New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Texas Roots of Juneteenth

Major General Gordon Granger, U. S. Army,
who issued General Order No. 3, Galveston Texas, June 19, 1865.

On June 19, 1865, some two months after the Civil War ended, U. S. Army Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 from his new headquarters in Galveston, Texas.
“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 an 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.”
The text was recorded by the Assistant Adjutant General Major F. W. Emery, and bound in a record book of general orders issued by the U. S. Army. That record book is now housed in the National Archives, and the original handwritten copy was digitized by the National Archives in 2020, and made available to the public online at
That scan is interesting. General Order No. 3 starts on the bottom of one page, and continues on the next. In typical government fashion, it takes something incredibly significant -- freeing all of the slaves in Texas -- and places it on two pages, among routine orders issued by an Army general.

Page 1, Click to enlarge
Page 2, Click to enlarge

Though Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation over two years earlier, his proclamation freed slaves only in the states of the Confederacy. Since the Confederate states were in open rebellion against the United States, there was no way to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation until Union troops advanced through the southern states.
Texas, because of its distance from most of the battles of the Civil War, was the last of the states to end the institution of slavery, because it was the last state for the Union Army to enter and set up headquarters.  Indeed, though the Civil War ended in April, 1865 – the last battle of the war was in May, 1865, at Palmito Ranch, at the very southern tip of Texas, along a bend of the Rio Grande River, in Cameron County..
General Order No. 3 was issued on June 19th, and the date was shortened into a new word: “Juneteenth,” and celebrated under that name and “Emancipation Day,” or “Freedom Day.” In 2021, Juneteenth was made a national holiday. Its origins, though, are in Texas.
The earliest record of General Order No. 3 I can find was published in Texas was in the Galveston Daily News on June 21, 1865. That issue also printed General Orders No. 1-5. General Order No. 1 had General Granger assuming command of all troops in Texas; General Order No. 2 announced the staff of the District of Texas; General Order No. 3 freed the slaves; General Order No. 4 declared the governor and legislature illegitimate; General Order No. 5 directed all cotton to be turned into the Quartermaster’s Department, ‘for shipment to New Orleans.’
There’s no way to tell when the news of emancipation arrived in Kerr County, or when the slaves held here were finally freed. No newspapers served Kerrville at the time; the entire county only had 634 people in 1860, and 49 of those were slaves. The online newspaper research service I use has no local or nearby newspapers from June 1865 on file.
The first mention of “Juneteenth” in local newspapers came on June 19, 1941, when it was mentioned in Mrs. W. A. Salter’s column, “It Happened Here,” in her newspaper, the Kerrville Mountain Sun. She reported Kerrville’s Juneteenth celebration that year would feature patriotic speeches and a big barbecue.
This year, at the Doyle Community Center pavilion, Juneteenth is being celebrated, in part, with a Blues Fest, from 4-8 pm. There will be food and beverage booths, and activities for the kids. For more information about Blues Fest 2022, please call 257-4446.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes all the fathers in Kerr County a very happy Father’s Day! This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 18, 2022.

Though this newsletter is free, it isn't cheap. You can help by sharing it with someone, by forwarding it by email, or sharing it on Facebook. Sharing is certainly caring. (I also have two Kerr County history books available online, with free shipping!)


  1. Hilarious that the "freedmen's" liberators left telltale indications of equal bigotry as that of their former "masters" (curtailment of civil liberties: "they will not be allowed to collect at military posts", assumption of their laziness "they will not be supported in idleness . . . " and with a dose of patronization "The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes . . ."). Of course their 'liberators' reneged on the promises of equality, trading the enforcement of these pronouncements for political gains. This is an example of why the north fought, not for ending slavery but for their own financial gains, just as the south enslaved Africans, not because they truly believed African inferiority but for their own financial gains.

  2. How has it come to be that only two percent of the Kerrville population is black? Highly unusual.


Please remember this is a rated "family" blog. Anything worse than a "PG" rated comment will not be posted. Grandmas and their grandkids read this, so please, be considerate.



Related Posts with Thumbnails