The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 68, July 1964 - April, 1965

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ALLAN C. ASHCRAFT
HE DEPARTMENT OF THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI WEST WAS THAT
part of the Confederate States of America which included
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, the Confederate Indian
Territory, Arkansas, the portion of Louisiana west of the Missis-
sippi River, and such areas in Missouri as Confederate troops
could control.
General Edmund Kirby Smith, the department commander,
faced a difficult, challenging-perhaps impossible-task in attempt-
ing to administer the giant province. Nevertheless, Kirby Smith
and his staff officers certainly worked diligently to "hold things
together." This was especially true after the fall of Vicksburg when
Union control of the Mississippi River completely isolated "Kirby
Smithdom" from the Richmond government. One example of
Kirby Smith's efforts to solve supply problems was an attempt to
have a beef-packing plant established at Jefferson, Texas. Major
William H. Thomas,' departmental commissary and subsistence
officer, originated the beef-packing project in September, 1863.
In 1863, high civil and military officers became fearful of a
beef shortage in the Southwest. Texas still had its traditional
super-abundance of cattle, but herd numbers were being rapidly
cut by drought, a lack of manpower to maintain the animals, and
the movement of cattle to Mexico.2 To assure that the army would
'William H. Thomas served throughout the war as a major in the commissary
department. His first duty was as commissary officer of Henry A. Wise's Virginia
Legion. Later, Thomas was transferred to Tennessee, where he fell under the eye
of Kirby Smith. When Kirby Smith was given command of the Department of the
'Ians-Mississippi West, he brought Thomas with him and assigned him to the staff
position of Chief of Subsistence. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (70 vols. in 128; Washing-
ton, 1880-1901), Series I, Vol. IX, 136; XXII, Pt. 2, 799.
'Over 3,5oo,ooo cattle by i86o. Agriculture of the United States in x86o; Com-
piled From the Original Returns of the Eighth Census (Washington, 1864), 148.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 68, July 1964 - April, 1965. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101198/. Accessed July 23, 2014.