Bread Riots

18thVirginia

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#1
I sat on a bench near, and one of the number left the rest and took the seat beside me. She was a pale, emaciated girl, not more than eighteen. . . As she raised her hand to remove her sunbonnet and use it for a fan, her loose calico sleeve slipped up and revealed the mere skeleton of an arm. She perceived my expression as I looked at it, and hastily pulled down her sleeve with a short laugh. 'This is all that's left of me' she said. 'It seems real funny, don't it?. . .We are starving. As soon as enough of us get together, we are going to the bakeries and each of us will take a loaf of bread. That is little enough for the government to give us after it has taken all our men.'

From a letter by a Richmond woman describing the food riots of 1863.
"Bread Riot in Richmond, 1863" EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2009).

The food riot that occurred in Richmond is the most famous and most often recalled of the bread riots perpetrated by women in 1863, perhaps because the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, felt called upon to quell the crowd of women and children. The respondent quoted above stated in her letter to a friend that the mob numbered more than a 1,000 who marched along the streets of Richmond emptying the stores of their contents. She noted that after Jefferson Davis spoke kindly to the women they moved on, "taking their food with them."


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http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/civil-war-dissent
 
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18thVirginia

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Although letters and petitions from women across the South would flood into the offices of the president of the Confederacy in early 1863 and riots would take place that spring in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, Milledgeville and the following year in Savannah, the first uprising of Confederate women for food had occurred in New Orleans as early as 1861.

On August 1, 1861, 300 women pressed their way into the mayor's office and City Hall in the Crescent City. Most of the women, whom the newspaper said used "abusive language" toward the mayor, had husbands or other male relatives serving in the Confederate army. As the CSA paid both poorly and infrequently, the women wanted assurance that the city officials would see that the poor did not starve.

Within two weeks, the wealthy citizens and the city government set up a free market that provided food to relatives of Confederate soldiers twice a week. The free market served 2,000 people in its first week, although it only furnished food to those with relatives in the military. Since the economy of New Orleans depended upon the health of its port, which had decreased from exports of hundreds of millions of dollars a year to less than $50 million, many of the poor had lost their jobs. When they were able to find work, the prevailing wages could not keep up with inflation.

In an attempt to ameliorate the situation of its hungry citizenry, the city government set maximum prices for basic foods.

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City Hall, New Orleans (Gallier Hall)
 

AndyHall

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#4
In Galveston:

CustomsHouse.jpg


Civilians went without as well. Several weeks after the soldiers eulogized their rancid steer carcass on the courthouse square, the Confederate officer commanding at Galveston, Brigadier General James Hawes, responded to a shortage of milled flour by ordering the military commissary to stop selling the staple to soldiers’ families. Hawes was a fractious and self-important officer who had already been shuffled around various combat commands during the first part of the war; even Braxton Bragg, an infamously disputatious man in his own right, couldn’t stand him. In mid-April 1864, Hawes found himself put in charge of the defenses at Galveston. When Hawes cut off the provision of flour to soldiers’ families, women began protesting outside both his residence and his headquarters in the customs house. Ralph J. Smith, a veteran soldier in the Second Texas Infantry who helped disperse the women at the general’s quarters, recalled that “no one who has not seen a mob of this kind clamoring for bread can have any conception of the crazed and uncontrollable rage of the participants or appreciate the difficulty of quieting them without the shedding of blood.” Hawes had the provost guard arrest the women and put several he deemed to be ringleaders on the next train to Houston with orders not to return. This act, along with other perceived high-handed deeds by Hawes, earned the general the sobriquet “Beast Butler of Galveston.”
 
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18thVirginia

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As early as 1862, one Georgian had complained to the governor in the tendency of the planters to continue to grow cotton or instead of food for the families of Confederate soldiers and the military as well that cotton planters amounted to "internal enemies of the country, for they will whip us sooner than all Lincolndom combined could do it." http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/civil-war-dissent

Neighbors of Confederate Brigadier General Robert Toombs complained that he continued to grow cotton, like many other planters. Many of the planters smuggled their cotton out of the Confederacy while failing to provide food for the relatives of Confederate soldiers. Other planters who grew food sold it to speculators, who offered it at prices the women and children could not afford.

In Georgia, bread riots occurred in 1863 in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Milledgeville and in 1864 in Savannah.Rural communities that also experienced uprisings over food were Blackshear, Cartersville, Colquitt, Forsyth, Hartwell, Thomasville, Marietta, Stockton, and Valdosta. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/civil-war-dissent



atlanta view on marietta street.jpg

Atlanta, Ga, View on Marietta Street, Barnard, LOC.
 
