Obscure History: The Southern Bread Riots Of The 1860s
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

Obscure History: The Southern Bread Riots Of The 1860s

This is dedicated to the bravery of the women left behind and what they had to do to survive.

Obscure History: The Southern Bread Riots Of The 1860s
Civil War Daily Gazette

It is often a sad reality that when discussing history there is an emphasis on the victories and failures of men, a perspective which does not allow other types of people, such as women, the working class, or minorities time to celebrate their own accomplishments or find their own place within the fabric of history. Many of these stories go untold or unrecognized for hundreds of years and slip into obscurity; they never see the pages of textbooks, and are never included in the school curriculum. An example of such historical events are the bread riots that erupted all throughout South during the Civil War. These riots, often organized and carried out by the women of poor farmers turned soldiers, do not mesh with the often touted and exalted history of the Civil War Era South. It is time for the brave efforts of these hard working and hard living women to simply feed their starving families in a dying idea of a country to be brought to the light.

The view of the South during the Civil War has often been painted as a land of rolling plantations, Scarlett O’Hara swooning couches, and cruel slave masters. It is the view we are taught throughout our school years as fact at face value, but the true nature of Antebellum South was very different than Margret Mitchell would have us believe. In fact, most of the people living in the South were too poor to own even one slave let alone an entire plantation. The plantation society with all of its large dresses, large parties, and large pockets was not the norm, but instead, the minority. While the Southern society of the 1800s loved to claim the idea of chivalry and the defense of womanhood as a core belief, these beliefs were only extended to the wealthy ladies by social class. The rest of the women, the majority in the South, were left to fend for themselves and their families.

The South at the beginning of the Civil War was filled with an intense idea of patriotism for their new country, the Confederacy. Young men enlisted into the army expecting to be home again in a few months, and most of these fresh faced soldiers were from farm families with little to no money or education. The sons of plantation owners were often exempted from the draft because they were seen as necessary to the maintenance of their families’ properties, so instead the ranks were filled with boys who would never see their homes again. By 1863, the illusion that this war was to be a swift decisive victory was shattered, the tide of the war had begun to turn and not in the favor of the Confederacy or its people. The soldiers marched in tattered uniforms and ate starvation rations while those left behind back home suffered even harsher conditions. The war quickly lost its popularity among the majority of those left behind. These common folk began to realize that this war that they had supported so patriotically was shaping up to be a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.

The discontentment and desperation of economic circumstances in the South created a perfect storm for riot and rebellion. The wives, sisters, and mothers who were left behind by men going off to fight were forced to pay ever increasing prices, the devaluation of the useless Confederate money, and the knowledge that no relief was being sent their way. The rich plantation class did not feel the strain on their resources the way their common neighbors did. While families around them were starving they were often complaining at the lack of luxury items available. The plantation owners often also set the food prices for their neighbors; they kept prices at levels that were too high to be afforded and profited off the desperation created by wartime shortages.

As early as November of 1862 women all over the Southern states had began taking matters into their own hands. They began peacefully, many barely literate but still writing letters to government officials asking for relief but their pleas fell on deaf ears and so they decided that they must take action to be heard. Groups of women throughout the South simply marched into stores armed with farming equipment and demanded the lowering of prices, when they were refused they began to take what was being denied to them. From Cartersville, Georgia to Richmond, Virginia and everywhere in between women were taking the simple necessities of life to ensure the survival of their families when no one else was offering to help. These women became folk heroes to many, Robin Hood figures who looked to only equal the playing field in a country that had turned its back on its most vulnerable in a time of war. Soldiers who had been fighting ferociously heard news from back home of their families struggles rejoiced at the hardiness of the women they had left behind. By the end of the war there had been dozens of these bread riots throughout the South, the war having been lost and many men returning to states that had been scarred not only be the war they had been fighting but the class war that had been waged at home.

These women defied all class and social constraints laid upon them in the defense of their lives and families. While their actions to some may seem extreme and condemnable, there is a deep sense of bravery in their stories as well. These common women who came together under uncommon circumstances and took uncommon actions to survive deserve to have their place in history acknowledged and their stories told.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers


Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series


Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?


Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less

14 Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts Your S.O. Will Love

If they love you, they're not going to care if you didn't get them some expensive diamond necklace or Rolex watch; they just want you.


Let me preface this by saying I am not a bad girlfriend.

I am simply a forgetful one.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

10 Helpful Tips For College Students Taking Online Courses This Semester

Here are several ways to easily pass an online course.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

With spring semester starting, many college students are looking to take courses for the semester. With the pandemic still ongoing, many students are likely looking for the option to take online courses.

Online courses at one time may have seemed like a last minute option for many students, but with the pandemic, they have become more necessary. Online courses can be very different from taking an on-campus course. You may be wondering what the best way to successfully complete an online course is. So, here are 10 helpful tips for any student who is planning on taking online courses this semester!

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments