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The Great Hanging of Gainesville in the Newspapers

Updated: Nov 1

This map, made by Dr. Terry Jordan of the UNT Geography Department in the 1970s, shows how the counties closest to the Red River opposed secession in their 1861 vote.

In 1862, a petition signed by several men in Cooke County circulated that opposed the Confederate Conscription Act of 1862. According to the petition, the draft was unfairly administered and biased against small-holding farmers. The claimants weren't wrong, as slave-holders were actually exempt from fighting.

Those who opposed the draft were accused of being Kansas abolitionists (ala John Brown) or, at the very least, Union sympathizers. This is how the Great Hanging of 1862 occurred: a kangaroo court comprised of mostly slave-owning planters who desired to kill their detractors.

Ultimately, the "panic" against the "Union conspirators" resulted in the hanging of nearly over forty men in Cooke, Grayson, Wise, and Denton counties. In the Great Hanging, southern planters targeted "unionists" in Texas counties along the Red River. These counties, coincidentally, voted against secession. They recognized their reliance on the U.S. government: the federal mail stagecoach (Butterfield), desire of federal fort protection against attacks by native tribes, and their brisk trade with Indian Territory. While the "unionists" in North Texas opposed the state's conscription act, they weren't the only ones doing so. For example, in July of 1862, seven families in Galveston who opposed the draft were hanged for treason after they were found safeguarding a U.S. flag.

It is hard to come by complete facts about the Great Hanging. The lack of surviving newspapers from the Civil War era, specifically in Texas, as well as the editorial slants apparent in reporting the events demonstrate the brutal division between countrymen. These newspaper articles report on the same event -- the Great Hanging in Gainesville, as well as other murders that took place in North Texas, and depending on the location of the newspaper's printing offices, the viewpoint changes.

The Mucatine Weekly (IA) examines the Great Hanging on December 26, 1862.

An English newspaper, the Birmingham Daily Post, reprinted an article from the Texas Republican (Marshall, Texas) about the Great Hanging of 1862 in Cooke County (as well as other counties surrounding Cooke) on December 27, 1862.

Southern Confederacy Newspaper, Atlanta, Georgia, November 20 1862 was merciless.

On December 9, 1862, the Hartford Daily Courant (CT) published a report from Houston Telegraph about the hanging deaths of unionists in Wise, Denton, Cook (SIC) and Grayson Counties.

On December 26, 1862, the Daily News of London, England shared the article by the New York Times about the Great Hanging in Texas.

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