Discussion Is there any truth to the fact that Southern planters were supposed to grow food, and instead grew cotton?

Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
I once heard this in passing, any truth to it? Southern planters were supposed to grow food for their armies? Instead they focused on cotton and tobacco? How did this play into the South's logistical needs?
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
In the spring of '62, in anticipation of a quick victory, much cotton was planted. By the spring of the next year, there was little, if any, commercial cotton planted. The blockade running operation had to draw its cotton from Alabama and Mississippi, requiring several entire railroad trains of cotton each week to keep up with the demand.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
I once heard this in passing, any truth to it? Southern planters were supposed to grow food for their armies? Instead they focused on cotton and tobacco? How did this play into the South's logistical needs?
The book " Bitterly Divided the South's inner Civil War " David Williams goes into detail about that issue. Basically the large plantation owners could care less if soldiers wives and children starved.
Leftyhunter
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
The book " Bitterly Divided the South's inner Civil War " David Williams goes into detail about that issue. Basically the large plantation owners could care less if soldiers wives and children starved.
Leftyhunter
Right, I actually think it was you that mentioned this in a prior post. How messed up, you'd think they'd feed the people fighting for them, how twisted.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
The book " Bitterly Divided the South's inner Civil War " David Williams goes into detail about that issue. Basically the large plantation owners could care less if soldiers wives and children starved.
Leftyhunter

In 1947 Frank E. Vandiver published Confederate Blockade Running Through Bermuda, 1861-1865. The book contains cargo lists filed with the Bermuda Customs Office by the agents of some of the blockade running steamers operating out of St. George's. In addition to the expected military stores, there are large quantities of luxury goods on the cargo lists. One wouldn't have wanted the planter aristocracy to be deprived simply because they were giving a war, and a good Southern belle simply had to have a proper dress so that she could flirt with J. E. B. Stuart's officers. Meanwhile massive quantities of Confederate government owned ordnance was left still sitting in warehouses in St. George's and Nassau at the end of the war unshipped.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
The Confederate government made concerted efforts to have planters grow sufficient food crops to feed the army and civilian population. Similarly, luxury goods were often imported on blockade runners, thereby restricting the amount of weapons, medical supplies, etc. that were needed to support the war effort. I believe the Confederacy passed some kind of law to restrict the percentage of imported cargo to ensure that enough necessary items got through, but the success of that was highly dubious.
 

RobertP

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
This 2011 article from North and South Mag. based on Andrew Smith’s book Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, paints a different story than described above:


“Confederate leaders were well aware of the
South’s reliance on imported food, and from
the beginning of the war, they encouraged Southerners to increase the production of staples. Plantations, powered by slaves, answered the call by decreasing cotton production and increasing food crops. As a result, food production on southern plantations soared during the first year of the conflict. It was a different story on smaller farms, however. With
a large percentage of southern men under arms, there were far fewer farm laborers to work the land. As agricultural historian Charles Ramsdell wrote of Southern agriculture, “There were large sections of the country—the small farm sections, primarily—almost bare of agricultural labor. The result was a marked decline in production.” Moreover, as Federal armies steadily gained control of Confederate territory, many food producing areas were cut off, contributing to an even greater decline in total food production. The war also devastated agricultural areas still within the Confederacy—such as northern Virginia, much of Louisiana, and northern Mississippi— and this too reduced Southern food production. To avoid the fighting, plantation owners near Union lines moved their households and slaves further into the interior, which removed yet more productive agricultural land from cultivation and also brought more hungry mouths deeper into the South.

Meanwhile, slaves who remained on plantations became less willing to work, especially if plantation owners and their overseers were away fighting the war. Other slaves headed for Union lines, seeking whatever opportunities were available. By the war’s end, the total number of former slaves behind Union lines numbered one million, many of whom joined the Union army or worked on Union-controlled plantations.

Beginning in the second year of the war, the loss of agricultural areas and the loss of farm laborers began to affect agricultural production. Bad weather added to the Confederacy’s subsistence problems by significantly decreasing grain production in the South. Less grain meant less feed for animals and meat production.”

It goes on to describe how the transportation system broke down under wartime stress and the food pipeline collapsed. As you would expect it was a lot more complicated than a few old greedy plantation owners or a belle wanting a new dress, but that’s where we are today in writing history.

 
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Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
In 1947 Frank E. Vandiver published Confederate Blockade Running Through Bermuda, 1861-1865. The book contains cargo lists filed with the Bermuda Customs Office by the agents of some of the blockade running steamers operating out of St. George's. In addition to the expected military stores, there are large quantities of luxury goods on the cargo lists. One wouldn't have wanted the planter aristocracy to be deprived simply because they were giving a war, and a good Southern belle simply had to have a proper dress so that she could flirt with J. E. B. Stuart's officers. Meanwhile massive quantities of Confederate government owned ordnance was left still sitting in warehouses in St. George's and Nassau at the end of the war unshipped.

Regards,
Don Dixon

As an aside: I don't think there is any reason to believe that the Confederates suffered on the battlefield because ordnance was gathering dust in Bermuda warehouses. Vandiver wrote exensively about the issue of logisitics in the Confederacy and argued that the governement did a pretty good job of providing guns and ammunition to the troops. Defeat came because the troops liked adequate food, clothing, and medical care, and because the combined number of troops was too small.
 
