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Author: Daniel H. Hill
By early 1863, the Civil War had begun to cause severe hardship on the southern homefront. Not only was most of the fighting taking place in the South, but as the Union blockade grew more effective and the South’s railroad system deteriorated, shortages grew increasingly common. In Richmond, food riots erupted in April 1863. A war department clerk wrote: “I have lost twenty pounds, and my wife and children are emaciated.”
The Confederacy also suffered rampant inflation. Fearful of undermining support for the war effort, Confederate leaders refused to raise taxes to support the war. Instead, the Confederacy raised funds by selling bonds and simply printing money without gold or silver to back it. The predictable result was skyrocketing prices. In 1863, a pair of shoes cost $125 and a coat, $350. A chicken cost $15 and a barrel of flour $275.
Defeatism and a loss of will began to spread across the Confederacy. Military defeats suggested divine disfavor. Hardships on the home front generated discontent within the ranks. In a letter to North Carolina’s Governor Zebulon B. Vance (1830-1894), Confederate Major General Daniel H. Hill (1821-1889) describes his men’s deteriorating morale.
Colonel Wheeler goes up to the county of Wilkes to arrest numerous deserters. I have directed him to call upon you for orders to the Militia Officers to act in concert with him. I think that there will be no trouble with these disloyal men, when they find both state and Confederate authorities opposed to them. God help us! We seem to have the whole world against us, Yankees, Irish, Germans, Danes, Swedes, Poles, Italians, Tories & Negroes.
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute
Additional information: Major General Daniel H. Hill to Zebulon B. Vance, Governor of North Carolina