TEXAS ON THE EVE OF THE WAR
Company A of the 7th Texas Infantry Regiment was recruited in
McLennan County in East Central Texas. This article will give you
an impression of Texas on the eve of the Civil War, and will introduce
you to McLennan County and the town of Waco, home to most of the
men of Company A.
Nickname: The Lone Star State
Area: 678 621 sq. km (over twice
as large as continental Norway)
2001: 21,5 million
1860: 604.000 (2 % of the total
population of the United States)
70% of the people were white (420.000). The rest were black slaves,
with the exception of about 800 free blacks and so-called "civilized
Counties 1860: 122, plus 30 "unorganized".
Before the Civil War, Texas was the fastest growing state in the
South. The population increased almost three-fold from 1850 to 1860.
Relatively few of the white inhabitants were native Texans. The
1860 Census found that only 36% of the whites had been born in the
Lone Star State. By contrast, 53% had moved to Texas from other
states, with more than half of that number arriving in the last
ten years. Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia had provided the bulk
of the immigrants, although there were substantial contingents from
every state in the south and a sprinkling from the rest of the country
. The remaining Texans had been born abroad.
Over 7% of the residents of Texas in 1860 were born outside of the
United States. Of these 20 500 were Germans and 12 500 Mexicans.
There were also colonies of Irish, Poles, English, French, Italians,
and Norwegians in the state. The Norwegians numbered about 350 and
had established three settlements: Brownsboro (Henderson County),
Four Mile Prairie (Van Zandt County), and in Bosque County.
Almost 22 000 Texans owned slaves. There were about 77 000 white
families in the state, which means that between one in three and
one in four white households had slaves. Half of the slaveowners
owned fewer than seven slaves, so slavery in Texas was not limited
to a few large plantations.
The typical Texan at the time of the War Between the States lived
in the country. The Census of 1860 found only a few dozen towns
large enough to be worth counting. San Antonio, the largest city
in the state, had only 8235 people, followed by Galveston with 7307
and Houston with 4845.
By contrast, the Lone Star State had over 37,000 farms, half of
them under 40 acres in size. Most farms were still being carved
from the wilds; only 10% of the farm land in Texas was considered
to be improved. Large parts of Texas in 1860 was unsettled. The
region west of San Antonio was largely uninhabited or dominated
by nomadic Indian tribes (Comanches, Apaches, and Kiowas).
For his day, the average Texan was fairly well educated. About 90%
of adult whites could read and write. This may explain why the state
was surprisingly well supplied with reading matter, including 61
newspapers, 4 religious weeklies, and 12 literary magazines!
6. Trade and industry
Of the working age population, 55% were engaged in farming. Their
efforts produced each year 16.5 million bushels (1 bushel = 36.4
liters) of Indian corn, 1.8 million bushels of sweet potatoes, 1.5
million bushels of wheat, almost a million bushels of oats, 341,000
bushels of peas and beans, and scattered small quantities of other
food crops. The state's 431,000 bales of cotton ranked it fifth
among cotton producing states.
3900 Texans (under 4% of the workforce) reported their occupations
as herdsman, drover or stock-raiser. However, they tended the largest
herd of beef cattle in any state of the old union: nearly 2.8 million
head, or almost 5 steers for every Texan. The state also had 1.4
million pigs, and 753,000 sheep, the latter producing 1.5 million
pounds of wool each year.
The state's numerous farms contrasted to its handful of manufacturing
establishments. With much of east Texas still forested, the most
numerous type of manufacturer turned out sawed lumber, but even
here the state had only 192 sawmills. There were 182 flour and meal
mills, 140 blacksmith shops, 62 manufacturers of wagons and carts,
48 saddle and harness shops, and 46 manufacturers of agricultural
implements. Scatterings of other firms produced everything from
books to steam machinery.
All told, about 60% of Texans worked on the land. Of the remainder,
9% worked as laborers and 6% were in traditional skilled jobs such
as carpenter, blacksmith, teamster, etc. Four percent of the Texas
workforce was "in trade" as merchants or clerks, and another
4% were professionals such as lawyers, doctors, teachers and clergy.
Only about 1% were in industrial jobs, such as mechanic, printer,
foundryman, railroader, etc. The remainder were scattered across
dozens of occupations, including 2 Texas oystermen, a pair of piano
tuners, 4 toymakers, 6 dancing masters, and 33 shady characters
who listed their occupation as "speculator"!
7. MCLENNAN COUNTY
Area: 2681 sq. km
Height above sea level: 122 - 260 meters
Population 1850: 156 whites, a handful
Population 1860: 3811 whites (of whom
270 [7%] owned slaves) and 2395 black slaves.
