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Abstract

Confederate war clerk, J.B. Jones's description of the Richmond Bread Riot of 1863, clearly highlights the suffering which permeated the urban centers of the Confederacy by the midpoint of the Civil War. The production and transportation of goods became increasingly difficult in the war torn nation. Inflation undermined the value of Confederate currency and made it difficult for those on fixed wages to provide for themselves and their families. The influx of thousands of refugees into Richmond created a deficit of housing in the city and raised the already inflated prices of goods. By 1863, most citizens remarked that they found it almost impossible to feed themselves. As Emory M. Thomas has observed, “a nation of farmers could indeed go hungry.”

Although the Confederates ended 1862 militarily on a high note with the victory at Fredericksburg in December, the staggering casualties at Antietam and the ensuing Emancipation Proclamation combined to create undercurrents of doubt in the fledgling nation. The military's performance, however vital to the Confederacy's hope for survival, did not affect the lives of the citizens on the home front to the extent that the government's domestic policies did. In fact, much of the Confederacy's legislation, passed in the opening months of 1863, only accentuated whatever feelings of resentment existed at the end of the previous year. In pursuit of success on the battlefield, the Confederacy abandoned many of the principles on which the nation had been founded. The Richmond Bread Riot demonstrated that Confederate domestic legislation and treasury policies combined to create a level of discontent on the home front which spurred people to step outside traditional notions regarding gender roles and social norms.

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