|The Confederacy Begins to Collapse
|Digital History ID 3079
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 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.
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