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Such an economic turnaround was largely due to the output of Richmond's manufactories and especially the Tredegar ironworks. Still, problems plagued Tredegar. On March 13, —it happened to have been Friday the 13th—an explosion at the Confederate States ordnance laboratory on Brown's Island killed more than sixty young women and children and briefly halted production.

Two months later, a fire at the neighboring Crenshaw mills spread to some of the Tredegar's machine shops, destroying them. Labor shortages also proved to be an issue. Anderson had always augmented his labor force with slaves, but as demand increased and the needs for manpower stripped factories of work details, he was forced to rely even more heavily on slave labor to keep the works in operation.

Confederate mobilization: Railroads and Shiloh

Coal and iron from forges in the Shenandoah Valley were critical to the Tredegar's operations, but Union cavalry raids in and proved disastrous to those operations and further crippled the works' ability to supply Confederate armies. As soon as the war started, the population of Richmond began to swell.

In addition to laborers and bureaucrats, refugees , spies, Confederate soldiers , journeymen, and less savory sorts, including prostitutes, gamblers, and speculators, all poured into the capital. By the summer of , locals believed the city had become one vast armed camp; others argued the city was little different from the wicked biblical city of Sodom.

In , Richmond had almost 38, residents, including 11, slaves. Although no census was taken during the war, city officials estimated the population grew to more than , by ; some believed between , and , people crammed the capital by This huge increase in population had severe consequences. The local police force was small and could not contain the crime wave that plagued the city until the war's end. Even after Confederate general John H.

Winder took day-to-day control of the city beginning in February , gambling dens and houses of prostitution flourished, while rival juvenile gangs threatened locals with petty larceny and assault. Accommodations were limited and according to some, abysmal. Nonetheless, they commanded high rents; it was not unusual to see several families living in cramped, unheated spaces. Epidemics of smallpox and other diseases threatened the city late in and in Food and fuel became scarce, especially as the armies battled on prime farmland in the Virginia Piedmont and the Shenandoah Valley.

Shortages of consumer goods and a worthless paper currency created unheard-of levels of inflation. Indeed, by , prices in Richmond were percent higher than they had been in Overcrowding and inflation hit the laboring classes especially hard. Although wages rose throughout the period, they could not keep pace with the rising cost of consumer goods. This situation created a social powder keg that finally exploded on April 2, , with the Richmond Bread Riot. Angered by his rebuff, the crowd surged into the business district, attracting hundreds of others along the way.

Plunder and mob violence roiled the city for two hours until the threat of artillery dispersed the mob. Nonetheless, the Bread Riot sobered local and Confederate officials and underscored how desperate some in the city had become. Adding to the city's burdens was the constant arrival of sick and wounded soldiers. Richmond reveled in military victories at Manassas in and during the Seven Days in , but those successes produced massive casualties that threatened to overwhelm the capital.

The situation only grew worse as the campaigns of and again centered on the Confederate capital. Initially, locals opened their private dwellings and individual Confederate states operated "wayside homes" to tend to the sick and wounded. The Confederate Congress implemented legislation in the autumn of that standardized the hospital system and put it under the control of the Confederate Medical Department.

The city's Chimborazo Hospital , located on a hill east of the business district, became the largest in the Confederacy while also boasting one of the lowest mortality rates among hospitals in the Union and the Confederacy. At Chimborazo alone, nearly 78, patients were treated during the course of the war. One hospital managed to avoid the Confederate government's centralization efforts.

A fight to the end

Sally Tompkins convinced wealthy Richmonder Judge John Robertson to allow her to operate a hospital out of his home while he moved to a safer area in the Shenandoah Valley. Robertson Hospital could care for only a hundred patients at a time but was also able to provide them with more personal attention than they might receive elsewhere. Cheerful, one might say," the diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote. The hospital's success prompted Jefferson Davis to commission Tompkins a captain in the Confederate cavalry, which allowed her to escape the Medical Department's purview.

She continued to operate her hospital until the end of the war. Tompkins was not the only white woman who actively worked for the Confederate cause in Richmond. Other women filled key positions in the Treasury Department, the Ordnance Department, the Quartermaster Department, and the Confederate commissary. Women sewed uniforms, made percussion caps, and signed currency, all for wages and in support of the Confederate cause.

In most instances, white women were forced to labor in the capital's factories and bureaus because their husbands, fathers, and sons—the breadwinners—were off fighting for the Confederacy. Not all of Richmond's women were as dedicated to the Confederacy.

Fall of Richmond

Elizabeth Van Lew and her mother were staunch Unionists. Indeed, Union generals Benjamin F. Butler and Ulysses S. Grant deemed the information the younger Van Lew provided them as critical to the campaigns. In recognition of that assistance, Grant, as U. Scholars debate the impact women's work exerted on gender roles; many assert the effect was short-lived and ended with the advent of peace. Nevertheless, locals, visitors, and news correspondents commented repeatedly on how many women had entered the work force.

Given the high number of casualties and disabilities the war produced, one wonders if Confederate women could, indeed, return to solely the domestic sphere. With a quarter of the white male population dead, many women had no choice but to continue working to support their families. The war had a significant impact on Richmond's slave population.

