Texas Secession Cockades

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Nothing is simple in history, including the secession of Texas. The second secession, that is.

People often assume that all of the Southern states seceded from the Union for the same reason: They wanted to keep slavery legal. While the question of slavery definitely played a role in every state's secession, there were a host of other complex issues involved as well. And some of them include fascinating stories. Which brings us back to Texas.

Robbers, Rangers and Tigers

In 1859 Juan Cortina, nicknamed the "Red Robber of the Rio Grande," raided and occupied Brownsville, Texas. His reason? Reprisals for supposed persecutions of Mexicans by Americans.

When Texas seceded (the first time) from Mexico, land ownership became a controversial issue. Did Mexicans who happened to wind up inside the (hotly contested) lines of the newly formed republic still own their land? Or did it now belong to Texas citizens?

When Texas joined the United States as the 28th state, the problem didn't clear up.  Poor Mexicans and Texans claimed they were being legally harassed out of their land by rich Texans. Border raids and violence between the factions raged. If you think there are bad race relations between Mexicans and Americans now, just imagine what it was like when there was a disputed border and little Federal Government out in the "Wild West!"

So what happened to Brownsville? Though Cortina was talked into leaving the town, Brownsville residents organized the "Brownsville Tigers" to counter Cortina's 40-80 man army and stop his border raids. But they were no match for Cortina. It wasn't until the Texas Rangers got involved (and on their second attempt, at that!) that he was temporarily defeated and sent back to Mexico.

"Texas Troubles"

Just about the time things settled down on the border, the summer of 1860 brought the "Texas Troubles."  Fires suddenly broke out and destroyed large portions of Dallas, Denton and Pilot Point. At the time, there were widespread fears that these fires were part of an abolitionist plot to bring destruction and insurrection to Texas. Lincoln's election only confirmed their fears that abolitionists were shortly going to wreck the state.

And so we come to one of the main reasons (besides slavery and states rights) for Texas' secession: They felt they could handle protecting their state much better than the United States Federal Government.

Big and Bright: Cockades of Texas

Of course, the part that interests me is the cockades! Texas secessionists wore both blue and red cockades. Many descriptions of Texas cockades carry the unifying symbol of the Lone Star in the center.

For instance, the Indianola Courier said, "We have observed, for a few days past, a number of blue cockades, surmounted by metalic five-pointed stars, worn on the hats or coats, of many of our citizens.

"The cockade is the badge common to the citizens of the Southern States.  The star is peculiar to Texians.  The combination of the two emblems seems particularly appropriate to the times.  Doubtless this badge will be adopted through Texas by those favoring resistance by State action to the principles of the Black Republican party. "

The Dallas Herald noted, "Many of our citizens appear on the streets of Dallas wearing the cockade of our national colors, blue ribbon with a golden star.  Some wear cockades of red.  An aged farmer said in our presence that 'he wanted to wear it over his heart and in front, that all the world might see it and know his position.'  He would wear it with more pride than the 'Cross of the Legion of Honor.'"

Even moderates apparently wore the cockade. The Harrison Flag observed, "We are favored with a visit at our office by Mr. Douglas, associate editor of the Tyler Reporter, on Thursday last, on his return from a tour, taking New Orleans in his route.  He sports the cockade, thought to be an ultra secession insignia but notwithstanding, he sounds quite conservative in conversation on the ongoing question—advises deliberation."

Gideon Lincecum was an illustrious man of many talents who moved to Texas before the war. He wrote on December 3, 1860, “Mass meetings, conventions, and minute men is all the go. Lone Star flags and blue cockades are fluttering to every breeze and glittering on every hat, as well as on the breast of many of our patriotic ladies.”