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This blog was updated on a daily basis for about two years, with those daily entries ceasing on December 31, 2013. The blog is still active, however, and we hope that people stopping in, who find something lacking, will add to the daily entries.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

After Appomattox. The Civil War's impact on Wyoming.


We recently posted this item on the Civil War in Wyoming:
Today In Wyoming's History: Wyoming in the Civil War: I posted this item on our other blog, Lex Anteinternet, very recently for a variety of reasons: Lex Anteinternet: The Stars and Bars as ...
That's not where Wyoming's story with the Civil War ends, however.  When the guns fell silent at Appomattox (which of course didn't really end the war everywhere), changes kept on coming.  And indeed it was inevitable that they would, given the operation of Holscher's Fourth Law of History, War Changes Everything.  So here we'll look at that part of the history of our state, which again is a very significant one we've heretofore overlooked.

To a degree, with our earlier thread on the Civil War in Wyoming, we've already started to look at that to a degree.  We concluded our examination there with noting three (actually two) battles that occurred in Wyoming in the summer of 1865, just after the war ended with the last battle of that war, ironically in the west, at Palmito Ranch in May 1865.  Just two months later cavalrymen from Ohio, Kansas, and infantrymen from southern states serving as paroled Confederates, fought in central Wyoming at Platte Bridge Station. Soon thereafter Patrick Connor's troops fought in northern Wyoming at the Battle of Tongue River.  Starting shortly after that, however, these state troops were sent home and the Regular Army started coming back in.

 Aggressive campaigner in the West during the Civil War, Patrick E. Connor.

They didn't come back in to peace, however.  What began, in some ways, as a Cheyenne uprising in 1864 in reaction to Col. Chivington's attack on peaceful Black Kettle in Colorado spread to a Sioux campaign in 1865 under the leadership of Red Cloud.  But why was Red Cloud fighting the Army in 1865?  European American expansion into the Powder River Basis was the reason why.

And this came about in part as part of the increased immigration west that started with the Civil War.  In popular memory, when the Civil War broke out men left their homes to join the fight for four years.  But that's not really true.  Many men did, of course (often for shorter terms of service, however) but some men, and some families, indeed quite a few, simply picked up and moved west to remove themselves from the strife.  Men and women from all over the country found themselves on immigrant trails leading west, hoping for a new, and more peaceful life, somewhere else.  And, with men again, some just yielded to a seeming American migratory instinct and placed themselves in the west, looking for something, with that something often being gold and silver. Given all of this, just as Indian tribes were becoming increasingly militant, an increase in European Americans in the west was being experienced as well.  This was, in part, a direct result of the war.

It didn't stop with the end of the war, however.  The war had put thousands of people in motion, some through military service, and some as refugees.  Following the war most people just went home, but some had no homes to return to, or didn't wish to, and a minority of servicemen just couldn't.  So following the war war they joined the immigrant trail.  The passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 further in creased this, as people made newly mobile found the inducement of land more than amply balanced against the difficulties of travel, particularly when they'd become accustomed to that, or had their backs forced up against the wall in any event.  This yielding to a migratory impulse would impact Wyoming and the entire country for years, with in Wyoming people moving to, or more often across, the state going on for a very long time.

It's easy to disregard the war in this context, but it shouldn't be.  Contrary to what Americans generally think about their history, Americans did move prior to the Civil War, but not usually very far. Seven miles per generation is the general figure for the pre Civil War advancement of the Frontier. But the war changed that, by force in part, and in part by acclimation.  It can be argued that the United States, as a mobile society, began with the war.

Tombstone of Illinois Civil War veteran, in Casper's Highland Cemetary. Such markers are not uncommon in the cemetery, an indicator of the many men who chose not to return to their homes after the Civil War or who ultimately left them.

