Rev. J. W. Connelly was a minister who wrote extensively under the name "Old Choc" for the Trenton News.
After settling in Kentuckytown in Grayson County, in 1856 he taught in the Choctaw Nation. In 1861 he entered the Confederate Army and was made captain of the Choctaw company. In 1863 he was captured and sent to a prison at Johnson Island, where he remained in confinement as a prisoner of war for more than eighteen months before he was exchanged. He came back to Fannin county about the first of Jan’y, 1865. After the close of the war he remained in Fannin county and for some time was pastor of the Baptist church in Bonham, and also probably taught school for a while. He also purchased a tract of land near Trenton and resided there.
In 1907 two of his articles on the Civil War were published in the Honey Grove Signal. You can read the articles for February 8, 1907 and March 8, 1907 at the Portal to Texas History. They are transcribed below.
There were likely other articles in this series, but we have not yet located them.
In 1862 the war had assumed vaster proportions than had been expected by either the South or the North. Lincoln no longer believed.that he could “suppress the rebellion in ninety days." He had to contend against an enemy of 75,000 men, representing the best of southern manhood, who had pledged their fortunes and their lives to the cause of Dixie. Furious secessionists, who, just previous to the outbreak of hostilities, declared there would be no war—that they would drink all the blood that would be shed in the establishment of the Confederate government, had come to a different conclusion. But, though they had urged their neighbors to engage in the conflict, they did little to help them out of it; like the impatient warhorse they sniffed the battle from afar, but never drew nigh to it.
When the war began to roil its crimson tide over the land and the conscript law was enacted, they concluded that they could serve their country better in the quiet pursuits of life than on the field of battle. Mechanics, who had laid aside their tools for years, took them up again; millers repaired their old mills and put them in operation; retired physicians resumed their practice; school teachers were numerous, and some "As thieves of old to avoid the battle, took refuge in the altar.”
But there were many thousand of men on either aide rushing against each other with the utmost conceivable fury, crimsoning the battlefields with blood and filling the north and the south with widowhood, orphanage and misery; and each side, through their thousand churches, appealing to God in attestation of the righteousness of their cause.
I was teaching school on the beautiful Blue in the Choctaw Nation, was exempt from military duty and was perfectly contented. I was opposed to secession, but I dreaded that doctrine which asserted the undefined and unlimited power of the federal government to use its military force against the states. So I felt it my duty to follow the fortunes of the Confederate states and share with them the fate of the conflict. Accordingly I dismissed my school, contrary to the wishes of my patrons, mounted my horse and hastened to Little Rock. I met a great many men from the different regiments, who had been discharged under the conscript law and were joyfully returning home; but I found great dissatisfaction among those who were retained in the service by that law. They considered it partial, unjust and evil in its tendency. The law provided that if a man owned twenty negroes or a thousand head of cattle, but had no family, he was exempted from military duty. But a man who owned no negroes or cattle, though he had a large and helpless family, was compelled to enlist in the army. This gave rise to the saying, "It is a rich man’s fight.”
Of the conscript law Alexander B. Stephens says: It plainly violated not only the spirit but the letter of the constitution; and moreover had a most pernicious effect upon the public mind. The great mass of our people were perfectly willing to fight for their liberty, but they were utterly unwilling to be placed in a position creditable to themselves or the country. The numerous desertions were almost entirely from that class and it was a saying in the camps that “it took two good soldiers to guard a conscript and make him do his duty.” And the records show that at the time of the final surrender there were not ten thousand conscripts in all the armies together.
I entered Company G, to which my brother belonged. The regiment was well equipped, with the exception of arms. Every company was provided with three wagons in which to haul their baggage. Every captain and some of the men had their Sunday clothes and some of them had negroes to wait on them. A year afterwards the number of wagons to a company was reduced to one, the men were furnished with knapsacks and were required to carry their baggage. Some of the men had such an immense wardrobe that when they started on a march they looked like Dutch peddlers. They soon became tired of carrying their burdens and sold or gave away their useful Sunday apparel. Their arms consisted of old-fashioned squirrel rifles, double-barreled shot guns and old muskets some of them with flint-locks. As a substitute for swords they had huge knives which very much resembled those which our fathers used when cutting down and shocking their corn. We went into battle with these warlike implements which were worthy of the middle ages, but they were not used as the enemy gave way under the galling fire of our rifles and shotguns before the knives could be brought into requisition.
