said Texas would have been bankrupt if all the securities and bonds were taken too. And to go up against 50 outlaws--I was surprised how big the gang was.Delete
What a frightening time to live in Texas! I don't think it was as wild in other Southern states, but it wasn't a pleasant time either. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a mob. We need more men like Captain Freeman today.ReplyDelete
I think Texas was a magnet for people who did want to be restricted by law at the time. I know the whole west was wild, but in the five years after the war ended, I'm convinced Texas was about the worst and most dangerous.Delete
I love hearing about these type of stories - they aren't in your normal history books and are so interesting - thanks for the interesting post. Truckredford (at) gmail dot comReplyDelete
We learned about Carpetbaggers and the various plans for Reconstruction, but not the real life difficulties the men and women of the day were facing.Delete
What fascinating history; I had no idea! Thank you so much for sharing this Texas history and the opportunity to win a copy of one of your Texas books.ReplyDelete
texaggs2000 at gmail dot com
Thanks, Britney. I have several books about Texas on my research shelves, but I also love the Handbook of Texas Online website and the Texas History Timeline. Some people have put a lot of work into those sites.Delete
This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing. Love hearing these stories and how they turned out. Was the loot ever found? Would love to win a copy of one of your books!!ReplyDelete
tscmshupe at pemtel dot net
The loot was never recovered, except for a few bits they dropped during their escape.ReplyDelete
Any speculation on what happened to it?Delete
I haven't found any in my research. I expect they split it up and spent it.Delete
I would LOVE to read one of your books!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Connie! Glad to have you here.Delete
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I just can't believe how long it to for Texas to be included in Congress again! But seeing as how the didn't have the Internet, email and free long distance cell service, things did seem to take a bit longer to get done.ReplyDelete
Thanks for such a fascinating post and a chance to win one of your Texas trails' books!
kam110476 at gmail dot com
I'm sure slow communications had a lot to do with things like that. I think about that a lot--and how good we have it today!ReplyDelete
Susan, you ladies are such great teachers of History for us. Always learn something new when i read these post. Don't you believe that there were many people who searched for the the treasure throughout the years? I would love the treasure of winning one of your good books.. Thanks for this give-away.Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <ReplyDelete
Well, in this case, I think the robbers made off with it, so I don't think it's buried out there somewhere. But yeah, there might be people out around Mount Bonnell with metal detectors hoping to find a coin or two.ReplyDelete
So that map of Texas sure doesn't look like Texas today! That was a lot of land to patrol for Texas Rangers- if they existed or did they just use the army? I'd love to win and read either of those 2 books mentioned. I've read one book in the Trail series and loved it. sharon wileygreen1 AT yahoo DOT comReplyDelete
That particular map shows the forts manned during the Civil War. I believe the Texas Rangers were active during the Civil War, but were disbanded for a while afterward by the U.S. authorities.ReplyDelete
And the winner is Maxie! Thank you all for taking part.ReplyDelete