the 18th of March, 1863, the streets of Salisbury, North Carolina,
were invaded by a group of about 50 determined local women,
identified only as wives and mothers of Confederate soldiers.
The women believed that local merchants had been profiteering
by raising the prices of necessary foods and demanded that the
merchants sell these goods at government prices. When the merchants
refused the women broke down one shop door with hatchets and
threatened other storekeepers. What a local newspaper described
as the "Female Raid" netted the women twenty three
barrels of flour as well as quantities of molasses, salt, and
even twenty dollars in cash.
The Salisbury "Bread Riot," and the more widely known
food riot in Richmond, Virginia, also in 1863, are dramatic
evidence of the stresses on local life brought on by the Civil
War. Volunteers for the Confederate army from Salisbury and
County at the beginning of the war were by and large young,
unmarried men. In 1862 demand for fresh troops brought about
the increasing enlistment of older men with wives and families.
In a county such as Rowan, with a large number of small farms,
the absence of a husband and father was a serious economic loss.
The failure of the county's attempt to provide for soldiers'
families also contributed to the hardship. The fact that the
women involved in the incident were never prosecuted is evidence
of the understanding and sympathy of their neighbors. The Carolina
Watchman which reported the incident extended its most
scathing criticism not to the women, but to the county commissioners
who failed to provide adequate aid for soldiers' families and
who should "go, all blushing with shame for the scene enacted
in our streets on Wednesday last."
Graham, Christopher A. "Women's Revolt in Rowan County,"
Columbiad: a quarterly review of the War Between the States,
vol. 3:1 (Spring 1999); pp. 131-147.
Brawley, James S. Rowan County: a brief history. Raleigh,
NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1974.