Chapter 44: the lack of food and the prices in the Confederacy.
To those who insist that the prisoners from the Northern
army were maliciously starved, with murderous intent, I dedicate the following statistical compilation of the prices of provisions in Richmond
and other places.
Our hapless soldiers starved and froze in the Northern
prisons in the midst of plenty, but the benefit release would have been to them would not have been an increase in their comfort or in their bill of fare; the improvement in their state would have been induced by the sunshine and freedom.
The sense of abject want would have been less insupportable in a community of deprivation and suffering with their comrades, as well as of active patriotic effort to serve the country.
Some quotations are taken from the diaries of private individuals, and also from my own domestic experience.
If, after reading these statistics, my readers
will weigh the facts impartially, our vindication will be complete.
Thousands of men were quartered upon us, at Andersonville
and elsewhere, for whom we had neither food, clothes, nor medicine; the supplies in the country had been exhausted, the blockade prevented manufactured goods or medicines from being brought in to replenish our stores.
The enemy had made medicines contraband of war, the food was not plentiful enough to feed our armies in the field, or the officers of the Government
, much better than the prisoners; and the United States Government would not carry out the provisions of the cartel for fear of reinforcing our army by the return of the prisoners in their hands, and their prisoners and ours died of want and homesickness.
To whom belonged the shame and the inhumanity of the needless sacrifice?
In July, 1862, both sections issued fractional notes in enormous quantities, and at first there was a sense of relief, and they fluttered from hand to hand “like leaves in wintry weather ;” but gold rose in New York to ten per cent., and in Richmond
to almost any per cent.
the traders charged.
By July 14th, it had advanced in New York to fifteen per cent.; the prices of provisions in the Confederacy
on July Ig, 1862, were:
Beef, pork, and mutton, 371 cents per pound; shoat, 50 cents per pound; chickens, 57 cents to $i apiece; ducks, $I to $1.50 apiece; goslings, $2; pullets, $i to $1.50 apiece; eggs, 75 cents to $I per dozen; butter, 75 cents to $I per pound.
Vegetables-beans, 50 cents per bunch: onions, 50 cents per quart (or one shilling apiece for the largest size) ; cymlings, $i per dozen; cucumbers, $i per dozen; string beans, $2 per peck; cabbage, 50 cents to 75 cents per head; Irish potatoes, $6 per bushel; tomatoes, $ r.50 per dozen; blackberries, 25 cents per quart; whortleberries, 35 cents per quart; plums, 50 cents per quart; peaches, $i per dozen.
Prices increased steadily for all varieties of food, as the supplies decreased and the value of Confederate money declined.
was, on July 23, 1862, 75 cents per pound; small quarters of lamb from three to four dollars each; eggs, $ i per dozen; coffee, of poor quality, $2.50 per pound; butter, $I and upward per pound; tea, $5 per pound; boots, $20 to $25 per pair; shoemakers' wages, $5 per diem.
November, 1862-coffee, which had in four months nearly doubled in price, $4 a pound; all good tea from $18 to $20 a pound; butter, $I.50 to $2 a pound; lard, 50 cents;
corn, $15 per barrel; wheat, $4.50 a bushel; muslin, $6 to $8 a yard; calico, $1.75 a yard; bleached cotton
, $3.50 a yard; cotton, 50 cents a spool; soap, $[ a pound.
The price for coffee was now prohibitory to those who were not speculators.
The Confederate women made a substitute for coffee out of parched sweet potatoes and parched corn, and also of the grain of rye; for sugar they used sorghum syrup.
They wove cotton cloth for blankets, and sewed up coverings for their feet out of old carpets, or rather such bits as were left after cutting them up for soldiers' blankets.
They had only carpet or canvas soles.
Blankets could not be had, and Bishop Meade
sent his study carpet to the soldiers for blankets.
One gentleman of Halifax County
, in 1862, sent eight to be cut up for the same purpose.
“July-calico, $2.50 a yard at a bargain, and $3.50 and $4 a yard.
The ladies paid, on January, 1863, for canvas boots made of old sails, cut out by the shoemaker but stitched and bound by the ladies, for sewing on the soles, $50. Last year he soled them for $10, and they were blacked with gun blacking.”
Shoes, $125 to $150. Ink was made of elderberries; flour cost $300 a barrel.
