Between 1867 and 1887, people in America moved west. The Civil War was over, the South was being “reconstructed” and there was “free land”—available in America’s vast-and-open western spaces.
Native-Americans were among the first to “move west,” but not by choice. The “Indian Removal Act” of 1830—the federal government’s method of forcing Native-Americans to leave their ancestral lands and move to “Indian Territory”—caused suffering along the “Trail of Tears.”
Civil War soldiers, from both sides, also moved West. Black men from the South, who were slaves at the beginning of 1865, were free men before the end of that year. The 13th Amendment, guaranteed them never to be slaves again. Some of those men headed west, too.
Among the possible jobs, for migrating westerners, was work as a cowboy. Centuries before the Civil War, European settlers—particularly Spaniards—brought cattle to the “New World.” At first those cattle were important for their hides and tallow, but by the time of the War Between the States, cattle in Texas and Florida were important food sources for the Confederacy.
Some Texans, who left their homes to fight for the South, let their cattle “roam free” during the war years. By mid-1865, those freely roaming cattle had multiplied into huge herds. There wasn’t a market for 5 million stranded cattle in the economically crippled South. In the industrialized North, people were more than slightly interested in purchasing the meat.
How would the owners of millions of Longhorns get their cattle to buyers in the North? Enter ... the cowboys.
Source: Cowboys, Lawmen and the American Frontier –Cattle in the Old West
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