The race for the presidency in 1860 was the most exciting contest ever known in the United States. The agitation of the slavery question was opened the repeal of the Missouri compromise,which led to the Kansas war. That war was waged to force the abolition of slavery and was the first move against the local government of states, which were protected by the constitution of the general government. The Free Soil Party was backed by the New England Emigrant Society, which furnished them both money and Sharp rifles for the contest, the guns being shipped to Texas labeled “books,” and were called “Bucher’s Bibles.” Kansas soon became the scene of a desperate struggle in which looting, robbery, midnight assassination and mobs were common.
John Brown, one of the leaders of the abolition party, had made his raid into Virginia to excite an insurrection of the negroes, and it was believed that he was instigated to that desperate undertaking by the fanatical abolitionists of the North, consequently the news of it aroused the most angry feeling of resentment all over Texas. Such was the condition of the public mind when Abraham Lincoln was nominated as President of the United States. During the Bummer of 1861, the excitement was stimulated by what was regarded as incendiary acts in the almost simultaneous burning of several small towns, gins and mills, and the assassination of several citizens; the most conspicuous of the atrocious acts being committed in Dallas and Fannin county. In Bonham the little child of Mr. Alfred Pace was murdered by his negro woman; she expiated her crime on the same oak tree on which several evil doers had ended their lives. Mr. Thomas Kincaid, wife and little son, aged about five years, were murdered by two of their negro men. Jess and Rube and a woman, wife of old Jess,
belonged to Mr. Barbee Kincaid, who lived about two miles southeast of Whitewright, and late in the night, when all the family were asleep, the negroes entered the house and killed him and his wife with axes. The noise they made in perpetrating the horrible deed, awoke Mr. Kincaid’s little son, who begged old Jess not to kill him, but the incarnate fiend, acting upon the principle that the dead tell no tales, split his head open with an axe, The negroes were arrested, confessed their guilt and were hung.
Rube and the woman were buried, but the body of old Jess was turned over to Dr. W. P. Wead, who dissected it and hung the skeleton up in his barn. Besides being useful to the doctor in his profession it was the strongest guard he could have put over his barn and its contents. No negro or superstitious white person would enter the barn after darkness had gathered over the land. I learned that when Grayson college was established the bones of old Jess were turned over to it: if so, they were reduced to ashes when that institution went up in flames a few years ago.
There is no doubt that crimes were incited by emissaries, chiefly professed ministers of the gospel, from the northern and western, states. Immediately after the execution of the Kincaid assassins an old northern Methodist preacher named Elrod, who lived on Bois d’Arc, near the Kinkaid farm, left the county and sought a more healthy climate on the Pacific coast. Those preachers circulated among the negroes, and white people who were in sympathy with them, numerous papers and pamphlets containing all the extraordinary cases of cruelty to slaves, collected on the high seas, the West Indies and the United States, together with such inflammatory speeches and sermons as were calculated to excite insubordination and insurrection among them and expose the county to all the horrors of a servile war.
Popular excitement became intense; public meetings were rapidly held throughout the state, and organizations were formed, in 1859 the Northern Methodist church attempted to hold a conference on Red river, in Fannin county, Bishop Jones, of Massachusetts, presiding. The citizens of Bonham held a mass meeting, adopted resolutions appropriate to the occasion, and appointed a committee, of which Judge Samuel A. Roberts was chairman, to wait on the conference and inform them that their presence was embarrassing to the good people of the county and they must leave. When the committee arrived at the school house where the conference met, the Bishop had just begun his sermon. Judge Roberts stopped him and read the document from the mass-meeting. The Bishop made no reply to it, but asked asked permission to finish his sermon, which was readily granted, and Judge Roberts said it was one of the most elegant sermons he ever listened to.
When it was ended the Bishop told his brethren they could do as they pleased, but as for himself, he was going to leave immediately, and did so. The brethren followed his example, and there has never been a conference of that kind in the county since..