Book Review: Edmund J. Davis of Texas: Civil War General, Republican Leader, Reconstruction Governor


by Carl H. Moneyhon

Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2010. Pp. xiv, 338. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $27.95. ISBN: 0875654053

A native Southerner, at the onset of the Civil War Edmund J. Davis ( 1827-1883) , a successful attorney and Democratic politician in ante bellum Texas, a neutral on slavery, but an opponent of secession, would side with the Union, rising to brigadier general, and later during Reconstruction becoming a major player in Republican politics and for a time governor of Texas, amid great controversy, yet remaining well-regarded and even respected by his political opponents, yet until now has never had a proper biography.
Prof. Moneyhon (Arkansas at Little Rock), a specialist in Reconstruction Texas, does a very fine job of restoring Davis to his proper place in history, after nearly 150 years of being marginalized and even vilified by advocates of the “Lost Cause.”   He marshals considerable evidence to demonstrate that Davis’ staunch Unionism, and his later support for Reconstruction, were rooted in nineteenth century progressive thought on the rights of the common man, the duties of government, and, ultimately, even racial equality before the law.  Moneyhon’s focus is primarily on political outlook and career.  Nevertheless, he does provide an adequate account the man’s military experiences, from raising and commanding the 1st Texas Cavalry from among Unionist refugees of the Lone Star state, through his brief service as a brigadier general, culminating in his presence at the surrender of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi commander Edmund Kirby Smith.  Of particular value is Moneyhon’s account of the tumultuous events in Texas during the “Secession Winter” and Davis’ role in them.

A volume in the TCU Press “Texas Biography Series”, Edmund J. Davis will prove rewarding reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in the Civil War.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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