February 10, 1863.-General Lee
wrote to the Secretary of War
, on January 22d, that his army was not fed well enough to fit them for the exertions of the spring campaign, and recommended the discontinuance of the rule of the Commissary-General
allowing officers at Richmond
, and many other towns, to purchase government meat, etc., for the subsistence of their families, at schedule prices.
This letter was referred to the Commissary-General
, who, after the usual delay, returned it with a long argument to show that General Lee
was in “error,” and that the practice was necessary, etc.
To this the Secretary
responded by a peremptory order, restricting the city officers
in the item of meat.
“Sugar is $20 per pound; new bacon, $8; and chickens, $12 per pair.
Soon we look for a money panic, when a few hundred millions of paper money is funded, and as many more collected by the tax collectors.
Congress struck the speculators a hard blow.
One man, eager to invest his money, gave $100,000 for a house and lot, and he now pays $5,000 tax on it; the interest is $6,000 more; total $11,000.”
Here is a notice from the livery stables in 1863:
The family of the President
had no perquisites, and bought their provender as they did their provisions, at the public marts and at the current prices.
The President must have horses to perform his duty toward the army; but, after disposing of everything else available, Mr. Davis
had sold every horse he could spare; and during his absence in the West
, I sent my carriage and horses to be sold by a dealer.
Some gentlemen of Richmond
heard of it and bought the horses, and returned them to me. The note accompanying them was greatly prized, but how the horses, which of course could not be again sold, were to be fed, could not be foreseen.
Our deprivations were far less than those of persons not holding such high official positions, but they were many.
A notice written by General R. Ransom
, which is quoted in another part of this volume, gives an account
of a breakfast at the Executive
mansion, to the meagreness of which our necessities, not my will, consented.
February 21st.-I saw a ham sell to-day for $350; it weighed fifty pounds, at $7 per pound.
The fear is now, from a plethora of paper money, we shall soon be without a sufficiency for a circulating medium.
There are $750,000,000 in circulation, and the tax bills, etc., will call in, it is estimated, $800,000,000.
February 22d.-The offices are closed today, in honor of Washington's birthday.
But it is a fast day; meal selling for $40 per bushel.
Money will not be so abundant a month hence.
To-day bacon is selling for $6 per pound, and all other things in proportion.
A negro (for his master) asked me to-day $40 for an old, tough turkey gobbler.
I passed on very briskly.
It is rumored by blockade-runners that gold in the North is selling at from 200 to 500 per cent. premium.
If this be true, our day of deliverance is not far distant.
February 18, 1864.-Sugar has risen to $10 and $12 a pound.
February 20th.-The price of turkey today is $60.
March 12th.-Flour at $300 per barrel; meal, $50 per bushel; and even fresh fish at
$5 per pound.
A market-woman asked $5 to-day for half a pint of snap beans to plant.
Those having families may possibly live on their salaries; but those who live at boarding-houses cannot, for board is now from $200 to $300 a month.
Relief must come soon from some quarter, else many in this community will famish.
About noon to-day, a despatch came from Lieutenant-Colonel Cole, General Lee's principal commissary, at Orange Court House, dated 12th inst., saying the army was out of meat, and had but one day's rations of bread.
I saw adamantine candles sell at auction to-day (box) at $10 per pound; tallow, $6.50. Bacon brought $7.75 per pound by the 100 pounds.
Flour selling in Columbus, Ga., 75 cents a pound, from wagons.
Flour by the bushel, $5, meal $1, in 1864.
March 25th.-Flour, $15 a barrel.
March 2gth.-Great crowds are funding their Treasury notes to-day; but prices of provisions are not diminished.
White beans, such as I paid $60 a bushel for early this month, are now held at $75. What shall we do to subsist until the next harvest?
April 1, 1864.-Tea, $22; coffee, $12; brown sugar, $10; flour, $125 a barrel; milk, $4 a quart.
Part of this diary is taken from the “Diary of a Southern Refugee.”
“ The following prices are now paid in this city: boots, $200; coats, $350; pants, $100; shoes, $125; flour, $275 per barrel; meal, $60 to $80 per bushel; bacon, $9 per pound; no beef in market; chickens, $30 per pair; shad, $20; potatoes, $25 per bushel; turnip greens, $4 per peck; white beans, $4 per quart; or $120 per bushel; butter, $15 per pound; lard, same; wood, $50 per cord.
What a change a decisive victory-or defeat --would make!”
