The Confederate Nation: 1861 to 1865 by Emory M. Thomas

The Confederate Nation: 1861 to 1865 by Emory M. Thomas

Author:Emory M. Thomas [Thomas, Emory M.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: History, United States, American Civil War, Non-Fiction
ISBN: 9780062069467
Google: _vM2r5CXP3kC
Amazon: B0045U9WQ4
Barnesnoble: B0045U9WQ4
Goodreads: 11319204
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 1979-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

“There is,” said the girl solemnly; “We celebrate our right to live. We are starving. As soon as enough of us get together we are going to the bakeries and each of us will take a loaf of bread. This is little enough for the government to give us after it has taken all our men.”35

Letcher offered his personal concern, but no tangible answers. When the Governor went inside his mansion, the crowd in the front yard turned angry and began to move toward Richmond’s commercial district. Knives, hatchets, and a few pistols emerged from pocketbooks and skirts. Within a short time a small group of distraught housewives had become a crowd and then a mob; petition became riot.

Throughout a ten-square-block area the women and their male allies broke into shops and stores and took what they wanted. Most took only bread and other food items, but some helped themselves to jewelry, clothing, and hats. One merchant claimed a loss of more than $13,000 worth of goods, and the rioters took more than three hundred pounds of beef belonging to the City Hospital as the crowd broke into bands of leaderless looters.

Governor Letcher, when he heard the news, hurried to the scene and tried to reason with the mob. Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo read the riot act to those within the sound of his voice. Letcher’s and Mayo’s words, however, had no effect upon the rioters, if indeed many heard them. The riot had been in progress for some time when the vanguard neared one of the city’s two marketplaces. There the looters met a company of reserve soldiers drawn from workers in the Confederate armory. In haste some of the rioters pushed a horseless wagon across the street as a makeshift barricade. On opposite sides of the wagon, citizens confronted citizen soldiers.36

Then into the midst of the impasse strode the President of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis climbed into the wagon and shouted above the confusion. First he emptied his pockets and threw what money he had with him into the mob. The gesture served to get the attention of crowd. Then Davis took out his pocket watch, glanced at the troops behind him and stated, “We do not desire to injure anyone, but this lawlessness must stop. I will give you five minutes to disperse, otherwise you will be fired upon.”37

For long minutes no one moved. Davis had no way of knowing whether the troops at his back would actually carry out his threat. Indeed it was likely that some of the reserve soldiers recognized friends or relatives among the mob. The captain in command of the troops, however, gave his men no opportunity to ponder moral alternatives. “Load!” he commanded, and the men obeyed. Then the crowd broke and moved off. The Richmond bread riot was over.38

The government took no chances with its hungry citizens. The next day cannon guarded the riot scene. The War Department kept two battalions of infantry on the alert to quell any further


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