Population 2002: 218.000 (of whom 115.000
in the city of Waco)
McLennan County is located in the so-called "blackland belt"
of East Central Texas. "Blackland" derives from the productive
black soil. Large cotton fields were cultivated in the rich lowlands
and fertile river valleys between the Bosque and Brazos rivers.
The climate is subtropical with an average temperature of 3 degrees
Celsius in January and 36 degrees Celsius in July.
Before 1800 the area which became McLennan County was dominated
by nomadic Indian tribes and large herds of bison. In the years
after 1800 three small, primitive Indian tribes - the Waco, Tonkawa,
and Tehaucana - established settlements in the area. In 1834 the
first European pioneer arrived, but he did not remain long. A trading
station was established in 1844, and a year later the Scotsman Neill
McLennan arrived. He became the first permanent settler in the area.
Thereafter things happened quickly - in 1849 the village of Waco
was surveyed and the first school established. In 1850 the County
was organized, named for the pioneer McLennan. The first church
was set up the same year, the first post office in 1852, and the
first newspaper appeared in 1854. In 1858 a regular stagecoach route
between Waco and Houston was established.
The town of Waco was the heart of McLennan County. In 1850 it was
home to only 72 people, but ten years later the town housed 2368
whites and about 250 slaves. Other villages in the county were Bold
Springs (311 residents in 1860), Bosqueville (234), Middle Bosque
(233), Perry (194), Sardis (156), Searsville (117), Stark Grove
(78), Amanda (70), and Jackson (38).
The majority of settlers in McLennan County in the
years before the Civil War were Americans of English, Scottish,
and Irish extraction, who moved there from other parts of Texas
and the southeastern United States. According to the census of
1860, only 42 of the county's inhabitants were born in Europe.
In 1860 McLennan County had 379 farms, with 46 600 cattle and
22 000 sheep. Crops included 2300 bales of cotton, 187 800 bushels
of corn, and 39 200 bushels of wheat.
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1860 AND SECESSION
The long standing political animosities between the Northern and
Southern states reached a temporary climax during the presidential
election of 1860. The Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, campaigned
on a platform which only took Northern interests into consideration.
But the opposition was divided and could not agree on a common platform.
As a result, four different candidates were on the ballot in November
In Texas, the election was a contest between John C. Breckinridge,
an equally uncompromising champion of Southern interests as Lincoln
was for the North; and John Bell, who maintained that both sections
must stand by the Constitution and set special interests aside.
When the result was clear, 75% of Texans had voted for Breckinridge
and 25% for Bell. Breckinridge received a majority of over 60% in
all counties except 10. Lincoln did not get a single vote in Texas,
but won the presidential election.
Texans claimed that it was not in their interest to remain a part
of the United States under a hostile (Lincoln) government. From
1836 to 1845, Texas had been an independent republic, and Texans
maintained that they had the right to decide to withdraw from the
Union and revert to their former status.
On January 8, 1861, voters of each county elected delegates to a
secession convention, which was to consider Texas' future relation
to the Union. The convention met in Austin from January 28 to February
4. On February 1, convention delegates voted 166 to 8 that Texas
should withdraw from the United States, subject to the will of the
people. The referendum was held on February 23, and resulted in
43 100 votes for secession and 14 700 against. In McLennan County
586 voted for and 191 against secession.
On March 5, 1861, Texas decided to join the Confederate States of
America, the new republic established by the breakaway states of
the South. The Northern states viewed this as rebellion, and a few
months later both sections mobilized for war.
9. War service 1861-1865
By the end of 1861, over 25 000 Texans had volunteered for service
in the Southern army. From 1861 to 1865, Texas supplied between
80 000 and 90 000 men to the Confederate war effort, among them
1500 from McLennan County.
The first company from McLennan County to leave for the front was
Captain Edward Ryan's "Lone Star Guards". They departed
Waco on July 22, 1861. After a long journey to Virginia, they were
mustered as Company E of the 4th Texas Infantry Regiment. Next to
follow was Peter F. Ross' cavalry company, which left for Dallas
in August and became Company G of the 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment.
Some weeks later Hiram Granbury's "Waco Guards" also departed.
They became Company A of the 7th Texas Infantry Regiment.
During the winter of 1861-62 and through the summer, additional
companies were enlisted in Waco. The majority went to the 15th Texas
Infantry Regiment (organized in April 1862) and the 30th Texas Cavalry
Regiment (organized in August 1862).