Stephen F. Austin State University

What Major Role Did Newton Play In the Civil War (October 2011)

What Major Role Did Newton Play In the Civil War?
By Jonnie Miller

As with most communities across the country, Newton County played its part in the Civil War. The citizens of the county overwhelming favored the conservative southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge in the 1860 presidential election and were also heavily in favor of secession.
As the war progressed federal troops were trying to move up the Sabine or across Louisiana and take Texas. Confederates built breastworks and maintained an arsenal at Burkeville. A major supply route since 1823 was "The Old Beef Trail" and during the war it was an important supply artery to the Confederate states until the Federal army gained control of the Mississippi River in July, 1863. The confederate army used the road to move troops as well as supplies. Sabine River crossings were fortified against attack, as the roads would be a necessity for an invading force. After the Federal army got control of the Mississippi River the supplying toward the east ended.

The trail was a route to move cattle from Texas to feed armies and civilians as far east as Mobile, Alabama. Sabine ferries were equipped with cattle pens. The pens were made of very strong timbers and were very high to prevent the wild cattle from jumping out of them. Ferrymen even kept oxen trained to lead herds swimming across the river in areas where that was possible. Some local vbeef went eastward also.

Farrsville, a town founded about 1850 on Cow Creek, had a military campground and corrals furnishing fresh stagecoach teams. Tanning vats and shops there made boots and shoes for the confederacy. Water mills ground corn for bread, lumber was sawed and cotton was ginned in this area. These products were used to supply the South and the war effort. The commissioner's court made appropriations to outfit military units for such things as horses, aid to dependent families and cotton cards to turn the lint into batts for spinning, weaving and knitting. The county, which voted 178 to 3 for secession, went 400 soldiers into the Confederate army. Many of these soldiers tombstones will be listed in the new Cemetery Book at the history center.