Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 Commemoration of Great Hanging

The following info about a commemoration for 2011 was posted on The Great Hanging Group facebook page:

Saturday, October 15, 2011 - Georgia Bass Park, Gainesville, TX  ....think the time will be 5pm.


NCTC to commenorate Great Hanging
By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register

Gainesville — Gainesville’s infamous “Great Hanging” of 1862 has long been a subject of commemoration.

And Cooke County organizations have collaborated yet again to spotlight this dark chapter in local history with a ceremony and historical lecture.

A press release said the fifth annual “Bell Ringing in Remembrance of the Great Hanging” is set for 5 p.m. Oct. 15, near the main flagpoles of Gainesville’s North Central Texas College campus. Representatives of the college honors program, plus the Heritage Society of the Morton Museum and the Cooke County Historical Commission, have organized the ceremony.

Scheduled guest speaker is historian Dr. Richard McCaslin, chair of the University of North Texas History Department. He’ll offer a lecture about the hanging at 5:30 p.m. in the Little Theater of NCTC’s 100 Building.

All events are free and open to the public.

The release said McCaslin is a speaker and historian who specializes in the histories of Texas, the Civil War and the Wild West. Among other books and articles, he authored The Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, which won prizes from the Texas State Historical Association and the American Association for State and Local History.

More notably, the historian is a Pulitzer Prize nominee for his book Lee in the Shadow of Washington, which won the Laney Prize and the Statten Award. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, Contemporary Authors, and was elected a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association.

The release quoted NCTC history professor Pat Ledbetter, who said the “Great Hanging” began on Oct. 1, 1862, after the Texas Militia arrested more than 200 suspected Unionists. Vigilantes in Gainesville executed 42 of these men, following convictions on charges of conspiracy to commit treason and fomenting an insurrection.

Gainesville historian Leon Russell had originally spearheaded events to commemorate the hanging. In a Register story about the 2010 ceremony, he discussed the case with visitors.

“Who are these people?” he said about the hanged. “Well, for the most part, they were non-slave owners, with one or two exceptions, and for the most part they were out in the eastern part of the county — and, for the most part, they were grubbing their living out of a little garden spot.

“Most of them would have been subject to the draft, the Confederate draft, and they really didn’t want to go fight the rich man’s war, the planter’s war,” he added. “They left 42 widows and about 170 children.”

Ledbetter said few of the hanged men had actually plotted to insurrect against the Confederacy; many of them were apparently innocent of the charges. But this mattered little to their captors, whose allies also conducted lynchings in nearby counties.

Among this turmoil, Gainesville’s “Great Hanging” reportedly claimed the most lives. Ledbetter added that the hanging shows how the course of the Civil War took shape based on the concerns of 19th Century Southerners.

During the 2010 ceremony, Russell insisted that in life, the “scale of justice” demands balance, even if that balance doesn’t occur until many years later, and in the form of public regret.

“When I first learned of this I thought it was just such a horrible injustice,” Russell said. “And this is a country that’s supposed to have been formed on the basis of justice. What happened to the idea that every man is considered innocent until proven guilty by a competent court by a jury of his peers?

“The people that did it trashed that, and I’m here to speak out against them.”

The Texas State Historical Commission is scheduled to republish a pair of eyewitness accounts of the hanging. Ledbetter said this is because the upcoming commemoration will occur on the eve of its sesquicentennial, which is in 2012.

“Public and academic interest should be strong,” the release quoted her.

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