All of this increased European American presence in the state (aided by the advancing Union Pacific Railroad, ran right into an increased Indian militancy, as already noted, and the Army found itself confronting a more difficult situation in 1865 than it had in 1860.  Added to this, the war ended up changing over the rank and file, and the officer corps, of what had been a fairly stable career Army.  Many men who would have continued on as career enlisted men in the tiny pre war Army either left it after years of intense combat, or were casualties of the war.  The post war Army therefore had many new men in it, including oddly enough even quite a few who had not served in the Civil War, having barely missed it.  The officer corps, for its part, was now heavily dominated by men who had cut their teeth in the Civil War and had risen up to high ranks, only to be reduced in rank in many instances to fill slots in the post war Army.  Added to their numbers were officers who had not come though West Point but rather who'd been wartime commission holders who were now accepted into Regular Federal service at the insistence of Congress, which required the Army to make room for a certain number of them.

The Army had gone into the Civil War as a very small institution, but one that had quite a bit of Frontier experience and which was very rough and ready.  After half a decade of modern war in the East, the Army that emerged in the 1865 to 1866 time frame quickly evolved from a Frontier force with experience into one that was almost entirely new and somewhat green.  The battles of the immediate post war period sometimes demonstrate this.  The Fetterman Fight in December 1866 epitomized this.  Troops from Ft. Phil Kearney, which was commanded by a pre war lawyer turned wartime officer, Col. Carrington, found themselves badly lead by former Lt. Colonel, now Captain, William J. Fetterman who failed to appreciate that fighting the Sioux was going to be different than fighting Confederates.  This lead, of course, to the destruction of his command in the worst Frontier Army disaster of the immediate post war period, which wouldn't be eclipsed until former General, now Lt. Colonel, George A. Custer lead his troops into a worst disaster in 1876 in Montana.

Monument to the troops of William J. Fetterman's detail.

The Army, practically a new Army, did learn how to engage in its new role, but it wasn't as quick or proficient as it as might generally be believed.  Red Cloud actually managed to win his war in 1868, giving us the only example of a Plains Indian War in which the native combatants emerged with a wartime victory.  A war weary and distracted United States yielded to the Sioux in this singular example in Wyoming, making this Wyoming experience unique, albeit temporary.  Hardly noticed is that the 1868 victory came only a few years before the campaigns of the 1876, which would see a spectacular Sioux battlefield victory but which would result in the ultimate Sioux and Cheyenne defeat.

 Red Cloud

Part of this story, of course, is that Col. Chivington's attack on the Cheyenne in 1864 caused a war with the Cheyenne that was fought in Wyoming and Nebraska.  The Cheyenne were Sioux allies and would fight with the Sioux into the 1870s before they experienced the same results.  In some ways, the Wyoming Indian Wars of the late Civil War period were more dominated by the Cheyenne than the Sioux, while the larger Sioux wold dominate the wars from 1866 on.

The collapse of the Indian effort was a feature of Wyoming's history and Wyoming featured prominently in the campaigns on the Northern Plains.  And of course a result of that collapse was a vast expansion of the reservation system in the West.  That expansion would see the Cheyenne and Sioux, who had entered Wyoming in the first half of the 19th Century taken back out and removed as a demographic in Wyoming.  The Crow, who had ranged into and contested for Wyoming as well would also find themselves outside of the state, although only barely given their reservation in southern Montana (the Cheyenne also have one of their reservations in southern Montana near the Wyoming border).  The Wind River Reservation was established at the request of the Shoshone in 1868 (again, a unique Wyoming fact, given that it was unusual for an Indian tribe to ask for a Reservation).  The Arapaho's, a small tribe allied to the Sioux and  Cheyenne (and who had members of their tribe at Sand Creek at the time of Chivington's attack) came on to the reservation in 1878 as a result of the increasingly desperate straits the collapse of Indian efforts following 1876 entailed.

It would be a stretch, of course, to say that the Indian Wars of the 1866 to 1890 time frame are all the result of Civil War, but not much of a stretch.  Some of this strife would have happened anyhow, but it cannot be denied that the tribes were activated and made militant by the events of the Civil War and that the increase of European American immigration into the West which the war fueled played a major part in making that strife what it was.  Likewise, the Army effort was heavily impacted by the loss of the pre war soldiers who knew Frontier campaigning.

