Civil War and Reconstruction
Industry Cotton Mill Industry Gov Transportation Industry Rising


The story of industry in Tennessee during Reconstruction includes both growth and decline. Before the war, Tennessee had some iron production and tobacco processing. These industries were hit hard by the war and faced a slow recovery.           
Other industrial production increased during Reconstruction. The number of manufacturing companies grew 107 percent from 1860 to 1870.  The number of people employed by these businesses increased as well. However, most of these firms were relatively modest and created products mainly for their own communities.
Industries helped Tennessee cities grow. Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis all attracted investors from the North who wanted to develop Tennessee’s resources. 
Many of the industries during this period relied on the state’s natural wealth such as lumber mills. Others were closely related to agriculture. For example, several communities in Tennessee had flour mills or grist mills. Memphis became a center for producing cottonseed oil—a byproduct of cotton farming.
One industry that was important and that got into a lot of trouble during this period was the railroads. Tennessee had some railroads operating before the start of the Civil War, and they became crucial transportation routes for troops and supplies during the conflict. However, both armies would blow up railroad tracks to disrupt transportation of supplies to its enemy. By the end of the war, the railroads were in poor shape. 
During Reconstruction, the state government led by Governor William Brownlow wanted to improve the railroads in Tennessee. To accomplish this, the state spent $14 million to assist railroad companies. Much of this money was not used correctly due to corruption. A great scandal erupted about the improper spending of the railroad money and the large debt the state incurred by making these funds available.

Picture Credits:
  • Photograph of the Rising Fawn Iron Works, Hot Blast, in Tennessee.  This photograph was created sometime between 1870 and 1885 and is included in the Robert Dennis stereograph collection.  New York Public Library
  • Photograph of a government vessel in transport on the Tennessee River near Chickamauga. This picture was created in 1865 by the War Department and is included in the Mathew Brady Collection. United States National Archives & Records Administration
  • Photograph of a Tennessee cotton mill.  This photograph was creates sometime between 1870 and 1885 and is included in the Robert Dennis stereograph collection. New York Public Library

   Civil War and Reconstruction >>  Reconstruction >>  How They Worked >>  Industry

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