Sunday, April 7, 2013

April 2, 1863

April 2, 1863

---Richmond Bread Riots:  a group of poor women, several hundred strong, meets at a Church in Richmond this morning to find ways to feed their children in a city with hugely inflated grocery prices.  They force their way into Governor Letcher’s house, and he refuses to see them.  Finally, the crowd begins to loot bakers’ shops to steal the bread they need.  There is some wholesale looting in addition, but mostly the crowd is out to get bread.  President Davis makes his way to the rioting part of town, and speaks to the crowd, asking for their patience and forbearance, but the women (mostly wives or widows of soldiers) answer that they have not enough money to buy bread, even with the soldiers’ wages being sent home.  Davis takes out his wallet, and all his change, and gives it to the crowd.  They still do not disperse.  He orders the troops to load their rifles, and just before they open fire, the crowd begins to disperse.  In the preceding week, there have been similar disturbances in many places throughout the South such as Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama.

Richmond Bread Riots

---Gideon Welles, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, writes in his journal of a meeting with Sen. Charles Sumner and Sec. of State William Seward.   Inevitably, the topic of Britain and its involvement arises:

I then opened on the subject generally. England is taking advantage of our misfortunes and would press upon us just as far as we would bear to be pressed. She rejoiced in our dissensions and desired the dismemberment of the Union. With this rebellion on our hands we were in no condition for a war with her, and it was because we were in this condition that she was arrogant and presuming. A higher and more decisive tone towards her will secure a different policy on her part. A war with England would be a serious calamity to us, but scarcely less serious to her. She cannot afford a maritime conflict with us, even in our troubles, nor will she. We can live within ourselves if worse comes to worse.

---George Templeton Strong of New York City, in his ever-perceptive observation of war events, comments on the latest news, although ending with a despairing note:

We have news today of successful fighting in the West, thought not on any large scale, and the rebel foray into Kentucky seems advancing backward.  Report that Burnside is advancing on East Tennessee.  I hope he is.  Why that important wedge of loyal territory, penetrating into the heart of seceshdom, has been so long neglected and its people left to be harried by beastly gangs of merciless rebel marauders, is (to me) the one great inscrutable mystery in our conduct of the war.  From Vicksburg and Port Hudson our tidings are bad and indicate probable failure.

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