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Civil War and Reconstruction
Reconstruction and Rights
Southern Treatment by the Federal Government

Sarah Ann Pringle was born in Mississippi in 1845. She moved to Texas with her family right after the Civil War. In this interview, which took place in the late 1930s, Sarah Ann Pringle recalls some of the events that occurred during Reconstruction. What is her attitude toward white Southerners and their treatment by the federal government? What do you think accounts for her views? Would people with different views agree with her conclusions about "peace" in the South? Why or why not?

View the entire interview from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


"When we came to Texas following the close of the war, the state was going...thro' the reconstruction period. The state was under military rule and Pease was Governor. Congress passed a law that every white man in the South must take an oath whether he had held any state or Federal office before the war and if later he had aided the cause of the Confederacy. Those who had done these things were disqualified as voters in the election's. This naturally barred most of the leading white citizens of the state. This gave the negro the right to vote and hold office. . . . the effect was [to?] [place?] the government in the hand of what we called the "carpetbaggers" [white?] men from the North and the freed negroes. . . .

"In the campaign of 1873 when Richard Coke of Waco ran against Davis we had some real exciting times. I remember when my brothers went to Marlin to vote. The white men from all over the voting box were instructed to come armed and to vote, if necessary, at the point of the gun's. The Judge of the election was a white man he calls the "carpet-bagger Judge", he had been ..lectioneering to the negroes all up and down the Brazos bottom and they came in droves on election day.

"The white men also came in droves and if any of them came unarmed they were furnished something to . . . shoot . . . with and were told if they were refuse the privilige of voting, to commence shooting. Some man decided to try shooting to scare the negroes off and so he started shooting, I think, on the Court House lawn. When the negroes heard this they piled into their wagons and buggies and left town. Then the white men went ahead and had their vote. I remember that we were so uneasy about my brothers when they did not return that night, we were afraid there had been some trouble, but when day break came they returned and said they had to stay to celebrate the victory at the polls. . . .

"I remember an amusing anecdote about Gov. Cokes campaign. Once when he was making a speech I heard him tell this story. He compared the days of reconstruction and the war between the states to a fight between two goats, [one?] was a big goat and the other a little one. "The big goat kept eating the little one up until there was nothing left but the little goats tail, but the little goats tail just kept right on wagging. So it was with the South, it kept right on fighting as long as there was anything to fight with and now in the days of reconstruction, [pease?] God, they would still fight on for their rights.

"From the time Governor Richard Coke took the office of Governor, and the rangers were doing their part under Captain Ross, things began to change and gradually times became normal. The negro soldiers and guards were done away with, and once more when the white men who had fought for their state rights, as they [s?] it, were given back their citizenship peace decended upon us."
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View the entire interview from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.