BLOG 16-THE SOUTHERN BREAD RIOTS 1863
SOUTHERN BREAD RIOTS
The Southern bread riots were events of civil unrest in the Confederacy, perpetrated mostly by women in March and April 1863. During these riots, which occurred in cities throughout the South, women and men violently invaded and looted various shops and stores.
The riots were triggered by the women's lack of money, provisions, and food. All were the result of multiple factors:
Inflation had soared and incomes had not.
Refugees had flooded the cities causing severe shortages of housing and overwhelming the old food supply system. Richmond tripled from 38,000 people in 1860 to over 100,000 by 1863.
Food supplies in rural areas were running short and less was exported to cities; foraging armies, both Union and Confederate, ravaged crops and killed farm animals.
Many cities—especially Richmond---were at the end of long supply lines, and internal transportation became increasingly difficult.
The drought of 1862 created a poor harvest that did not yield enough in a time when food was already scarce.
Salt, which at the time was the only practical meat preservative, was very expensive (if available at all) because it was generally an imported item. The Union Blockade prevented imports, and the capture of Avery Island, with its salt-mine, exacerbated the problem.
Similarly to the French Revolution, citizens, mostly women, began to protest the exorbitant price of bread. The protesters believed a negligent government and speculators were to blame. To show their displeasure, many protesters turned to violence. In Richmond,Columbus, Georgia, Macon, Atlantia and Augusta armed mobs attacked stores and warehouses. In North Carolina, mobs destroyed grocery and dry goods stores.
Food riots were occurring before the arrival of Union troops because the Confederate Army was suffering the same food shortages and was taking food stocks for its own needs. Additionally, as the cost of war for the Confederate government exceeded the tax revenue, legislation was enacted that exacerbated the situation by devaluing the Confederate currency and inflating prices of goods.
Richmond Bread Riots
On April 2, 1863 in the Confederate capital of Richmond Virginia, about 5,000 people, mostly poor women, broke into shops and began seizing food, clothing, shoes, and even jewellery before the Militia arrived to restore order. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of items were stolen. No one died and few were injured. The riot was organized and instigated by Mary Jackson, a huckster and the mother of a soldier.
President Jefferson Davis pleaded with the women and even threw them money from his pockets, asking them to disperse, saying "You say you are hungry and have no money; here, this is all I have". The mayor read the riot act; the governor called out the militia, and it restored order.
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