General Gordon Granger’s General Order Number 3 Announced the End of Slavery in Texas

Gen. Gordon Granger

The Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1st, 1863, declared that anyone held as a slave in the rebellious states of the Confederacy “are, and henceforward shall be free”. Enforcement of the proclamation was essentially impossible until U.S. authority returned to the areas under Confederate control. This was especially true in Texas, where U.S. forces held only small amounts of coastal territory at various times throughout the war. That came to an end on June 2nd, 1865, when General Edmund Kirby Smith signed an agreement surrendering Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department, the final Rebel department to surrender.

On June 19th, Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, with Federal troops to reestablish U.S. control in the state. Granger immediately issued some orders, one of which was General Orders Number 3, announcing that slavery had ended with the Emancipation Proclamation and all slaves were free:

GENERAL ORDERS No. 3.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS,
Galveston, Tex., June 19, 1865.

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves all absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

By order of Major-General Granger:

F. W. EMERY,
Major and Assistant Adjutant-General.

Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had been in effect for two and a half years, the news hadn’t reached the slaves in Texas (plantation owners certainly weren’t going to tell them) so it touched off a big celebration among the formerly enslaved. It took a while for all the slaves in the huge state to get the word, but June 19th was the beginning. The date of Granger’s General Order Number 3 was the basis of the Juneteenth celebration commemorating the announcement of the end of slavery.

Five Generations of Slaves, Beaufort SC

Granger also issued General Orders Number 4, which put an end to whatever Confederate authority remained in Texas:

GENERAL ORDERS No. 4.

HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS,
Galveston, Tex., June 19, 1865.

All acts of the governor and legislature of Texas since the ordinance of secession are hereby declared illegitimate. All civil and military officers and agents of the so-called Confederate States Government, or of the State of Texas, and all persons formerly connected with the C. S. Army in Texas, will at once report for parole at one of the following places, or such others as may be designated hereafter, to the proper U.S. officers to be appointed: Houston, Galveston, Bonham, San Antonio, Marshall, and Brownsville. Although their long absence from their homes and the peculiar circumstances of their State may palliate their desertion from their organizations, this order will be strictly and promptly complied with. The above-mentioned and all other persons having in their possession public property of any description whatever, as arms, horses, munitions, &c., formerly belonging to the so-called Confederate States or State of Texas, will immediately deliver it to the proper U.S. officer at the nearest of above-mentioned places. When they cannot carry it, and have not the means of transporting it, they will make to the same officer a full report of its character, quantity, location, security, &c. All persons not complying promptly with this order will be arrested as prisoners of war, sent North for imprisonment, and their property forfeited. All lawless persons committing acts of violence, such as banditti, guerrillas, jayhawkers, horse-thieves, &c., are hereby declared outlaws and enemies of the human race, and will be dealt with accordingly.

By order of Major-General Granger:

F. W. EMERY,
Major and Assistant Adjutant-General.

As the last Confederate troops surrendered, U.S. control of Texas was restored. Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on December 6th, 1865, abolished slavery everywhere in the United States. The issue of slavery, which had festered in the United States since its founding, had finally been settled constitutionally.

Sources:

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XLVIII, Part 2

Out of the Storm: The End of the Civil War, April-June 1865 by Noah Andre Trudeau


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