Civil War Industry

By: James Nichols

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

Texas possessed few manufacturing establishments of significant size when she joined the Southern Confederacy in March 1861, but tremendous military requirements and the federal blockade soon forced the state to make every effort to encourage and expand manufacturing. Four agencies endeavored to supply the state and its troops with manufactured necessities: (1) the state, through both the Military Board of Texas and the penitentiary cloth factory, (2) the Confederate Army's quartermaster and ordnance shops (see GUN MANUFACTURING DURING THE CIVIL WAR), (3) extant private establishments and newly chartered wartime corporations, and (4) household industry.

The Military Board, established in 1862, built a percussion-cap factory and a cannon foundry at Austin, but only the cap factory contributed much, reportedly producing 100,000 caps during the last year of the war. The most important manufacturing plant, the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, produced various cloth materials, including Osnaburgs, cotton jeans, and woolen plaids. The army reportedly received 1,419,364½ yards of cotton goods and 292,963½ yards of woolen goods from the factory between December 1, 1861, and December 18, 1863.

Texas troops received their initial clothing and equipage principally from local contributions. Ladies' aid societies spun, knitted, and sewed to outfit the volunteers from their communities. Throughout the war such household efforts were significant, but in 1862 the Confederate Quartermaster's Clothing Bureau began control of all clothing and equipage supply in the state. By January 1864 the army operated several major quartermaster depots and shops in Texas. Houston was the principal state depot, with shoe, tailor, tent, tin, and carpenter shops producing clothing, shoes, tinware, and wagon equipage. The Austin branch of the Houston depot produced shoes (principally), clothing, and miscellaneous items. The Tyler depot produced shoes and equipage. The San Antonio depot, tannery, and general shops produced shoes and general quartermaster supplies. Jefferson had a shoe factory and depot. The Marshall foundry (steam powered) produced skillets and camp kettles. And the Hempstead foundry (steam powered) produced skillets, camp kettles, and other metal products. Another branch of the Confederate quartermaster's department, the Field Transportation Bureau, established shops at Dallas, Tyler, Rusk, Mount Pleasant, Paris, Waco, and Hempstead. These shops employed civilian wheelwrights, blacksmiths, carpenters, saddlers, and harness-makers in the manufacture and repair of military transportation equipment. By February 1864 they were capable of producing 190 wagons, 6 ambulances, 900 sets of harness, and 360 saddles per month.

The legislature enacted several laws to encourage manufacturing. Two of these measures, passed on December 15, 1863, and November 7, 1864, respectively, granted 320 acres of land for each $1,000 worth of machinery set up by any concern before March 5, 1865. Few grants were made under these acts, however. In all, about forty manufacturing companies were chartered by special acts of the legislature during the war years, but little resulted from these paper incorporations. Typical of the companies chartered was the Fort Bend Manufacturing Company, authorized to manufacture cloth, fabrics, and wood, iron, or steel products. Companies designed to manufacture powder, iron, steel, bridges, cloth, and paper were chartered, but the results were disappointing.

Robert Pattison Felgar, Texas in the War for Southern Independence, 1861–1865 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1935). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Aldon Socrates Lang, Financial History of the Public Lands in Texas (Baylor Bulletin 35.3, Waco: Baylor University, 1932; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1979). Frances Richard Lubbock, Six Decades in Texas (Austin: Ben C. Jones, 1900; rpt., Austin: Pemberton, 1968). James Lynn Nichols, The Confederate Quartermaster in the Trans-Mississippi (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964). Charles W. Ramsdell, "The Texas State Military Board, 1862–1865," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 27 (April 1924).
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

James Nichols, “Civil War Industry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

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