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18thVirginia

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#7
civil-war-womens-riot.jpg


As part of the 150th Civil War anniversary, the Georgia Historical Society, the Georgia Battlefields Association and the Department of Economic Development placed a marker at the point where 65 Georgia women armed with knives and guns rallied in Columbus before they marched down Broad Street to demand food. http://georgiahistory.com/ghmi_marker_updated/civil-war-womens-riot/

Here's the transcript of the inscription on the marker:

On April 11, 1863, during the American Civil War, sixty-five Columbus women armed with knives and pistols rallied at this site and marched down Broad Street raiding the stores of speculators before police could restore order. During the war many planters ignored the Confederate government’s plea to grow food crops and continued to focus on cotton production instead, which was much more profitable but resulted in a food shortage that hit southern urban women particularly hard. Hoarding food and other commodities by speculation merchants made problems even worse. Women responded by staging riots all across the South, including in every major city in Georgia.

Erected for the Civil War 150 commemoration by the Georgia Historical Society and the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
 
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18thVirginia

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A letter from women in Miller County, Georgia implored:

"Our crops is limited and so short. . . . We can seldom find [bacon] for none has got but those that are exempt from service . . . and they have no humane feeling nor patriotic principles. . . . I tell you that without some great and speedy alterating in the conducting of affairs in this our little nation God will frown on it and that speedily."

http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/civil-war-dissent
 

18thVirginia

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In Atlanta, the food riot on March 18, 1863 was led by a tall lady who led her group of 15 to 20 women through Atlanta's downtown streets. At a store on White Hall Street, when the spokeswoman was not pleased with the high prices being charged by the merchant for bacon, she drew out a pistol and told her group to help themselves. They took several hundred dollars worth of food and dispersed shortly. But not before letting those outside know that they were the "wives and daughters of soldiers' families."

The business community immediately set up a relief fund for soldiers' families and the city council set aside an increased amount of money for food relief. Local merchants also contributed food.

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Whitehall Street, Atlanta
http://www.old-picture.com/pics/civil-war/001/Northward-Whitehall-Atlanta-Georgia.htm
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Thanks so much 18th. I'd heard of the Bread Riots of course, who has not? Looked them up once but the article must have been terribly biased since it had the women all slinking off home following a patriotic speech and no mention about them being soldiers' families- or that this was a wide spread problem. Plus the book I ran into recently on the women who sent supplies to the troop never mentions how awful it was for those families. Shortages of normal items, not starvation. Those poor women, can't imagine.
 

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In the Salisbury, North Carolina Bread Riot, the 50 to 75 women took to the streets armed with hatchets. As in other communities, they targeted stores where they considered the proprietors to be speculators or, as one onlooker put it, "extortionists." They offered to pay government prices. At the first store they encountered, they broke the door down with their hatchets and left after the merchant parted with ten barrels of free flour.

One of the women, Mary Moore, wrote a long defense of the North Carolina women's actions, addressed to the governor. She stated that "We Gov are all soldiers Wives or Mothers, our Husbands and Sons are now separated from us by the cruel war not only to defend their humbly homes but the homes and property of the rich man." Moore went on to explain that they'd garnered 23 barrels of flour, two sacks of salt, half a barrel of molasses and $20 in cash. Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South.

After getting some of their demands met by the "speculators," the women went on to the railroad depot, where they took 10 more barrels of flour from a small quartermaster station there. The women apparently thought that the flour had been stored there by a speculator.

Salisbury was an agricultural community of small farmers in Rowan County in the western Piedmont of North Carolina. None of the women were ever arrested or charged with a crime.

In fact, the local newspaper was far more critical of local officials than of the women. According to the Carolina Watchman, the local officials should all “go, all blushing with shame for the scene enacted in our streets on Wednesday last.”

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http://blogs.lib.unc.edu/ncm/index.php/2005/03/01/this_month_march_1863/comment-page-1/
 
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18thVirginia

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Women took to the streets in Mobile, Alabama on September 4, 1863, after Mobile had experienced the Union blockade, cutting off all imports for several years. Mobile was forced to rely on Mississippi and Alabama for food and other goods. Gradually, items like pork and whiskey became too expensive for the average Mobile citizen to afford. In early 1862, the city passed a law to curtail profiteering by either companies or individuals, along with stockpiling of certain goods.

Due to the unwillingness of the Confederate authorities to control the price fluctuations of food supplies, some Mobile officials had been predicting the kind of violence that erupted on September 4. Mobile had tried to ameliorate the effects of the rise in costs and food shortages--the wealthy had contributed to funds to keep costs under control, but were unsuccessful. By 1863, the cost of a barrel of flour had gone from $44.00 before the war to $400.

