Discussion Ranching in Texas in the Civil War Era?

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#1
I've become interested in learning about what ranching looked like in Texas during the Civil War. Ranching in Texas before the years of the great cattle drives in the late 1860s-early 1880s seems to be a bit of an unknown. I was wondering a few things:
- Did ranchers have use for slaves, at least those that could afford them?
- This seems to be what could be called a transitional period for Texas ranching, as the business moved from the traditional area of the southeast and southern parts of the states and moved to the north central area. Had the business mostly shifted by 1861?
 

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Vicksburger

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#2
I've become interested in learning about what ranching looked like in Texas during the Civil War. Ranching in Texas before the years of the great cattle drives in the late 1860s-early 1880s seems to be a bit of an unknown. I was wondering a few things:
- Did ranchers have use for slaves, at least those that could afford them?
- This seems to be what could be called a transitional period for Texas ranching, as the business moved from the traditional area of the southeast and southern parts of the states and moved to the north central area. Had the business mostly shifted by 1861?
My family had a ranch in Jackson County during the war. One son stayed with the "Home Guard" and helped his mother (a widow) run the ranch. His two other brothers went and fought in Mississippi and Tenn, giving their lives. We don't know for certain if they had slave labor or not. There was a Power of attorney document found among the family papers, where an owner of a slave gave authority to another to sell a slave. I know they had to pay a "war tax" because there are receipts showing payment. Federal troops never got to the ranch, although they shelled nearby Port Lavaca and were acting like an invasion was imminent. They did run some cattle drives to New Orleans, it is not clear if it was prior to the war but I assume since the records were kept by the boys in the service, they took place before the war. We have a record where they record crossing the rivers with the cattle and paying the ferry, etc. I will be interested if anyone else has any information on ranches in Texas.
 

Vicksburger

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#3
Interestingly, they (the CSA) were able to ship cattle across the Mississippi even after Vicksburg fell. They swam them somehow. Although I have read an account that due to the Federal blockade they had a surplus of cattle there along the coast at the end of the war.
 
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#4
Interestingly, they (the CSA) were able to ship cattle across the Mississippi even after Vicksburg fell. They swam them somehow. Although I have read an account that due to the Federal blockade they had a surplus of cattle there along the coast at the end of the war.
Hang on, swam them across the Mississippi? I have no clue how they managed that, but I suppose they did it somehow.
 
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#5
Would anyone have an idea what opinion most ranchers would have had on slavery and secession? From what I can tell, Texans (especially the frontier areas) were somewhat less enthusiastic on the issues of slavery and states' rights.
 

Vicksburger

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#6
Hang on, swam them across the Mississippi? I have no clue how they managed that, but I suppose they did it somehow.
I know, I was skeptical but in researching on Major R.A.Howard of the Trans-Miss. Dept Commissary, he specialized in shipping cattle, and there is a letter recommending him and stating that he had just brought 10,000 head across the Miss. and this was in 1864, after Vicksburg had fallen. (He actually got captured on the Red River in 1863, running cattle, and the Yankees delayed releasing him because they captured documents on him that showed his importance to the Confederacy.)
Apparently cattle can swim pretty well.
 

Vicksburger

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#7
Would anyone have an idea what opinion most ranchers would have had on slavery and secession? From what I can tell, Texans (especially the frontier areas) were somewhat less enthusiastic on the issues of slavery and states' rights.
I don't know about other counties, but the Jackson County vote went 147 to 77 to secede. And my great great uncles and great great grandfather lost no time in volunteering, by May 1861 they were in Camps of Instruction and eventually in the 2nd Texas regiment. By the way, in thinking about your question regarding slavery, like I said there was no written evidence ( unless the found Power of Attorney to sell the slaves is considered circumstantial evidence) but I remember by deceased grandfather told someone that we did have slaves. He would be talking about his grandfather.
 

