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Chapter 12:

  • Home supplies by home industry
  • -- the collection of army supplies -- salt Manufactureiron works-penitentiary cloth -- its distribution -- a New military board -- purchase and importation of cotton -- Gunshops and armory -- large prison Camp near Tyler -- operations of military board -- disposition of hospital fund.

During the fifteen years between the annexation of Texas to the Union and the secession of the States of the South, there had been in this State a large increase of population and wealth, both imported into and produced in it, and the country had become quite prosperous generally. This had caused large stocks of goods of every description to be introduced by merchants, which induced the people largely to depend upon such importation to supply them with clothing, domestic utensils of all sorts, and many other articles of necessity for family use and farming purposes. The blockade of our Gulf ports and the war operations north of the State stopped the trade, and the supply on hand gradually diminished with no opportunity to replenish it, so that by the first of 1862 the people in most parts of the State set about providing themselves with the necessaries of life. From that time to the end of the war a person traveling past houses on the road could hear the sound of the spinning-wheel and of the looms at which the women were at work to supply clothing for their families and for their husbands and sons in the army. Thus while the men were struggling valiantly with all their martial efforts in camp and in battle, the work of the women was no less heroic and patriotic in their homes. [113] Nor was that kind of employment all; for many a wife or daughter of a soldier went out on the farm and bravely did the work with plow and hoe to make provision for herself and little children. Shops were established extensively to manufacture domestic implements. Wheat and other cereals were produced, where practicable, in large quantities; hogs and cattle were raised more generally; and before the passage over the Mississippi was closed by the Federal gunboats, droves of beef-cattle and numerous wagon-loads of bacon and flour were almost constantly passing across that river from Texas to feed the soldiers of the Confederate army. Texas had a large surplus of provisions beyond the needs of home consumption and the soldiers stationed within the State.

An almost universally humane feeling inspired people of wealth as well as those in moderate circumstances to help the indigent families of soldiers in the field and the women who had lost their husbands and sons by sickness or in battle. There were numerous slaveholders who had only a few slaves, such as had been raised by themselves or by their parents as part of the family, and so regarded themselves. In the absence of the husband in the service, the wife, though never having been used to hardships, and even though delicately reared and educated, assumed the management of the farm and the control of the negroes on it. It was a subject of general remark that the negroes were more docile and manageable during the war than at any other period, and for this they deserve the lasting gratitude of their owners in the army. Their children since the war have been taught in the free public schools of the State, in separate schools by teachers of their own color, many of whom have been educated at public expense at the colored normal institute. The interior of the State not having been invaded by the enemy, the negroes were not demoralized and constituted an element of strength to the Confederate cause by their faithful labor on the farms, and by their [114] manual services at the military posts when required.

At most of the towns there were posts established with officers for the collection of the tithes of farm products under an act of Congress for the use of the army, and wagons were used continually for their transportation to different places where the soldiers were in service. In addition, wagons under private control were constantly running from Texas to Arkansas and to Louisiana loaded with clothing, hats and shoes, contributed by families for their relatives in the army in those States. Indeed, by this patriotic method the greater part of the Texas troops in those States were supplied with clothing of all kinds.

Salt being a prime necessity for family use, salt works were established in eastern Texas, in Cherokee and Smith counties, and at Grand Sabine in Van Zandt county, where before the close of the war there were about forty furnaces operating and turning out to supply the country hundreds of bushels of salt every day. In the west salt was furnished from the salt lakes. Iron works were established for making plows and cooking vessels near Jefferson, Rusk and Austin, and perhaps at other places. At jug factories in Rusk and Henderson counties were made rude earthenware dishes, plates, cups and saucers, and bowls for family use, that were spread over the country. At other shops wagons were made and repaired, and in small domestic factories chairs, tables and other furniture were made. Shoe-shops and tailor-shops were kept busy all over the country. Substitutes for sugar and coffee were partially adopted, but without much success. By such devices the people of Texas became self-supporting, and being blessed with a fertile soil, plenty abounded everywhere within the State.

The county courts, under a law of the legislature, levied a tax to raise a fund to aid indigent families of soldiers, and by another proper provision the children of indigent families attended the schools free of charge. The [115] penitentiary at Huntsville, under the control of the State government, was busied in manufacturing cotton and woolen cloth, and made each year over a million and a half yards of cloth, which under the direction of the government was distributed first, to supply the soldiers in the army; second, the soldiers' families and their actual consumers, with the restriction that not a yard be sold to retailers and speculators. This provision was a great aid to the families, as it added to private domestic production.

The military board, established by the legislature on the 11th of January, 1862, with Governor Lubbock, Comptroller C. R. Johns and Treasurer C. H. Randolph as its officers, all of them long and closely identified with the people of Texas and fast friends of their well-being, had procured from Mexico and Europe before November, 1863, over 40,000 pairs of cotton and woolen cards, to be supplied to Texas families for home use, at greatly reduced cost, by which the people were saved thousands of dollars.

