The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

The Antebellum Texas Cattle Trade across the Gulf
of Mexico
DAVID G. SURDAM*
A FTER THE CIVIL WAR, THE LONG DRIVES OF TEXAS CATTLE TO SUCH
legendary towns as Abilene and Dodge City captured and retained
the nation's fancy. Less renowned are the antebellum shipments of
Texas cattle across the Gulf of Mexico from now ghost-town Indianola,
Galveston, and other Texas ports to New Orleans and Mobile.
An early chronicler of the Texas cattle trade, Joseph G. McCoy, began
two traditions. First, he maintained that "few attempts were ever made
before the war to drive cattle north, although it was done, but not large-
ly or very successfully." Second, he claimed that:
New Orleans and Mobile were the only cities of size outside of the state that con-
sumed any considerable portion of Texan cattle, and these markets were con-
trolled in fact [sic] practically monopolized, by the Morgan line of steamers
plying between the coast of Texas and those cities. To anyone outside of the ship
company an enormous rate of freight was exacted, practically debarring the or-
dinary shipper.'
McCoy's first claim has been amply refuted; several historians have de-
tailed the numerous attempts to drive cattle north.- McCoy employed
*David G. Surdam is an assistant professor of economics at Loyola University of Chicago. He
is completing a book on northern naval superiority and the economics of the American Civil
War. He wishes to thank Professors Robert Fogel and David Galenson, the members of the Uni-
versity of Chicago Economic History workshop, and the referees of the Southwestern Historical
Quarterly for their helpful comments.
SJoseph G. McCoy, Historical Sketches of the West and Southwest, ed. Ralph Bieber (Glendale,
Calif. Arthur H. Clark Co., [1874] 1940), 93. See also Ernest S. Osgood, The Day of the Cattleman
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1929), 27.
2 McCoy, Historical Sketches, 28-32, 40, 155; Paul Gates, The Farmer's Age: Agriculture,
1815-186o (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1960), og9, 2 11, 214; Walter P. Webb, The
Great Plains (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1931), 211; Clarence W. Gordon, "Report on Cattle, Sheep,
and Swine," in U.S. Bureau of the Census, Tenth Census--188o, Agriculture (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1883), 965; W. W. Corbett, "Beef and Beef-Cattle of the West," in
United States, Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1862 (Washington, D.C.: Government
Printing Office, 1862), 329; Chicago Board of Trade, "Second Annual Statement of the Trade and
Commerce of Chicago for the Year Ending, December 31, 1859," (Chicago: Hyatt Brothers,
1859), 56; Western Journal of Commerce (Kansas City), Jan. 9, Sept. 25, 1858, Jan. 1, Sept.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed December 25, 2014.