Part of the influx of immigration into Wyoming which hasn't been addressed, and which has to be addressed as a separate topic, is that of post war cattlemen. This was, in fact, a direct result of the Civil War.

Wyoming had seen very little in the way of agriculture prior to the Civil War.  Small agricultural units did pop up around the advancing Union Pacific to serve it, but they weren't much.  Prior to that, farming had been introduced by Mexican immigrant labor around Ft. Laramie, when the "Mexican Hills" were farmed by families that had come up after the Mexican War to work on the new buildings at the fort.  The war changed all of this.

During the Civil War enormous herds of feral cattle had grown up in Texas, as those cattle were simply abandoned by those who owned them as they went away to Confederate service.  After the war, these wild cattle were basically free for the taking, or rather for the taking for those who would expend the effort.  Without a market however, they were of very low value.

 Branding cattle in Texas, approximately in the 1860s.

The East provided that market, and it was a market for beef. Prior to the 1865, the United States was really a pork eating nation, not a beef eating one.  Cattle in Texas were raised in the Mexican market fashion, for their hides.  Meat was only a locally consumed byproduct.  The expansion of rail into the West, however, which had commenced before the war and which continued on during it, brought railhead within long distance trailing of Texas herds, and that meant that they could now be driving, as difficult as that was, to railheads for shipment to the hungry East.

It's already been addressed here, but nearly as soon as it became evident that money could be made driving cattle to railheads in Kansas, it became evident that the cattle industry could expand into the plains regions of the West profitably.  This took off rapidly and Wyoming the cattle industry was reaching far up into Wyoming by the mid 1870s, although with difficulty.  Following the collapse of Indian resistance in the late 1870s, the door was open and it really took off in the 1880s.

The story of the early cattle industry is a complicated one, but one of the prominent but lesser noted aspects of it is the extent to which it reflected Southern livestock raising practice.  In the Antebellum South, and indeed well after it, cattle had been turned out into the woods, which while owned were largely unexploited.  This meant that cattle were effectively grazed in "commons" by men who necessarily had to be mounted.  Following the Southern defeat in the war, the use of the wooded commons became increasingly restricted as the timber lands owners, often of the planter class, actively acted to deprive Southern yeomen of the use of them.  Already having suffered the impacts of defeat, some of these men simply took off and went where cattle were otherwise raised, such as in Texas or ultimately elsewhere in the West, taking their mounted lives and practices with them.  This reflected itself in the practices of the cattle industry, even though it is difficult to find the stories of individual cowboys who reflect this. But, for that matter, the stories of individual Mexican cowboys, or black cowboys, who made up 1/3d of that class, is also difficult to find.

Which brings us to another aspect of this story, the addition of African Americans to the Wyoming demographic.  They did not come in huge numbers, but they did come, and even ended up being incorporated into Wyoming's civic life very quickly.  At least one black juror served in a capitol murder jury early in the 20th Century, a remarkable fact for the United States that time, and Casper elected a black Civil War veteran as its mayor during the 1890s.

Something often omitted, oddly, in the popular recollection of the early cattle industry is that this is an economic story. That is, the cattle industry was and is an industry, not some sort of exotic hobby.  The cattle industry in the West differed markedly from cattle raising efforts east of the Mississippi as those efforts, prior to the Civil War, had been much less market oriented for practical reasons.  Most meat was butchered and consumed locally, as there there was no practical means of preservation other than salting or corning (and hence the widespread consumption of bacon, ham, corned beef, and sausages in that era).

I note this as one of the hugely significant aspect of the Civil War is that it accelerated, partially through political actions, the industrialization of the United States, and that had a big impact on the early history of Wyoming.  Indeed, while very poorly understood, that impact still lives on today, although its ironically contested by the same forces that brought it about.

The Civil War did not cause the Industrial Revolution in the United States. That had been ongoing for quite some time.  However, the Industrial Revolution had not come to all o the United States prior to the war, and that impacted the war and its results.  Industrialization had occurred much more significantly in the North.  The South provided 25% of the nation's exports prior to the war, but nearly 100% of that 25% were agricultural products.  The South, famously, had no arms industry at all when it chose to take on the North, which had a significant one.