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leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
This 2011 article from North and South Mag. based on Andrew Smith’s book Star ing the Soyth: How the North Won the Civil War, paints a different story than described above:


“Confederate leaders were well aware of the
South’s reliance on imported food, and from
the beginning of the war, they encouraged Southerners to increase the production of staples. Plantations, powered by slaves, answered the call by decreasing cotton production and increasing food crops. As a result, food production on southern plantations soared during the first year of the conflict. It was a different story on smaller farms, however. With
a large percentage of southern men under arms, there were far fewer farm laborers to work the land. As agricultural historian Charles Ramsdell wrote of Southern agriculture, “There were large sections of the country—the small farm sections, primarily—almost bare of agricultural labor. The result was a marked decline in production.” Moreover, as Federal armies steadily gained control of Confederate territory, many food producing areas were cut off, contributing to an even greater decline in total food production. The war also devastated agricultural areas still within the Confederacy—such as northern Virginia, much of Louisiana, and northern Mississippi— and this too reduced Southern food production. To avoid the fighting, plantation owners near Union lines moved their households and slaves further into the interior, which removed yet more productive agricultural land from cultivation and also brought more hungry mouths deeper into the South.

Meanwhile, slaves who remained on plantations became less willing to work, especially if plantation owners and their overseers were away fighting the war. Other slaves headed for Union lines, seeking whatever opportunities were available. By the war’s end, the total number of former slaves behind Union lines numbered one million, many of whom joined the Union army or worked on Union-controlled plantations.

Beginning in the second year of the war, the loss of agricultural areas and the loss of farm laborers began to affect agricultural production. Bad weather added to the Confederacy’s subsistence problems by significantly decreasing grain production in the South. Less grain meant less feed for animals and meat production.”

It goes on to describe how the transportation system broke down under wartime stress and the food pipeline collapsed. As you would expect it was a lot more complicated than a few old greedy plantation owners or a belle wanting a new dress, but that’s where we are today in writing history.

Also on the other hand that's not what many Southern whites thought. On page 4 of " Bitterly Divided the South's inner Civil War" David Williams Professor of History Valdosta State University paints a different picture.
There were food riots throughout the South and greedy planters were blamed at the time. One Confedrate Officer wrote to his wife that his men were blaming rich plantation owners for their families starving.
In page 61 and 62 in 1862 cotton production actually in increased due to higher prices overseas and food production decreased despite fervently being warned by many Southern newspapers to grow food. Many Southern legislators indeed Jefferson Davis grew cotton so food production was simply paid just lip service. Page 64-65 details how cotton and tabbaco production increased and cotton and tabbaco was sold to corrupt Union naval officers. Page 65 " In Albany Georgia there was a hundred thousand bushels of corn rotting in a city warehouse while outbound trains loaded with gotten clogged the rails". In page 67 a Confedrate Colonel found hundreds of families without food yet no shortage of cotton.
@W. Caldwell-37thNC might be interested in the above.
Leftyhunter
 
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leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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los angeles ca
As an aside: I don't think there is any reason to believe that the Confederates suffered on the battlefield because ordnance was gethering dust in Bermuda warehouses. Vandiver wrote exensively about the issue of logisitics in the Confederacy and argued that the governement did a pretty good job of providing guns and ammunition to the troops. Defeat came because the troops liked adequate food, clothing, and medical care, and because the combined number of troops was too small.
Essentially in order to eliminate food shortages the Confedracy would have to resort to using coercion on the elite Plantation Owners to look after the interests of Southern whites vs just making money selling to the Yankee's. An apparent bridge to far.
Leftyhunter
 

Carronade

Captain
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
As an aside: I don't think there is any reason to believe that the Confederates suffered on the battlefield because ordnance was gethering dust in Bermuda warehouses. Vandiver wrote exensively about the issue of logisitics in the Confederacy and argued that the governement did a pretty good job of providing guns and ammunition to the troops. Defeat came because the troops liked adequate food, clothing, and medical care, and because the combined number of troops was too small.

Good point. If the Confederates had had massive additional quantities of ordnance delivered to ports, would they have been able to employ it? Artillery in particular would need men to man it and, even more critically, horses or mules to move it, and would add to the food and fodder requirements of the armies which the South was already challenged to meet.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Good point. If the Confederates had had massive additional quantities of ordnance delivered to ports, would they have been able to employ it? Artillery in particular would need men to man it and, even more critically, horses or mules to move it, and would add to the food and fodder requirements of the armies which the South was already challenged to meet.
Of all war's necessities, weapons and ammunition were the major items that the Confederacy did not suffer from a lack of, thanks to the efforts of Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas. But even if they were able to procure additional amounts, they lacked the manpower to put them to good use. If anything, rather than procure additional amounts of muzzle loading firearms, the Confederacy could have gotten some additional advantage by obtaining breech loading weapons like the Sharps Rifle, and repeating style weapons like the Henry or Spencer.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Of all war's necessities, weapons and ammunition were the major items that the Confederacy did not suffer from a lack of, thanks to the efforts of Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas. But even if they were able to procure additional amounts, they lacked the manpower to put them to good use. If anything, rather than procure additional amounts of muzzle loading firearms, the Confederacy could have gotten some additional advantage by obtaining breech loading weapons like the Sharps Rifle, and repeating style weapons like the Henry or Spencer.
How would the Confedracy obtain such weapons plus manufacture the ammo?
Leftyhunter
 
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