TnFed

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#8
I would say that a lot of those ranchers were more worried about the Comanches than the Federals. My understanding is that they pushed the frontier back a hundred miles or so during the war. It's not a subject that I have studied much but I have wondered about the men left behind to protect the ranches on the frontier. We're they basically older men like in their fifties in the rangers and frontier forces at this time?
 
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#9
Did ranchers have use for slaves
The short answer is Yes. Two brothers each purchased adjacent property totaling several thousand acres east of the Brazos River in north central Texas. The brother's ranches were not exclusively cowboys and raising cattle as we usually conjure up in our minds when Texas ranches come to mind. To me they were more of combination plantation/ranch. Both brothers owned slaves who must have been skilled at working stock and/or farming, because large herds of hogs, sheep, horses, cattle, and crops were raised on the two ranches. In 1863, the older brother killed and processed 1000 hogs. The younger brother sold 700 pounds of wool to the Confederate Commissary agent. The two brothers established a small town and industrial center between their properties. In the late 1850's, the older brother brought in a steam engine and established a mill for grinding cornmeal and flour. He also had a tannery for processing hides and a leather shop for making saddles, bridles, boots, shoes, etc. Both brothers raised corn, barley, oats, hay, and wheat for food, feeding their stock, and as cash crops prior and during the war. They raised some cotton, but only for clothes, not as a cash crop until several years after the war. I have no record the brothers made cattle drives during the war, but after the war they did drive cattle to New Orleans in 1867. Since the Chisholm Trail crossed the Brazos only a few miles north of their ranches, it could be speculated they may have been involved or contributed cattle in some of the drives north.

It's assumed part of the manufactured goods, livestock and crops produced by the brothers were sold to the Confederate government. Tax receipts show they paid their taxes. The younger brother served during the war. His only son ran the the ranch until he turned 18 in late 1863 and joined the service. After the son left, the wife and the slaves ran the ranch from then till the end of the war.

My comment is not intended to mean all Texas ranches were worked in this manner, but at least two were.
 
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#10
My GG Grandfather and his brother-in-law, were ranchers in Parker County, Texas up to the start of the Civil War. Once Texas seceded, the US Cavalry was no longer present to garrison the frontier forts and to protect against both Indian and Mexican incursions. Most of the ranchers on the frontier areas, basically west of the modern IH-35 corridor, abandoned their ranches and moved back to settled areas. My ancestors moved to Granbury, where my GG Grandfather enlisted in the 34th Texas Cavalry. Texas did not have the manpower to both raise regiments for the CSA Army and to police the frontier. It was not until after the end of reconstruction, that the Texas Ranger Frontier Battalions were re-established and that in combination with the US Cavalry, were able to pacify the frontier and allow for settlement of the area. With the exception of El Paso, almost all towns in West Texas were initially settled in the 1880's. Examples are Wichita Falls, Abilene, Sweetwater, Brownwood, Coleman, etc.
 
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#11
In regard to the question of slaves in ranching: Typically slaves were not used in ranching on the frontier. The frontier was too open to control a slave population. It would have been very easy for a slave to disappear into the wilderness. Many native tribes would adopt people into their tribes or one could simply migrate away. Due to the nature of cattle ranching in the days before barbed wire fencing, managing the herds required traveling long distances, being armed and being able to be self sufficient with minimum oversight.....all issues that do not lend themselves for slave labor.
 
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#14
I would say that a lot of those ranchers were more worried about the Comanches than the Federals. My understanding is that they pushed the frontier back a hundred miles or so during the war. It's not a subject that I have studied much but I have wondered about the men left behind to protect the ranches on the frontier. We're they basically older men like in their fifties in the rangers and frontier forces at this time?
"Frontier Defense in the Civil War, Texas' Rangers and Rebels" might be able to answer at least some of your questions. An interesting book that details the history of the organizations that protected the Texas frontier during the war. You can take a peek here: https://www.amazon.com/Frontier-Defense-Civil-War-Association/dp/0890965943
 
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#16
Before the invention of barbed wire, cattle assumed a quasi-feral status that relied on brands--traditionally large and more centrally located on the animals than the rump--to tell whose were whose.

