At the end of the American Civil War, the devastation and disruption in the state of Georgia were dramatic. Wartime damage, the inability to maintain a labor force without slavery, and miserable weather had a disastrous effect on agricultural production. The state’s chief cash crop, cotton, fell from a high of more than 700,000 bales in 1860 to less than 50,000 in 1865, while harvests of corn and wheat were also meager. The state government subsidized construction of numerous new railroad lines. White farmers turned to cotton as a cash crop, often using commercial fertilizers to make up for the poor soils they owned. The coastal rice plantations never recovered from the war.
Bartow County was representative of the postwar difficulties. Property destruction and the deaths of a third of the soldiers caused financial and social crises; recovery was delayed by repeated crop failures. The Freedmen’s Bureau agents were unable to give blacks the help they needed.