Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5, 1863: The diary of John B. Jones

Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War.

With the food situation becoming acute in Richmond, the government reacts by seizing large quantities of flour from private mills and warehouses.
March 5th.—Yesterday the government seized the flour in the mills and warehouses; and now the price has risen from $30 to $40 per barrel. I wrote to the Commissary, in view of the dissatisfaction of the people, and to prevent disturbances, advising him to seize the 5000 barrels in the hands of the small speculators, and to allow so many pounds per month to each inhabitant, at the rate paid by government. This would be beneficent and popular, confining the grumblers to the extortioners. But he will not do it, as the Constitution only provides for impressments for the public use.

Our dinner to-day (for seven, for the servant has an equal share) consisted of twelve eggs, $1.25; a little corn bread, some rice and potatoes. How long shall we have even this variety and amount? Bad beef in market, this morning, sold at $1.25 per pound.

After bombarding Fort McAlister on the 3d inst. and all night, the enemy’s fire ceased. The fort was not much injured, says the dispatch. There is a rumor to-day that the fort has been reduced—but no one believes it.

Gen. Van Dorn has had a fight in Tennessee, killing and wounding 1000 and capturing 2600 prisoners. Our loss is said to have been heavy.

Gen. Lee writes that now, since Lincoln may call out 3,000,000 men, and has $900,000,000 voted him, we must put out all our strength, if we expect to keep the field. We shall certainly have an exciting time. But there may be use for some of the Federal troops in the North! If not, I apprehend that Richmond must withstand another siege and assault. It is said they have dropped the “Constitution and the Union” in the United States, and raised the cry of the “Nation” and the “Flag.” This alarms me. If they get up a new sensation, they will raise new armies.

Gold is selling at a premium of $4.25 in Confederate notes.

We bought a barrel of flour to-day (that is, my wife paid for one not yet delivered), from a dealer who was not an extortioner, for the moderate sum of $28.00. This, with what we have on hand, ought to suffice until the growing wheat matures.

For tea we had meal coffee, and corn cakes without butter. But we had a half-pint of molasses (for seven) which cost 75 cts. The gaunt specter is approaching nearer every day!

Every morning there is a large crowd of Irish and Germans besieging Gen. Winder’s office for passports to go North. Is it famine they dread, or a desire to keep out of the war? Will they not be conscripted in the North? They say they can get consular protection there.

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