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The darkness descended on Boerne

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The topic in town in early 1861 was called Secession. Just a few weeks before, few knew what the term meant.

Now it was said that some of the southern states had already done this thing. They had seceded from the United States. It was being said the new President Abraham Lincoln was the cause of all this.

It was also being said that the State of Texas was now going to leave the Union. Can this be true – the town’s people were asking? Can we just leave the United States? Why would we do that?

Those with knowledge in town and travelers said that State Representatives at the Capital in Austin were already voting to secede from the United States.

Texas would then become a Republic again or perhaps join with some of the other Southern States that had already left the Union to form a new country. People asked each other what new country that was.

Anyway the local citizens didn’t like it. If this happened the US Military would leave. If they left who would keep the wild Indians from robbing and killing us?

The State Rangers hadn’t been able to control them. More important to the merchants was that when the federals came through town they spent hard money – silver and gold coins.

Likewise those teamsters who came through here several times a week working for the military also spent hard money for feed and such when they stopped here.

It was all so confusing to the citizens of Boerne. Surely this would not happen, could our State Government really do this?

On Feb. 15, 1861, word got around really quick. A federal officer by the name of Robert E. Lee had spent last night with John O’Grady at his new “Kendall” Inn. This colonel was an old friend of O’Grady’s.

John had learned that the federals were most probably going to leave the state because of this secession. John told his friends at the store-trading post downtown that there was bad trouble coming if Texas did leave the Union. Col. Lee had said he was being recalled to Washington City by the federal commanding general to talk about this problem.

Before the month ended those Austin politicians did vote to secede and Boerne would never be the same. By April a war was started over in South Carolina.

It was now the South versus the North, people were saying. The New South now consisted of seven southern states and they called this new union the Confederate States of America.

Eleven Southern States finally made up this new country.

It didn’t take very long for the stages to stop coming through, then the teamsters quit the trail, the travelers disappeared, all federal soldiers came through riding south after abandoning the frontier forts, trade and other goods disappeared.

Then those new state troops came to town. They took what they wanted without paying for it or at best giving a signed worthless receipt on just scrap paper.

These troopers started arresting anyone who spoke kindly of the United State and took them to San Antonio to stand trial. They never returned.

Few realized that it would be more than four years before life got back to somewhat peaceful times in little Boerne. Then after that there were yet four more years of an even worse economic times to live through called the Reconstruction.

Ed Mergele holds a PhD in history and is historian for the local VFW Post 688.