Texas was a huge slave state, hence the decision to be the seventh state to secede. If one pays close attention to Torget's book Seeds of Empire, Texas seceding from Mexico and expanding the southern chattel slavery tied to cash crops (cotton, rice, sugar to a lesser extent) model of development (even José Antonio Navarro favored it, hence his siding with Anglo-Texians), formed the model for southern slave states seceding from the United States.

Don't forget that during the U.S. Civil War, a Tamaulipas caudillo Juan Nepomuceno Cortina was literally giving patentes de corso/ or letters of marque to ruffians, rustlers, and brigands to go north of the Río Grande/ Río Bravo del Norte, and drive cattle south across the Guadalupe-Hidalgo-mandated middle channel of the river as the national boundary between Texas and Mexico. No less a personage than Robert E. Lee had been through the line of forts along the river in 1860 to talk to Mexican officials about suppressing such rustling and brigandage... With the U.S. Civil War, all bets were off.

There was an ongoing Civil War and international conflict in Mexico. Recall that with the U.S. Civil War going on, the Monroe Doctrine calling for European Powers to adopt "hands off!" approaches to colonialism in Latin America--kindred American Republics--was mooted. So Spain tried to resume control of the Dominican Republic--failed--and Guatemala adopted the red and yellow of Spain to add to its blue and white Central American flag... But France of Napoleon III assailed Mexico and tried to install Maximilian von Hapsburg, the Austrian Archduke, and his Belgian princess Carlota as the Emperor and Empress of Mexico in the second Mexican Empire. Coservatieves and pro-clerical elements rallied to the Imperial throne. Benito Juárez and the pro-capitalist, pro-Republican Liberals rallied against him... And obtained recognition and even supplies from Abraham Lincoln, and later Johnson.

Meanwhile, the Shoshonean Nermernuh/ Comanche did not hesitate. They raided and burned and pillaged, and the pale of settlement receded eastward. Small wonder that Texans were allowed to form TST or Texas State Troops to stave off the depredations from the Comanche and Mexicans. In the meantime, huge sums of money could be made trafficking Texas cotton through Mexico for export through the Union Naval "anaconda" blockade. Not just to European mills and brokers, but to copper heads in New York, and thence to New England mills!

The Juáristas had a hodge-podge of arms, but the British Enfield was supposed to be the service rifle... So as Union forces seized such arms from CSA hands... South they went! As but one example, 30,000 stands of British arms in Baton Rouge, LA went to Juárez's forces. As for catle? the beeves supplied beef, hides/ leather, tallow and sinew to the taker: Mexicans, Imperialists, Indians, and Texans. Small wonder that the numbers increased. "Slow elk" to the Indians! ambulatory meat lockers to whoever drove them.

As for slavery, there was a tendency during the Civil War campaigns in the Mississippi Basin for slaveholders to "refugee" slaves in distant Texas... So the numbers increased in Texas during the war as well.

When Reconstruction ended early in Texas--and it did-- McNelly's Rangers was formed by Democrats in Austin. McNelly, dying of tuberculosis and having to chew rather than smoke his cigars, recruited many ex-Confederate cavalry raiders and even bushwackers into the Texas Rangers. Armed with .45-70 Sharps rifles and a passel of revolvers each, they moved south to the "Nueces Strip" to confront Cortinistas and lawless bandits and rustlers. (In?)Famously, they never made an arrest, but shot down and strung up anyone and everyone deemed outside the Austin-based law... In the case of Brownsville, bodies were stacked up in a pile, and anyone who came by to mourn was duly noted for a later nocturnal visit... Cortina was ultimately given the governorship of Tamaulipas but later moved to Mexico City under virtual house arrest. At least one of McNelly's Rangers--from Georgia--made the remark that Cortina considered many of the cattle north of the river those of his grandmother... And if the claims had been investigated, "he might have been right."

Such were the historical antecedents of the great cattle drives of the American West, and the "Golden Age of the Cowboy" after the Civil War.
 



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