“ April 7, 1864.-Sugar was $900 a barrel; bacon and lard fell to $8.25 a pound; corn, $12 a bushel; fodder, $12 a cwt. Breakfast, $10.”
“In General Lee
's tent meat was eaten twice a week.
His bill of fare was a head of cabbage boiled in salt water, sweet potatoes, and a pone of corn-bread; when he invited an officer to dinner, he had to his astonishment four inches of middling-everyone refused from politeness, and the servant excused the smallness of the piece by saying it was borrowed.”
th.-Potatoes sell at $i per quart; chickens, $35 per pair; turnip greens, $4 per peck.
An ounce of meat daily is the allowance to each member of my family, the
cat and the parrot included.
The pigeons of my neighbor have disappeared.
Every day we have accounts of robberies, the preceding night, of cows, pigs, bacon, flour; and even the setting hens are taken from their nests.”
“On July 21, 1864, wheat was $30 a bushel.”
“July 2, 1864.-Tomatoes about the size of a walnut were $20 a dozen.”
“Baby shoes, in 1864, cost $20, and for a fine cotton dress-what is now known as a French print cotton gown-unmade, $45. Boys' shoes, $100 a pair in the spring of 1865.”
“ February, 1865.-Gold, 60 for one.
cabbage seed, $10 an ounce; 230 defeated the Senate bill to put 200,000 negroes in the army.
alone for specie could feed the army.”
“An outbreak of the prisoners is apprehended; and if they were to rise, it is feared some of the inhabitants of the city would join them; they too have no meat-many of them --or bread either.”
If a frank answer could be elicited from the men who sincerely believe our Government starved the prisoners in our hands, could they, after reading these extracts, reaffirm that opinion?
Travelling expenses of an officer of artillery en route from Richmond, Va., to Augusta, Ga., March and April, 1865.1
|March 11th||Meal on the road||$20.00|
|March 17th||Cigars and bitters||60.00|
|March 20th||Hair-cutting and shave||10.00|
|March 20th||Pair of eye-glasses||135.00|
|March 23d||Coat, vest, and pants||2,700.00|
|March 27th||One gallon whiskey||400.00|
|March 30th||One pair of pants||700.00|
|March 30th||One pair of cavalry boots||450.00|
|April 12th||Six yards of linen||1,200.00|
|April 14th||One ounce sul. quinine||1,700.00|
|April 14th||Two weeks board||700.00|
|April 14th||Bought $60, gold||6,000.00|
|April 24th||One dozen Catawba wine||900.00|
|April 24th||Shad and sundries||75.00|
|April 24th||Package brown Windsor||50.00|
Prices on bill of fare at the Oriental Restaurant, Richmond, January 17, 1864.
|Soup, per plate||$1.50|
|Turkey, per plate||$3.50|
|Chicken, per plate||3.50|
|Rock fish, per plate||5.00|
|Roast beef, per plate||3.00|
|Beefsteak, per dish||3.50|
|Ham and eggs||3.50|
|Pure coffee, per cup||3.00|
|Pure tea, per cup||2.00|
|Bread and butter||1.00|
|Wines, per Bottle.|
|Liquors, per Drink.|
|Malt Liquors, per Bottle.|
|Ale, one-half bottle||6.00|
|Game of all kinds in season.|
|Terrapins served up in every style.|
Bill for a dinner for nine poor Confederates at the “Oriental,” January 17, 1864.
|Soup for nine||$13 50||Brought forward||$132 50|
|Venison steak||31 50||Apples||12 00|
|Fried potatoes||9 00||5 bottles of Madeira||250 00|
|Seven birds||24 00||6 bottles of claret||120 00|
|Baked potatoes||9 00||Urn cocktail||65 00|
|Celery||13 50||Jelly||20 00|
|Bread and butter||14 00||Cake||20 00|
|Coffee||18 00||1 dozen cigars||12 00|
|$1132 50||$631 50|
Approximate value of gold and Confederate currency from January 1, 1862, to April 12, 1865.
|January 1, 1862||$100||$120|
|December 20, 1862||100||300|
|December 20, 1863||100||1,700|
|January 1, 1864||100||1,800|
|December 20, 1864||1000||2,800|
|January 1, 1865||100||3400|
|February 1, 1865||100||5,000|
|March 1, 1865||100||4,700|
|April 10, 1865||100||5,500|