Transcendent Hunger: Poor Women and Resource Raids in Civil War Georgia
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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Poor women in Civil War Georgia organized and participated in resource raids of varying sizes in cities, towns, and rural areas throughout the state from 1862 to 1865. While the largest “bread riots” in cities across the Confederacy during the spring of 1863 are the most-commonly studied incidents, they were not the only instances of poor women’s expression of discontent. Their targets were often symbolic of their lack of access to food and clothing, and included Confederate warehouses and commissaries, railroad depots, mills and factories, and planter property. Women’s motivations and objectives were complex and nuanced combinations of desperation to feed and clothe themselves and their families, resentment of local and Confederate officials, and opposition to Confederate policies. Rather than dichotomous or isolated incidents, the resource raids also occurred on a spectrum of poor women’s expression that returns them to the center of the narrative and takes seriously their decisions and actions. Many employed a shared strategy of leveraging the state-defined identity of soldier’s wife to both shield themselves form consequences and to evoke reaction and ensure that they would be heard. Reactions to the resource raids further reveal evolving home-front attitudes, and that rhetoric was a tool employed to reinforce the social boundaries on which Confederate ideology rested.