Civil War

The life of ordinary Texans was affected by the war. There were shortages of many goods, including coffee, medicine, clothing, shoes, and farm tools. Homespun clothing was worn as in pioneer days. Salt was also scarce and some Texans dug up the floors of their smokehouses and filtered the dirt to get the salt drippings. Thorns were used for pins, willow-bark extract and red pepper were mixed to substitutes for quinine (a type of medicine), and pieces of wallpaper were used for paper. Several Texas newspapers were discontinued for a period due to the lack of paper.

On the other hand, trade with Mexico made more materials available to Texas than to other Confederate states. Texans traded cotton for military supplies, medicines, dry goods, food iron goods, liquor, coffee, and tobacco.

The war brought other changes too. Some adjustments were made in agriculture as farmers planted more corn to meet food needs and requests of the government to reduce cotton production. Women and children had more responsibilities because the men were fighting the war. The increase in the number of slaves sent from other Southern states helped with the labor.

Transportation was also affected by the war. The outbreak of fighting stopped all railroad building for seven years. Parts of the railway were removed to help protect the state. Other sections of rail were pulled up from one part of the state and re-laid in a different location for military purposes. Stagecoach lines continued to operate, but coaches were overcrowded and behind schedule. Roads and bridges suffered from lack of repair as labor and materials were used elsewhere.

There was rapid expansion of manufacturing in the state to meet the military needs. The Texas State Military Board started a percussion-cap factory and cannon foundry in Austin. The board established a textile mill in the Texas State Penitentiary (prison) at Huntsville.

Although political and military leaders tried to keep up the morale of Texans, military defeats in Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia caused a lot of anxiety in the state. Newspaper editorials urged civilians to remain calm. News of Lee’s surrender made it harder to convince the Texans not to give up. Rip Ford defeated Union troops in the battle of Palmito Ranch, the last battle of the war. Ford learned from captured prisoners that Confederate forces were surrendering all over the south. Kirby Smith tried to keep his command intact, but soldiers were heading home. Some Texans, including Murrah and former governor Clark, were fleeing to Mexico.

On June 2, 1865, generals Smith and Magruder signed the formal terms of surrender for their commands. On June 19, General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with Union forces of occupation. The Civil War had ended.

Source: Civil War
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

Back to top