The impact of the “War Between the States” on the global cotton trade is something children studied in the 1990s in Florida, when Ol’ Myrt’s youngest daughter still lived at home and attended school there. Both of us learned the Union blockade effectively shut down the shipping trade through southern ports to a mere trickle, rendering Western Europe desperate for cotton.
So how does Bagdad fit into the mix?
Bagdad, Mexico was a tiny town of 300 inhabitants just prior to its emergence as a major blockade “go-around” during the US Civil War. Writer Ron Hunka explains how creative shipping lines merely exchanged their nation’s colors for the neutral flag of Mexico, and found Bagdad, Mexico a viable alternative.
“In March 1863, one observer counted 92 ships anchored at Bagdad. By late 1864 and early 1865, as many as 200 to 300 ships were there on any given day. During this period, the price of cotton at Matamoros, from where it went by boat or cart to Bagdad, soared with the demand reflected by the increased number of ships. The price went from $0.16 a pound in August 1862 to as high as $1.25 in 1865.”
Ron also explains the role of overland stagecoaches and smaller cargo ships to run the goods around the blockade to the ocean-going vessels anchored outside the small port. Additional examples describe the impact of all the hustle and bustle on the town of Bagdad’s socio-economic climate.
Hunka, Ron. “Bagdad, Mexico: Civil War Boomtown”. History Magazine. Feb/Mar 2009, pages 18-20.
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