The Texas Hill Country – an area comprising the rolling hills of Central Texas, and towns like Burnet and Fredericksburg – saw its share of violence during the Civil War era. But these weren’t battles fought between the the Union and the Confederacy; they were smaller-scale, but no less violent, struggles between people who lived on the land they claimed as their own.
Nicholas Keefauver Roland is a historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., and the author of “Violence in the Hill Country: The Texas Frontier in the Civil War Era.”
Roland says several groups were involved in violence, roughly between the 1840s and the period immediately after the Civil War. Native Americans raided Hill Country settlers, and the settlers – some of whom had Union sympathies, even as they lived in a Confederate state – fought against one another.
“Neither side could really control the region,” Roland says. “What develops is this ambiguity over who’s really in charge, and local people are basically left to sort this out for themselves.”
Roland says some 80 people died in the Hill Country during the lawless period, in an area with a population of some 15,000 people.
The Texas Hill Country was part of Comancheria, a large region occupied by Comanche natives long before settlement by whites. It was also near territories of other Native American groups, including the Lipan Apaches, as well as territories of groups in present-day northern Mexico.
These groups had “raiding-trading” economies, Roland said, and their pursuit of financial gain would sometimes include the killing of settlers. As a result, Anglo Texans sought to eradicate the Native Texans.
“The settlers saw this as tantamount to war,” Roland said. “And so they called for, essentially, removal of Indians from Texas, if not, outright extinction.”
Violence among the Anglo settlers, on the other hand, subsided somewhat after the Civil War, Roland says.
Listen to the full interview with the author in the audio player above.