nypl-digitalcollections-510d47db-c0a8-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-w-1
Financial interest in slaves transcended the colour barrier

Texas joined the Confederates in March 1861 after seeing Abraham Lincoln elected without a single vote from the Southern States, and thus allied itself with the Deep South and its interests. There weren’t may plantation owners in Texas, but those that there were, had a disproportionate influence. The 182,000 black slaves that worked on the land were valued at 107 million dollars which was more than the value of the land itself; they weren’t going to be given up without a fight. Texans knew, moreover, that even if slavery was allowed to continue just in those areas where it already existed, it could never survive. They were afraid of the collapse of their economy, their society, and their political structures if the Union had its way.

Texas was a frontier outpost which had also to consider the possibility of attack from the west by Indians. Although it hosted battles, most importantly at Galveston, and supplied troops and some fine generals, its ability to supply manpower to the cause and to influence the course of the war was to a degree limited. However it played a major economic role by providing an outlet for the cash crop of cotton to other parts of the world. The cotton didn’t leave Texas direct, but was sent via Mexico and thence to ships anchored in the Gulf so as to circumvent the Union blockade. The Union was unwilling to upset Great Britain and France over it so they were forced to let it happen.

Texans suffered a great many hardships both during and after the Civil War – mostly economic ones caused by barriers to trade. The export of cotton did happen but it was difficult, and no goods could get through from the factories in the north. Transportation networks were damaged which led to there being shortages of many kinds. In families where the breadwinner had gone to war, women had to do the men’s work all alone and in the teeth of such hard times, a situation which continued if the men never came home.
Nonetheless, Texas was considered safer than its neighbouring states and there were many refugees – white people who often brought their slaves with them. Slavery did in fact continue intact in Texas throughout the Civil War.

Texas has the distinction of being the state where the war finally ended. It should have ended officially when General Lee surrendered in April 1865, but unfortunately the news didn’t reach Texas until General Granger landed in Galveston and declared on behalf of the President that all slaves were free.

Freed slaves preparing cotton for delivery to England
Freed slaves preparing cotton for delivery to England

Freedmen, as former slaves were called, were often at a loss as to what to do. Some of them went to cities looking for work which they were unlikely to find, others set off to look for long-lost relatives, and others stayed where they were to work for wages, or a share of the crop they produced – a system called sharecropping which gave the landowners almost as much ascendancy over them as when they’d been slaves.

The rights of African Americans were severely and deliberately restricted even after Texas had rejoined the Union in 1870. Many of them became targets for violence as white Texans lashed out against their own sufferings in defeat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s