Texas Industry during the American Civil War

Texas Millitary Board

Cotton Times

Civil War Prison Labor

Texas Military Board

In 1862, the Texas legislature created a new agency, the Military Board, to purchase arms and supplies for Texas troops. The members of the board were the governor, state treasurer and state comptroller. They were given an unprecedented degree of independent power, with the authority to sell or exchange bonds worth up to $500,000 for weapons.

Cotton Times

Engraved drawing illustrates the coastal cotton trade showing scenes of Brownsville, TX, Matamoras, Mexico and the Santa Cruz Ferry transporting cotton between the two cities. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, December 5, 1863.

“The War in Texas.” Prints & Photographs #1980/10-4. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper,  December 5, 1863. View detailed images of this print.

For planters, the Civil War in Texas was known as the Cotton Times, a boom created by the Union blockade of southern waters. Texas was able to evade the blockade by sending cotton across the Rio Grande to Matamoros, Mexico. Mexican waters could not be blockaded because Mexico was not at war with the United States.

Cotton was hauled from East Texas to San Antonio, where it was assembled into huge wagon trains and driven to Brownsville, a trip that took six to eight weeks depending on weather and attacks by Indians and outlaws. There the cotton was quickly sold to brokers and ferried down the Rio Grande to be shipped to the textile mills of Europe and New England.

Civil War Prison Labor

Before the war, the South imported most manufactured goods from the North or overseas. As the South scrambled to catch up, Texas emerged as a major manufacturing center.

Display case showing a letter from Texas Governor Francis R. Lubbock to General Theophilus Holmes, reporting that relying solely on Texas for uniforms will be “disappointing.” September 27, 1862. Governor Francis R. Lubbock employed prison labor from the state penitentiary in Huntsville to make shoes and weave cloth for uniforms, which were manufactured in both Texas and Louisiana. In 1862, Texas inmates wove almost one million yards of cloth, more than all other clothing plants in the South put together. But it was not enough. Texas could fulfill only 1/15th of the requisition submitted by the Confederate Army. Years later some soldiers recalled they were never issued a uniform or any other clothing while in Confederate service.


Page last modified: May 20, 2016