Monday, June 18, 2012

Galveston Research Summary #18 - Happy Juneteenth!

"We's free now."
"What makes you free?"
"Yankees come down on ships on the outside to free us"

(Recollection of Maj. H. A. Wallace, CSA, upon meeting newly freed slaves in Galveston)

Photo by James M. Schmidt
June 19, 2012, marks the annual anniversary of "Juneteenth" - a day that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, on June 19, 1865. 

The holiday has special meaning for Galveston as it is the "home" of Juneteenth!

This past weekend (on Sunday, June 17) I had the great pleasure of seeing Edward T. Cotham, Jr., give a presentation on "The General Behind Juneteenth":

It has become one of the most important symbols of the end of the Civil War and the coming of Emancipation. But what do we really know about the events that shaped it? On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger issued General Orders No. 3 from his headquarters in Galveston. Granger’s order confirmed that the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect in Texas. Celebrated today as the origin of the “Juneteenth” festivities, General Granger’s June 19 order was actually the result of a long chain of political and military events involving the battles and leaders of the Civil War. In his multi-media presentation, Ed Cotham will describe the events that led to General Granger’s arrival in Galveston, the issuance of the Juneteenth order, and the reaction to that order.

As with all of Mr. Cotham's presentations (I have seen several now), it was EXCELLENT!


As he pointed out:


Library of Congress
On Jan. 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. But the order was meaningless until it could be enforced.  On June 19, 1865 — after the Confederacy had been defeated and Union troops landed in Galveston — that the slaves in Texas were told they were free by virtue of Gen. Granger's "General Orders No. 3":


    Headquarters, District of Texas
    Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865

    General Orders, No. 3

    The people are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

    By order of
    Major-General Granger
    F. W. Emery, Maj. & A. . G.


On Granger's orders, the notice was printed in newspapers throughout the state, and Mr. Cotham related several firsthand accounts of ex-slaves who remembered hearing the news.

As always, Galvestonians are celebrating the holiday and you can see a description of some of the festivities here.

But Juneteenth celebrations are not limited to Galveston! Dozens of states (and several foreign countries) also observe Juneteenth!

Andy Hall - at his excellent "Dead Confederates" blog - has an equally excellent post on Juneteenth and Galveston here.


This post features photographs of:

Galveston's "Juneteenth" monument (dedicated in 2006, the the statue has engendered some controversy; the state has recently announced the formation of a new Juneteenth commission so that a proper and historically accurate monument can be installed on the capital grounds in Austin).

Gen. Gordon Granger

Ashton Villa (local tradition has this wartime home in Galveston as the site of the reading of General Orders No. 3 on June 19, 1865, but most historians hae oncluded that there is little direct evidence of this).


Photo by James M. Schmidt

1 comment:

Mark Noce said...

Wow! Very cool:) Looks like I need to take a trip down there and see these things for myself:)