Aftermath and Impacts of the Civil War

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How did the end of the Civil War affect the cattle industry?

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Longhorn cattle were raised in Texas since the time it was part of Mexico. Once Mexico became independent in the 1830s, the cattle were left behind, and cattle raising became a way of life. During the Civil War, the cattle were not tended to, as ranchers were fighting in the...

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Longhorn cattle were raised in Texas since the time it was part of Mexico. Once Mexico became independent in the 1830s, the cattle were left behind, and cattle raising became a way of life. During the Civil War, the cattle were not tended to, as ranchers were fighting in the war. After the Union victory in the Civil War in 1865, the cattle were plentiful, but the market for beef was outside the poverty-stricken South. Cattle drives to the east and west began after the Civil War, and trail drivers drove the cattle north for slaughter along well-worn trails such as the Chisholm Trail, which went from Texas to Abilene, Kansas. By the 1880s, cattle drives were replaced by railroads, including refrigerated cars that transported beef long distances.

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The Civil War dramatically changed the cattle industry. Thousands of Texas ranchers went to fight in the war; sadly, many of them died in the war. In their absence, Texas cattle broke down fences and reproduced on the grasslands. After the war, there were thousands of unclaimed cattle in Texas. The end of the Civil War resulted in many young people needing work, especially Southerners, as well as rapid growth in the railroad industry. As railheads expanded west into Kansas, cattle barons needed a way to take advantage of the available fodder and to ship cattle east, where they would make the most profit. This led to the cattle drives, which gave the United States one of its iconic figures—the cowboy. The period only ended when droughts and blizzards killed most of the livestock and when farmers moved west and enclosed water supplies with barbed wire.

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