Southern bread riots

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Southern bread riots
Apr2 richmond riot.jpg
Detail of a propaganda cartoon showing bread riots in Richmond, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
DateMarch–April 1863
Location Confederacy
ParticipantsMostly women

The Southern bread riots were events of civil unrest in the Confederacy during the American Civil War, perpetrated mostly by women in March and April 1863. During these riots, which occurred in cities throughout the Southern United States, hungry women and men invaded and looted various shops and stores.



The riots were triggered by the women's lack of money, provisions, and food. [1] All were the result of multiple factors, mostly related to the Civil War:

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. Robberies of grocery and merchandise stores were happening on nearly a daily basis. [11] Riots took place over food or flour in Atlanta (March 16), Salisbury, North Carolina (March 18), Mobile and High Point (March 25), and Petersburg (April 1), [12] but the largest and most important of these was in Richmond on April 2. [2]

Richmond bread riots

On April 2, 1863, in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, about 5,500 people, [13] mostly poor women, broke into shops and began seizing food, clothing, shoes, and even jewelry before the militia arrived to restore order. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of items were stolen. No one died and only a few were injured. [14] The riot was organized and instigated by Mary Jackson, a peddler and the mother of a soldier. [15]

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. [16]

To protect morale, the Confederate government suppressed most news reports of the riot itself. Many newspapers, however, were keen to report on the trials of the participants themselves, and they usually portrayed those people in an unflattering light, suggesting that they were not actually starving, or that the rioters were mostly "Yankees" or lower-class people, allowing many upper-class citizens to ignore the scope of the problems. [17] However, that only served to deepen the feelings of resentment and injustice among the lower classes, leading to the sentiment that the Civil War was "a rich man's war, but a poor man's fight". [18]

In Richmond, measures were undertaken to alleviate starvation and inflation for poor people, and special committees were held to classify "worthy poor" from "unworthy poor"; the city then opened special markets for "worthy poor" citizens to purchase goods and fuel at significantly reduced prices. [19]

See also

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  1. Mary Elizabeth Massey, "The food and drink shortage on the Confederate homefront." North Carolina Historical Review 26.3 (1949): 306–334. in JSTOR, p. 306.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Chesson, 1984, p. 134
  3. Titus, 2011, p. 86
  4. Alfred Hoyt Bill, The Beleaguered City: Richmond, 1861–1865 (1946) p. 3
  5. Titus, 2011, p. 105
  6. Richard N. Current, ed. The Confederacy (MacMillan Information Now Encyclopedias, 1998; ISBN   0028649168) pp. 213–215.
  7. Andrew F. Smith, Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War (Macmillan, 2011).
  8. George Edgar Turner, Victory Rode the Rails: The Strategic Place of the Railroads in the Civil War (1953) pp. 313–318.
  9. Ritzman, Dean F. "Lonn, Ella," Salt as a Factor in the Confederacy"(Book Review), The Historian 28.4 (1966): 685.
  10. Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History
  11. Chesson, 1984, p. 135
  12. Chesson, 1984, p. 136
  13. Titus, 2011, p. 113
  14. Chesson, 1984, p. 152
  15. "Bread or Blood: The Richmond Bread Riot – Hungry History". History . Archived from the original on February 3, 2018. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  16. Titus, 2011, pp. 114–117
  17. Titus, 2011, pp. 120–123
  18. Titus, 2011, p. 133
  19. DeCredico, Mary. "Bread Riot, Richmond". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved March 2, 2023.

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