The Confederacy Begins to Collapse

by Steven Mintz

By early 1863, the Civil War had begun to cause severe hardship on the southern home front. Not only was most of the fighting taking place in the South, but also 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 the South, the imposition of a military draft in April 1862 produced protests that this was "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Although the law made all able-bodied men ages 18 through 35 liable for three years' service, the draft law allowed draftees to pay a substitute to serve for him (the North adopted a similar draft law in March 1863). Further aggravating tension was enactment of the "Twenty Negro Law" in October 1862, which exempted one white man from the draft on every plantation with 20 or more slaves.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to get free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments