By the end of 1863, the great majority of adult white male Texans were away from home, serving either in the Confederate army or in various state military forces. At least 65,000 Texans served in the war, more than 10 percent of the entire population of the state. Of all American wars, only World War II saw a higher percentage of the population mobilized than the Civil War.
Women took on the responsibilities of their husbands. They managed farms and plantations and took over jobs ranging from teaching to cotton freighting to keep their family businesses going. Women made bandages and bed linens and operated hospitals and sick wards for wounded soldiers returning from the war. Women also took the lead in providing indigent families of soldiers with food, clothing, and other assistance.
Shortages were the most obvious disruption to the everyday lives of Texans. The blockade had cut off treasured imports such as medicine, pins and needles, and candles. Newspapers gradually dwindled away for lack of paper. Manufactured goods such as clothing, shoes, and salt were going directly to the troops, while civilians patched, made do, and went without.
As the war entered its last year, the misery became widespread. At least two-thirds of Texas schoolhouses had closed their doors. Though basic staples such as pork and cornbread never failed, malnutrition and associated diseases such as diarrhea were on the rise, especially among the indigent wives and children of soldiers.
In some areas, outlaws ran wild. Bandits took over the Hill Country roads between Austin and Fredericksburg; Houston suffered through a wave of burglaries. Citizens struck back with vigilante justice. Fourteen people were strung up in Weatherford County, and a number of others in Parker and Gillespie counties. In Tyler, a mob stormed the courthouse and lynched four bandits.
The deteriorating conditions in Texas and other states had a direct effect on the Confederacy’s ability to continue the war. When soldiers heard about the conditions their families were facing, they deserted their posts and headed for home.