Also in 1863, Col. John Pemberton prohibited corn from Mississippi being transported outside the state. Both the Mobile mayor and Alabama governor tried in vain to get Pemberton to lift his order. Newspapers in Mobile wrote harsh editorials against the order. Citizens painted signs and put them up around town. In response, the Confederacy opened a new commissary in the state. Military commanders relaxed rules to allow fishermen greater leeway to provide catch for the locals.

In September, the crowd of several dozen mobilized just outside Mobile and marched toward Dauphin Street in downtown. The women were armed with brooms, axes, bricks, and hammers and carried banners that read "Bread or Blood" and "Bread for Peace." They broke store windows and carried away food and household goods. The Governor dispatched the military to stop the riot, but the soldiers refused to intervene. A local military company was unsuccessful at stopping the rioters and finally the Mayor pleaded with the rioters and offered to meet with them and hear their demands.

Mayor Slough also wrote a letter to the wealthy citizens of Mobile requesting funds to set up a Relief Committee to assist the needy that was published immediately in the newspaper. He set up the Relief Committee which worked to provide food and clothing to the needy in Mobile.

Although food shortages continued in Mobile until the end of the war, there were no more riots.

Mobile cotton docks.jpg


Mobile cotton docks (LoC)
 
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18thVirginia

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#16
O.G.G. (Unknown), Letter to the Editor (February 17, 1865)
Mr. Editor:
On Thursday last, about fifty women in Miller county, claiming to be soldiers' wives, made a raid upon the tithe depot at Colquit, in said county, and with axes, forced open the door, and abstracted therefrom about fifty sacks of government corn—about one hundred bushels. At last accounts from them, another raid of the same character was apprehended. Wonder why it is that soldiers' wives are reduced to the necessity of providing from themselves? Would not the proper authorities do well to look into the matter? If these women were forced by necessity to commit the depredation above alluded to—and even the wives of soldiers, absent in the defense of their country, their wants should be relieved at once.

Truly yours,

O.G.G.


http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/southdisaffectcivilwar.html#1

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Map of Georgia showing location of Colquitt in SW corner of the state.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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OK see, the account I read? A group of women rioted in the streets- ONCE. Jefferson Davis strode to the middle of them and shamed them with a patriotic speech about suffering nobly for their cause and everyone hung their heads and slunk away home The End. I know we have to provide sources here and could not- but it is what I read somewhere. I was wondering how in earth the bread riots got so famous- should have certainly looked into it further. Gee whiz!! This makes more sense. Plus, I understand the blockade certainly made things tight but the South was such a fertile, productive place. Someone had food! There are always men making grand speeches about sacrifices and causes; those same men rarely get to experience sacrifice, it's just a head's up for everybody else.

Super, super thread 18th! Thank you! In my imaginary spare time will try to remember to get to Fulton Postcards and tool around for era articles on these wonderful women. They're on my list now, " Who you would like to meet ".
 

JPK Huson 1863

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And ps, here's something. What about the picture you posted? OH my gosh, the way our women are portrayed?? So ugly and tattered, like wild animals, too? How unbelievably offensive, as if only this kind of half-woman, half-coyote zombie-of-the-living dead would perpetrate such an act ( as feeding her family ).

bread riot.JPG
 

18thVirginia

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Valdosta, Georgia in the spring of 1864 found a group of women who went into a store downtown and asked for yarn, offering to pay with Confederate money. Because Confederate money had become so inflated as to be worthless at the time, the clerk asked for payment in bacon. The women pulled out a pistol and took the yarn.

In another incident the next day, a group of Valdosta women broke into the railroad depot and stole a wagon full of bacon.

http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/n...c-59cc-5251-881e-ad6083b9bbb9.html?mode=story

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The Cotton Exchange, Valdosta, Ga.
http://pix.epodunk.com/GA/ga_valdosta03.jpg
 

18thVirginia

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And ps, here's something. What about the picture you posted? OH my gosh, the way our women are portrayed?? So ugly and tattered, like wild animals, too? How unbelievably offensive, as if only this kind of half-woman, half-coyote zombie-of-the-living dead would perpetrate such an act ( as feeding her family ).

View attachment 62869
The picture is actually one side of a two panel engraving that was published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in its May 23, 1863, edition, titled Sowing and Reaping. You can see the difference between the depiction of southern women as they encouraged their husbands and other men off to war and the women of the later bread riots. The engraving is courtesy of the Museum of the Confederacy. http://www.moc.org

Here is the entire engraving:

sowing and reaping.jpg

SOWING AND REAPING​
Southern women hounding their men on to rebellion. Southern women feeling the effects of rebellion, and creating bread riots.
 

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