History of Cotton

History of Cotton

History of Cotton

What is Cotton?
Cotton, belonging to a  family that includes hibiscus and okra, produces a natural vegetable fiber used  in the manufacture of cloth. Cotton produces a sweet nectar that attracts a  variety of destructive insect pests, including the boll weevil, bollworm,  armyworm, and the red spider. In addition to insect pests, there is also a very  destructive fungus, called the wilt, that attacks the root system of the cotton  plant.

A few species  are grown commercially; these range from a small tree of Asia, to the common  American Upland cotton, a low, multibranched shrub that is grown as an annual.  Another species includes the long-fiber Egyptian and Sea Island cottons  botanically derived from the Egyptian species brought to the United States about  1900. Sea Island cotton thrives in the unique climate of the Sea Islands,  located off the southeastern coast of the United States, and on the islands of  the West Indies such as Barbados. As with Egyptian cotton, the fiber is white  and lustrous but its fiber length is longer than that of any other type of  cotton, which permits the spinning of extremely fine yarns. Pima, originally  called American-Egyptian cotton, is a hybrid type. It is the only variety of  long-fiber cotton now grown in commercially significant quantities in the United  States, where it is cultivated under irrigation in the Southwest.

Foot Steps.
It is almost impossible to  determine the original habitats of the various species of cotton. Scientists  have determined fiber and boll fragments from the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico to  be about 7000 years old. The plant has certainly been grown and used in India  for at least 5000 years and probably for much longer. Cotton was used also by  the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, and North and South Americans. It was one of the  earliest crops grown by European settlers, having been planted at the Jamestown  colony in 1607.

Cotton was the most  important crop in South before the American Civil War (1861-1865). Slaves  usually worked all day picking cotton for their masters while overseers watched  from their horses.

England was one of the South’s largest cotton customers, many therefore Southerners believed England would enter the war on their behalf to preserve  England’s supply of cotton. The South was confident this would assure a swift  Confederate victory.

Cotton was king and Louisiana was queen! New Orleans was the major l9th-century  port for cotton export, and Louisiana’s fertile valleys were the South’s major  cotton producers. The Confederate government realized cotton was as good as if  not better than gold. Cotton’s value gave Louisiana a major financial role  during the war. Not only did the Confederacy use the foreign exchange paid to  the South for the exported 1860 cotton crop, the Confederate government  purchased cotton to use both as security for European loans and for export.

This plan worked until 1862 when the Union army occupied New Orleans and Baton  Rouge. Federal forces raided from Morgan City up to Alexandria. Vicksburg and  Port Hudson fell, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River.

As Confederate troops retreated, they destroyed as much of the cotton crop as  possible, to prevent this “gold” from falling into enemy hands.