Houston, Texas, goes to war, 1861-1865
Baisley, Kathryn MacDonald
Vandiver, Frank E.
Master of Arts
Confederate Houston offers a fascinating case study for students of Trans-Mississippi Texas. Despite its unique position as commercial center and military headquarters, the city shared many experiences with the rest of the state, and exhibited trends similar to those observed in other studies of the Rebel West. Like much of Texas and the Trans-Mississippi, Houston never suffered military occupation and its defenders were never defeated in battle. (In fact, when Federals invaded Galveston, the Rebels gave it up without firing a shot.) Economic conditions caused Houstonians more discomfort, but rarely equaled the misery of the East. Refugees, the poor, and those with fixed incomes did suffer. But families with more capital survived fairly comfortably, and those with plenty of money and good business sense made tremendous fortunes. Even during the darkest periods of 1863 and 1864, food was still available, while the continual round of auctions and benefits revealed that someone -- although it is not clear who -- had money to support those events. Buildings, and transportation and communication facilities grew increasingly threadbare as the war dragged on, but lack of capital rather than contending armies was the cause. When the conflict ended construction and commercial activity quickly revived, with Houstonians happily ignorant of the extensive war damage faced by cities back East. Increasing isolation from the rest of the Confederacy was probably Texas' key problem, and one that Houston deeply shared. Communication with the Rebel government in Richmond was always difficult, and became nearly impossible when Vicks burg fell. In addition Texans felt ignored by the East. Few armies of any size were stationed in Texas, and until E. Kirby Smith arrived, it seemed that the West's only generals were castoffs. More and more men were siphoned off to battle fields in Tennessee or Virginia, but money or equipment was rarely sent West. In short, the state — and Houstonians — began to feel that they were sacrificing everything for nothing, and morale crumbled. This thesis' prime objective is to describe the city of Houston as it was just prior to and during the Civil War. The study is arranged topically, and deals with Houston’s buildings, facilities and population just before the war; general events and the city's morale from 1861 to 1865; and the effects of the conflict on the economy, transportation and communication networks, and society in general.