Women on the Home Front

So, how was it at home during the Civil War? In Texas, the women and children were hurting. In Lavaca County, during the winter of 1864-1865, the home front saw a complete lack of firewood. In a time, when wood for stoves and home fires was essential, there was none to be had. Inflation was high. Food was short. The state of Texas set up distribution offices for families of soldiers to receive rations. The Lavaca County distribution office said they could not make a distribution, so a group of women walked in, pistol in hand and insisted they receive their rations. The women got their rations. Lavaca County is about mid-way between San Antonio and Houston.

A bad storm hit the community and knocked down the Baptist church. In the middle of the night, women and older children went to the remains and pulled out shards of wood for fire. A male guard was there to stop them. But, the women told him there were enough women there to “whip him, so he had as well say nothing.” He laughed and said he liked their “spunk.” The women replied they would tie him hand and foot if he interfered with them.

The Mill

In the same part of Texas, some of the poor women went to a miller and asked him for a small portion of whatever he was preparing for the wealthier families. He refused. Some of the women then guarded him with their weapons, while other women filled their sacks. As one woman said years later, “Be assured that it was the women that protected themselves in this war and not the men.”

As hard as living conditions were back home, one historian says that of the hundreds of letters between the families and their soldiers in the Texas Brigade, only a few letters encouraged their loved ones to quit the war and come home. As stated elsewhere on this blog, the men of the Texas Brigade were patriotic enough to travel 1000 miles on their own dime to enlist in Virginia. It appears their families were equally patriotic. In the 1860 census, Lavaca County had some 5700 white persons and some 1600 slaves. The economy at the time was more Southern than Western. But, still, one would expect wholesale desertions if the men were only fighting to own another man.

Source:

Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), pp. 243-245

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