Saturday, March 2, 2013

March 2, 1863: "Supplies" are short in Richmond

The March 2, 1863 edition of Richmond's Daily Dispatch carried the following article about the shortage of food in wartime Ricmond, Virginia.

The supplies for this city are very limited, and prices are enormously high. We cannot believe that provisions are scarce to a degree insufficient for the support of the community. The system of transportation and distribution is either obstructed or is insufficient to do the work required. The Government has indeed forestalled the market by stopping the supplies in transitu on some routes, while it is almost impossible to get transportation on others, which are preoccupied by Government work.

Alarmed by the seizure of provisions in some sections, several counties formerly sending considerable supplies to Richmond have interdicted the exportation of meat and breadstuffs.

These causes operating together have seriously diminished the supplies for this city. So great is the falling off that. It becomes a serious question for the consideration of both Government and people. Richmond is the seat of Government of the Confederacy and the State. A large part of its population is engaged in the service of the two Governments, in the public offices. Their duties are hors, and here they must remain. Then there are large numbers of persons employed in Government work, furnishing arms and machinery, etc,' for the Government; and there lyed a very important and indispensable population of all sorts of people, forming quite an army of itself, engaged in the feeding, lodging, clothing, &c., of all these others. Yet, again, there are the army officers, called continually here, and temporarily sojourning here, in large numbers. With all these there as still to be counted the many hospitals of sick and wounded, and their numerous attendants, of physicians, stewards, nurses, etc. So that we find an immense population here, forming a great city in itself, separate and apart from the many refugees and those who were here before the war who have neither office, occupation nor emolument from the Government. Such a population requires a vast amount of provisions. They are already hard pressed by the scarcity manifested through exorbitant prices, and there is reason to fear that the pressure is yet to be heavier, unless something is done to allow the necessaries of life to flow more liberally into the city.

Persons out of the army and out of the offices, to provide for it know little of its wants and the prospect of supplying them. It would be untrue to say that the measures of sizing the provisions were unnecessary. But it may be conjectured with probable correctness that in some localities the system has been administered with too over bearing and sweeping a hand.

Whatever be the truth in this respect, there is one general principle which is true, and that is, that the best way to distribute supplies of all sorts is first to collect them at a point convenient for discrimination in all directions. Therefore, even for furnishing the army itself, it would he advantageous to bring supplies together in this city. To bring them here with this view would give the higher and more responsible class of officials the control of them, no doubt to the benefit of the army, as a more equitable distribution would be ensured.

The securing of this advantage to the public service would be attended with great benefit to all the numerous classes of citizens we have specified. It would reduce the cost of living, now so high as to threaten many who live on very limited in comes — some of them women and children, orphans and minors — with distress. The subject is one of importance, and deserves the serious consideration of those high in position, who have such a control over our destinies at the present moment.

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