November 1861: "That it should be impressed upon Govt to make its next demonstration upon the coast of Texas..."By Liz Francis, Intern
Letter from Horatio Woodman to John A. Andrew (copy), 15 November 1861
In this four-page letter dated 15 November 1861, Boston lawyer Horatio Woodman aims to convince Massachusetts governor John A. Andrew that the Union army must capture Texas in order to end the Confederate rebellion.
Horatio Woodman (1821-1879) lived in Buxton, Maine, before moving to Boston as a young man to study and practice law. As editor of the Boston Evening Transcript, he became known for his essays on the Civil War, but his more lasting legacy was as a “genius broker” who brought together Boston’s intellectual elite to create organizations such as the Saturday Club.
The Saturday Club met for the first time in April 1857 at the Parker House hotel on Tremont Street with the intention of establishing a monthly literary magazine. The Atlantic Monthly’s first issue appeared just seven months later. Two of the magazine’s early aims were to promote New England authors, including women, and to provide a broader platform for antislavery essays than abolitionist newspapers could provide. Early members of the Saturday Club included writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Edwin Percy Whipple, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The group also included lawyers, politicians, and other notables such as physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, mathematician Benjamin Peirce, and scientists Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz. By 1861, the Atlantic Monthly’s circulation had reached over 30,000, with articles covering a wide range of topics including politics, science, and the arts in addition to literature.
In this letter to Governor Andrew, Woodman insists that Texas is “the state easiest to take and hold, with larger public consequences than any other, if held.” Specifically, he suggests that occupying Texas will prevent the southern rebellion from spreading, and that freeing Texan slaves will win international support for the Union cause. Texas had been annexed by the United States only sixteen years earlier, and by the outbreak of the war the state’s economy was largely dependent on slave labor. Three-quarters of Texas voters chose secession, but some of the Union’s most passionate supporters were German Texans, who had convened in 1854 to condemn slavery and call for abolition. In the letter Woodman outlines a plan to populate Texas with a second wave of European immigrants who, alongside the Germans currently living there, would demonstrate to the world that it was possible to produce cotton without slavery.
Governor Andrew's reaction to Woodman's proposal is unknown. Federal troops did attempt to blockade the port at Galveston and to occupy that and other coastal cities, but these attempts met limited success. It is known that Woodman continued his correspondence with Governor Andrew, as well as with Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner, offering military advice and discussing the war’s coverage in the Boston Evening Transcript. After the war, Woodman suffered a series of financial losses. In 1879, following an unsuccessful business meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, he disappeared from a steamboat and was presumed dead.
The Horatio Woodman Papers, 1843-1899, held by the MHS, contain primarily correspondence with other lawyers, writers, and members of the Saturday Club, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. The collection includes additional letters discussing the Civil War with Governor Andrew and Charles Sumner.
Emerson, Edward Waldo. Early Years of the Saturday Club, 1855–1870. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1918.