This is not to say, as is sometimes implied, that everyone in the North was working in a factory.  That view was somewhat popular in the South at the time, which is one of the things that gave Southerners false comport, feeling as they did that a bunch of pasty faced factory workers would not be able to take on the hardy yeoman of the South.  In fact, most Northerners were from farms as well and many were also Yeoman.  One of the rude shocks of the war that the South experienced was to learn that, as they did for example taking on the Michigan Brigade early in the war where they were stunned to find that Michigan's troops weren't bothered by the rain.

The industrialization of the North, however, is important to this story as industry had widely developed and was supported politically in the North. While a majority of Northerners were yeomen, as in the South, Yeoman in the North had not retained a huge cultural identity as they did in the South.  Southerners were not only mostly yeomen, in outlook they were hostile to industry.  This wasn't the case in the North.  Because the Democratic Party identified with the  South, and the political class in the South was Democratic, and because the Whigs had folded into the Republican Party in the North, this impacted politics.

The GOP of this period, and all the way through World War One, is an interesting mix of views that are sometimes difficult to reconcile. Basically, however, the GOP inherited the pro industry view of northern Whigs, while also having what we'd regard today as strong pro civil rights platform. The party was simultaneously radical and conservative, depending upon which aspect  of its politics you are looking at.  What this meant in practical terms, however, is that the party tended towards strongly supporting government support of business, while also being strongly supportive of individual rights.

The Civil War caused the fortunes of the Democratic Party to fall enormously, and the early history of Wyoming as well as most of the rest of the West was marked by the Republican Party being the dominant political party.  That party favored industry and it favored government support of industry, which directly impacted Wyoming.  The GOP favored retention of the public domain by the Federal government for direct claim by homesteaders and mineral entrants, something that the states had not done so generously. The GOP sponsored railroad through the granting land to them.  The GOP backed land grant universities. The GOP dominated the early political history of Wyoming, and it was both pro civil rights and pro business.  Wyoming, by extension, reflected those values, being remarkably progressive at least as to black residents and through also being a backer of women's rights in the context of the 19th Century. That latter movement, notably, had grown directly out of the the abolition movement.

The acceleration of the fortunes of industry during the war, and the decline of the Democratic party which had backed a more agrarian view of the economy, also meant that the entire country progressed into a more industrial era at a more rapid pace than it otherwise would have.  The region of the United States that remained resistant to that evolution remained the South, and as late as the 1930s the Southern Agrarians would push back against Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal with their manifesto I'll Take My Stand. That was well after the era we are discussing, of course, but it is the case that the fortunes of industry advanced remarkably for at least a couple of decades after the Civil War, during that same period of time during which the  Wyoming Territory was created, and Wyoming became a state.  Wyoming itself did not participate in heavy industry, but almost from its onset as a territory, in spite of it being primarily agricultural, it looked towards mineral development very favorably, and that mineral development could only have taken place in the context of a large national industrial economy.

Also in the context of politics, Wyoming's early political history featured many individuals who had been Union soldiers during the Civil War.  Francis E. Warren provides a prominent example, as he not only had been a Civil War era solider, he had been  a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Not too surprisingly, almost all of the Wyoming's early politicians were immigrants to the state, and a fair number of those men had served in the Union's forces during the war.  Confederates were notably absent in this category.

Francis E. Warren wearing his Congressional Medal of Honor.

All this goes, in part, to the fact that the settlement of Wyoming and its obtaining of statehood in 1890 is itself a direct byproduct of the war.  Without the cattle industry's expansion in the 1880s, which really started in Texas in the late 1860s, it just wouldn't have happened in the same manner or nearly so quickly.  If pre war trends had continued, its hard to see the same event taking place in 1890, and foreseeing a different future in which statehood came about in the 20th Century is more likely.  Indeed, Wyoming itself wasn't recognized as a territory until 1868, and its doubtful that would have occurred at the same pace, if at all.  The Indian Wars of the 1860s and 1870s probably wouldn't have occurred as well, and it's possible that Indian fortunes would have played out more favorably than they did.


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