During the antebellum period, the city's enslaved men and women often had enjoyed freedoms common to urban slaves, including the freedom to live independently and "hire their own time," or choose their own employers, make their own work arrangements, and pay their masters a set annual fee in exchange for these privileges.

Whether they worked in industrial or household settings, many of Richmond's slaves had gained this autonomy before the war began, and often lived and socialized with free blacks as well as other slaves. But when Virginia seceded, Richmond officials feared that the city's slaves would take advantage of the chaos of war and their measured autonomy to plan a rebellion. They passed new ordinances prohibiting slaves from living independently of their masters, shut down many of the city's informal hiring markets, and instituted a stringent pass system to restrict slaves' movements around the city.

As the war progressed, however, the feared slave rebellion never materialized, and the city's leaders began to relax some of their limitations on the slave population. In part this was due to necessity, as slave labor was absolutely crucial to the success of the Confederate war effort. A great many of the soldiers are marrying around and in Petersburg, some for life, some for the war and some for one winter only, observed one R. P Scarbrough.

Siege of Petersburg Facts

As the winter approached, the worsening food situation was a universal concern. Indeed it is generally agreed that all who can get away ought not to think of wintering in Petersburg, wrote Brown. The best part of our population will go away.

Richmond Redeemed: Opportunities Won and Lost in the Siege of Petersburg

This will be a blessing to the poor who remain for they will have the more for themselves. Flocks of pigeons would follow the children who were eating bread and crackers, remembered Sara Pryor. Finally the pigeons vanished, having themselves been eaten. She was understandably wary of the meat pies being sold on the streets, for in addition to the vanished pigeons, it was common knowledge that people were eating rat, mouse, and mule meat. Determined that her children would not be forced to eat such gastronomic atrocities, Pryor managed to set her table with peas, bread, and sorghum molasses, supplemented with some milk when she could get it.

One of her sons vividly described his hunger: Mamma, I have a queer feeling in my stomach!

Oh, no! Banister replied, Of course, we cannot win. We are all starving. As the winter came on, reminisced one young woman, I bought at the old market rough country shoes, with leather strings and no lining, for the children. Mammy, also Mary our cook, the then servants, went barefoot. The Christmas season arrived with no visions of sugarplums or hope of toys for the children.

What kind of Christmas did you have[? Shipments of food were making it into town, but skyrocketing prices kept the supplies out of the hands of all but the wealthy. Upon visiting Petersburg in January , Scarborough wrote, I have since I have been around Petersburg, seen many poor women and children compelled to go among the soldiers and beg for bread to eat.

Theft was rampant. One woman remembered that after killing hogs, she dared not leave the pork to cure in the smokehouse. Instead, she brought barrels into her house and salted the meat inside. Thieves accosted farmers when they tried to get to market with wagons of produce. The privations and dangers of the war hit the hospitals hard. The facilities were already full at the start of the siege, so the influx of wounded from the trenches tested the skills of the overstretched staff.

Union shells soon were endangering hospitals, requiring him to move thousands of wounded soldiers out of artillery range. Sara Pryor remembered the caravan as a never-ending line of wagons, carts, everything that would move on wheels.

Claiborne soon had to resort to black-market tactics to get medical supplies; Sergeant Joseph Todd helped him in these efforts. Claiborne would draw tobacco from government stores and give it to Todd.

Siege of Petersburg: The City and Citizens Were Impacted from the Start

Todd then took the tobacco to the streets and managed to keep the hospitals well stocked by trading and selling the crop. By the spring of , Union gunfire had destroyed whole sections of the city. Lines of trench scarred the countryside, and soldiers were well on their way to deforesting the surrounding region by chopping down trees for firewood. Residents had a hard time getting any of that vital fuel for themselves. Some turned to alternative sources.

They are stolen at night, and burned as fuel. The Petersburg residents did not realize it yet, but the end of the shelling was near. The Union and Confederate armies were restless after a winter in the trenches, each side wanting the siege decided once and for all. After clashes at nearby Five Forks and Fort Gregg in the first two days of April, the Rebels realized they had to evacuate Peters-burg or the Army of Northern Virginia would be strangled to death. Late on April 2, Claiborne got an order to begin clearing the hospitals of all patients that could survive a move.

Troop strength varied throughout the siege as reinforcements arrived, casualties were taken, and detachments were sent away. At end of siege in April of there there were about , Union and 50, Confederate soldiers in the trenches. All were under the overall command of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Two Confederate armies fought at Petersburg. Because it was a move away from Richmond and crossed the major waterway of the James River it took Lee by surprise.

Although Grant still tried a major assault at the Battle of the Crater, most of the rest of the activity during the siege was repeated attempts to get around the Confederate flank and cut the supply lines to the city. Ultimately, the North. The first result was the abandonment of the Confederate capital at Richmond.


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They were badly outnumbered and no longer protected by fortifications. The men were hungry and exhausted and the starving draft horses were too weak to pull the guns and supply wagons. Union forces were in close pursuit and were moving up to cut off their retreat.