The wear and tear of war was beginning to seriously take its toll upon the South during this third spring of the Civil War. A series of civil disturbances arose in urban areas like Atlanta and Macon, with the most troubling being a riot in Richmond on the date of April 2, 1863.
Richmond had a more severe reality than most Southern cities. Along with shortages of everything because of the war effort, including the doubling and tripling of the currency and the city’s population, the conditions reached a boiling point for the women of the Confederate Capital. They demanded food from Governor John Letcher on April 1st, and if he did not deliver, they were prepared to take it by force. One woman said, “As soon as enough of us get together we are going to the bakeries and each of us will take a loaf of bread. That is little enough for the government to give us after it has taken all our men.”
More than a thousand people, mostly women, broke through storefronts and stole bacon, candles, shoes, cloth, hats, and jewelry. Only the threat of being fired upon by the Public Guard (made either by Letcher or Jefferson Davis) at last caused the crowd to disperse. Over 60 people were arrested.
Secretary of War James Seddon did not want this troubling news to make it to the northern press and encourage the Yankee population. He asked the local press to not publish accounts of the event, but the word of it leaked out and the incident was reported on the front page of the New York Times on April 8th.