The general commanding the district of Texas early in 1862 commenced, through agents, the purchase of cotton and the transportation of it to Mexico to purchase arms, cloth and the munitions of war, and this was kept up during the war. On November 21, 1862, General Hebert issued an order prohibiting the exportation of cotton, except by the authorized agents of the government. In February, 1863, General Magruder also issued similar orders, but in April afterward gave instructions much more favorable to the business of transporting cotton. Notwithstanding that, however, there continued to be some embarrassment experienced by the State in this branch of business.

By authority of the general commanding, workshops for the manufacture of articles useful in the service were established at Tyler and Bonham and at various other places. At Tyler there was a distillery, superintended [116] by a surgeon, for making whisky and medicine for the army. At that place in May, 1862, a partnership was formed, consisting of Geo. Yarbrough, J. S. Short and W. S. N. Briscoe, the latter two of whom were gunsmiths, for the establishment of an armory. They purchased one hundred acres of land one mile south of Tyler, built a large brick house and purchased all the necessary machinery and materials for making 5,000 guns, under a contract with the military board at Austin, at $30 each. After having had much difficulty in securing proper workmen, they succeeded in making 1,000 rifles by September, 1863. Mr. Geo. Yarbrough, previously a leading merchant of Tyler, furnished for this enterprise $80,000. When the Confederates were forced to abandon Little Rock, Ark., Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, ordnance officer there with an armory under his control, moved to Tyler with his machinery and working force of sixty men, procured the purchase of the Tyler armory property at $100,000, and continued the manufacture of arms and fixed ammunition, employing in all 200 men and boys. This private enterprise, the only one of such proportions in Texas to aid the Confederate cause, deserves to be recorded in history to the credit of those gentlemen for their devoted patriotism.

Maj. J. C. Kirby, who was sent to Tyler in 1862 as post quartermaster by General Hebert, established shops near that place for making harness and blacksmithing, and collected leather from small tanyards, and wool hats made in the adjoining counties. He also purchased horses, mules and wagons, and wagon-sheets and sacks made in the vicinity, and was in the act of establishing a large tannery at the surrender. At the same time was sent to Tyler, to act as post commissary, Captain Sidnor, and afterward Captain Sinclair, who purchased and sent to the troops in the field large amounts of provisions. Near Tyler, also, was established a prison camp, in which first and last there were 6,000 Federal prisoners confined. [117] It was under command successively of Colonel Allen, Colonel Anderson and Lieutenant-Colonel Border (and another officer at the surrender, whose name is not obtained). These operations at Tyler are mentioned because of the means of information available. With similar means of information in regard to other places in the State, doubtless a vast amount of military operations could be described, of which no account can be given.

The military board for three years from the time of its creation did a large amount of business of varied character. In January, 1862, they appointed agents who bought for them 3,659 bales of cotton, and their purchases of cotton were largely increased afterward. The cotton was transported to Mexico, and used in the purchase of cotton and woolen cards, arms, munitions of war, and machinery of different kinds. On the 11th of April, 1862, John M. Swisher, of Austin, was sent to Europe with $300,000 in United States bonds to purchase munitions of war and supplies for the board. On April 29, 1862, John M. Moore was sent to Mexico on a similar mission, and it was agreed to place in his hands for that purpose from 2,000 to 4,000 bales of cotton. The board established a gun factory and a cap factory at Austin. Governor Lubbock, in his message of November 2, 1863, stated that ‘the foundry at Austin has not been a success in making cannon, but has done great good in repairing threshing and reaping machines and other agricultural implements and mill machinery. This establishment has supplied the wants of the percussion cap factory, which is now in successful operation.’ On the 12th of April, 1864, a new military board was established by the legislature, by the appointment of the governor and two citizens, Jas. S. Holman and N. B. Pearce, with the same powers as those conferred on the old board.

In November, 1864, a joint committee of the legislature, composed of Spencer Ford, of the senate, and M. W. Baker and Ed. Gibbons, of the house, made a report of [118] the operations of both the old and new board up to that time, in which it is stated that the old board received from the State $1,048,975. After recounting numerous contracts made by the board with different persons for guns, rifles, powder and other war materials, they make a summary statement that ‘the board has received 1,414 cartridge boxes, 1,097 powder flasks, 125 sabers, 14,261 pounds of powder, 797,000 percussion caps, 2 Nicholas guns, 1,695 rifles, 299 lances, 6,762 pounds of powder, 3, 164,550 percussion caps.’ Powder was made at powder mills in the counties of Travis, Burnett, and Comal. Many contracts were made in permitting different persons to transport cotton to Mexico with stipulated benefits to be rendered to the board for the State. The committee estimated that not less than $2, 0000000 were received and disbursed by the old board. They stated that the board had purchased and fitted up the steamer Bayou City for the use of the army in the recapture of Galveston. The Confederate government afterward paid the State $50,000 for it.

Under the act of the legislature appropriating $50, 0000 for a hospital fund, placed under the control of the governor, he gave large amounts to physicians, with directions to visit our Texas troops in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia, and when practicable to establish hospitals for the care of Texas troops that were sick or wounded. A hospital was established in Virginia and another in Mississippi. Governor Lubbock manifested an earnest disposition to aid the military operations and provide for the necessities of the people, in which he was ably seconded by the legislature. At the expiration of his two years term he became aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis, and adhered to him until their arrest in Georgia. [119]

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