A Guide to the Louis Trezevant Wigfall Papers, 1839-1874
Louis Trezevant Wigfall (1816-1874), educated at South Carolina College and the University of Virginia, became involved in controversial political arguments, culminating in his killing of another man. He and his family moved to Galveston in 1846 and then to Nacogdoches, where he worked in a law firm with Thomas J. Jennings and William B. Ochiltree. He relocated once more to Marshall to open his own law practice.
A secessionist and staunch believer in slavery and the chivalric code, Wigfall was active in Texas politics, taking part in the Galveston County Democratic convention, 1848, and serving in the Texas House of Representatives, 1850-1857. He was best known for his vocal opposition to Sam Houston and may have played an important role in Houston’s loss in the gubernatorial race of 1857. Also in 1857 Wigfall was elected to the Texas Senate and one year later took an active role in the Democratic convention that stressed states’ rights. In 1859 he became a member of the United States Senate, where he supported slavery, states’ rights, and limiting the power of the national government.
Wigfall helped author the "Southern Manifesto," urging the need for the secession of the slave states and the creation of a Southern Confederacy. After Texas’s secession, he remained in his position in the Senate, spying on the Union, raising troops to send to South Carolina, and providing arms to Texas Confederates. He acted as an aide to President Jefferson Davis and was a member of the Provisional Congress of the Confederacy before being formally expelled from the U.S. Senate in July 1861. Later that year he became a colonel in the First Texas Infantry and a brigadier general in the Provisional Army. Additionally, he led the Texas Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia until 1862 when he resigned to join the Confederate Congress. He eventually withdrew his support for President Davis and conspired to strip Davis of his power. After the Confederacy fell, Wigfall returned to Texas for a time before moving to England in 1866 to try to stir up a war between England and the United States, thinking it could also restart a U.S. Civil War. He returned to the states, settling in Baltimore in 1872 for two years before moving once more to Texas, where he died in 1874.
"Wigfall, Louis Trezevant," Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed August 4, 2010. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/WW/fwi4.html.
Photostats and transcripts of correspondence, a speech, legal documents, genealogy and family history, newspaper accounts, and literary productions comprise the Louis Trezevant Wigfall Papers, 1833-1874. The papers pertain to Wigfall’s activities as a Confederate Senator during the Civil War, his political philosophy of states’ rights, his support of slavery, and his advocacy of the admission of Texas as a slave state (1845). Additionally, the records document Wigfall’s leadership in the Secession movement, the Confederate government, and the Civil War, as well as his exile in England after the Civil War. Included in the collection is a brief sketch of Wigfall’s career published in the Galveston News, 1874, as well as a piece by J. L. Bagwell entitled "The Life and Services of L. T. Wigfall of Marshall, Texas, 1849-1860."
The collection is open for research.
Louis Trezevant Wigfall Papers, 1839-1874, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers