Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21, 1863: The diary of John B. Jones


Food and clothing were scarce in Richmond, Virginia on this day 150 years ago.
November 21st.—We have further reports from the West, confirming the success of Longstreet. It is said he has taken 2200 prisoners, and is probably at Knoxville.

The President left the city this morning for Orange Court House, on a visit to Gen. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

We are a shabby-looking people now—gaunt, and many in rags. But there is food enough, and cloth enough, if we had a Roman Dictator to order an equitable distribution.

The Secretary of War is destined to have an uncomfortable time. After assuring the Legislature and the people that provisions in transitu would not be impressed, it is ascertained that the agents of the Commissary-General are impressing such supplies, and the Secretary is reluctant to interfere, the Commissary-General being understood to have the support of the President.

A committee of the Grand Jury yesterday submitted a paper to the President, on the subject of provisions—indicating the proximity of famine, and deprecating impressments. The President sent it to the Secretary, saying Mr. Seddon would no doubt take measures to keep the people of Richmond from starving; and directing the Secretary to “confer” with him. But to-day he is off to the army, and perhaps some may starve before any relief can be afforded.

A genteel suit of clothes cannot be had now for less than $700. A pair of boots, $200—if good. I saw to-day, suspended from a window, an opossum dressed for cooking, with a card in its mouth, marked “price, $10.” It weighed about four pounds. I luxuriated on parsnips to-day, from my own little garden.

A dollar in gold sold for $18 Confederate money, to-day. Our paper is constantly depreciating; and I think it is past redemption, unless we adopt Mr. Moseley’s plan, and cause some six or eight hundred millions to be canceled, and fix a maximum price for all commodities necessary for the support of life. Congress will never agree upon any measure of relief. But if the paper money be repudiated, nevertheless we shall have our independence, unless the Southern people should become mad, divided among themselves. Subjugation of a united people, such as ours, occupying such a vast extent of territory, is impossible. The tenure of its occupation by an invading army would always be uncertain, and a million would be required to hold it.

A hard rain commenced falling this evening, and continued in the night. This, I suppose, will put an end to operations in Virginia, and we shall have another respite, and hold Richmond at least another winter. But such weather must cause severe suffering among the prisoners on Belle Isle, where there are not tents enough for so large a body of men. Their government may, however, now consent to an exchange. Day before yesterday some 40,000 rations were sent them by the United States flag-boat—which will suffice for three days, by which time I hope many will be taken away. Our Commissary-General Northrop has but little meat and bread for them, or for our own soldiers in the field. It must be confessed they have but small fare, and, indeed, all of us who have not been “picking and stealing,” fare badly. Yet we have quite as good health, and much better appetites than when we had sumptuous living.

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