Civil War Scoundrels and the Texas Cotton Trade


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About the Book

During the Civil War, scoundrels from both the Union and Confederate sides were able to execute illicit, but ingenious, schemes to acquire Texas cotton. Texas was the only Confederate state that bordered a neutral country, it was never forcibly conquered, and its coast was impossible to effectively blockade.
Using little known contemporary sources, this story reveals how charlatans exploited these conditions to run the blockade, import machinery and weapons, and defraud the state’s most prominent political, military and civilian leaders in the process. Best known for his role in the romantic entanglements of his co-conspirator William Sprague, Harris Hoyt stands out due to his sharp intellect and fascinating character. Hoyt was able to draw most of Abraham Lincoln’s inner circle into his web of deceit and even influenced the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. This is the first account to expose the depth and breadth of the many Texas cotton trading scams and the sheer audacity of the shadowy men who profited from them, but managed to escape the gallows.

About the Author(s)

Walter E. Wilson, a retired Navy Captain and former head of U.S. Naval Intelligence operations in Europe, has authored numerous articles and reviews.

Bibliographic Details

Walter E. Wilson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 223
Bibliographic Info: 12 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8127-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4038-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
1—The Texas Cotton Trade 7
2—Civil War Blockade Running: Setting Up the Scheme 21
3—Winning the White House: Telling a Texas Tall Tale 31
4—The Texas Adventure Fleet: A Sinking Start 44
5—Hot, Dirty, and Full of Fleas: At the Rio Grande 66
6—Double Dealing Cotton in Texas 79
7—Escape from Texas 97
8—Deceived and Swindled from New York to Matamoros 113
9—Aiding the Enemy without Conviction 125
10—Post-War Scoundrels Reconstructed and Resurrected 133
11—Conclusion 147
Appendix 1—Scoundrels and a Few Others 149
Appendix 2—Sails, Steamers, and the Texas Cotton Trade 167
Chapter Notes 179
Bibliography 203
Index 209

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Civil War Scoundrels and the Texas Cotton Trade is a masterful and meticulously wrought account of frontier grifter Harris Hoyt’s Texas adventure, a sprawling Civil War swindle featuring a motley cohort of scamsters and crooked public officials.”—Stephen G. Michaud, author of Dark Dreams and The Only Living Witness