Looters Pick Texas Clean After Civil War

TEXAS History

Even as he issued an order on May 25, 1865 for all county sheriffs to protect state and Confederate property, Gov. Pendleton Murrah feared there was no stopping looting in the post-Civil War chaos.

When news of Robert E. Lee’s surrender reached eastern Texas by word of mouth in late April 1865, soldiers started to desert in droves. Gen. Magruder, the Galveston commander, reported on the 29th that scores of demoralized troops were disappearing every night.

The evacuation of the island on May 21 set off an unruly stampede as the last traces of military discipline evaporated. Hundreds of soldiers, most carrying weapons, streamed inland in an ugly mood.

The mayor of Houston made frantic preparations to pacify the uninvited guests but found that his free feast only whetted their appetite. A mixed mob of former fighters and opportunistic civilians picked the Confederate arsenal and clothing warehouse clean. When latecomers from the Galveston garrison threatened to torch the town unless they received a share, local looters gave up their ill-gotten gains.


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Fayette County Record

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