An inferno of anxiety: How narratives surrounding the North Texas fires of 1860 ignited paranoia and distrust in Texas prior to secession

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May 2023
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Abstract

The purpose of this thesis was to examine the impact of the 1860 North Texas fires on Texas’ decision to secede. This research project looks at the various factors of these events. Chapter one looks at the environment of North Texas and how the dry conditions combined with white settlement practices created conditions that helped the summer fires spread. This chapter also analyzes Donald E. Reynolds’ prairie match, which claims that the North Texas fires of 1860 were caused by matches combusting from the summer heat. Chapter two looks at the animosity Texans had against northerners. A specific focus of this section is Texans’ assumption that all northerners were abolitionists who wanted to harm southerners and take away their slaves. The third chapter analyzes Texas coverage of the North Texas fires and how the narratives were manipulated to accuse abolitionists of setting fires across the region. The chapter also introduces how other southern states influenced Texas to secede during the state convention of 1861.

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History, United States
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