Texas Transformed by War

By the end of 1863, the great majority of adult white male Texans were off at war.

Women took on the responsibilities of the men. They managed farms and plantations, and took over jobs ranging from teaching to cotton freighting to running family businesses. They made bandages and operated hospitals for wounded soldiers. Women also took the lead in providing poor families of soldiers with food and clothing.

A Union blockade had cut off medicine, coffee, candles, and paper for newspapers. Clothing, shoes, and salt went directly to the troops.

Taxes rose sharply. At first citizens were asked to contribute voluntarily to finance the war. But war expenses and medical care for wounded men returning home from battles proved too great for charity. To pay for it all, the counties were forced to impose new property and poll taxes.

Many farmers who lived near railroads and Confederate supply centers were ruined as Confederate officers took their slaves, livestock, wagons, and crops. Houston had crowds of refugees from Galveston, Arkansas, and Louisiana. With few men around to hunt, Travis County was so overrun by wild animals that the harvest was in danger.

During the last year of the war, misery was widespread. At least two-thirds of Texas schoolhouses were closed. Malnutrition and related diseases such as diarrhea were on the rise, especially among the poor.

In some areas, outlaws ran wild. Bandits took over the Hill Country roads between Austin and Fredericksburg, and Houston suffered a wave of burglaries.

When soldiers heard about the rough conditions their families were facing, they deserted their posts and headed for home.

Source: Texas Transformed by War
© 2020 Texas State Library and Archives Commission

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