Starving the South : how the North won the Civil War Andrew F. Smith New York : St. Martin’s Press, 2011 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 295 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. -277) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
Print shows an anti-Confederacy cartoon advocating General Scott’s blockade of the South, with Union ships in a circle outside Confederate centers labeled “Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, Mississippi, Manassas Gap, [and] Pensacola” as well as “Washington”, and an inner circle showing a cat next to Washington, with mice coming from the Confederate centers, heading toward Harper’s Ferry at the center.
A historian’s new look at how Union blockades brought about the defeat of a hungry Confederacy.
In April 1861, Lincoln ordered a blockade of Southern ports used by the Confederacy for cotton and tobacco exporting as well as for the importation of food. The Army of the Confederacy grew thin while Union dinner tables groaned and Northern canning operations kept Grant’s army strong.
One of three similar prints published by Oliver Evans Woods, reflecting grave northern fears of British and French interference on behalf of the Confederacy in the Civil War. The controversy centered on the “Alabama” and other warships built and fitted out for the Confederates in England. French Emperor Napoleon III’s military operations in Mexico in 1862 and 1863 were also perceived as dangerous to the North. The print actually appeared in the summer of 1863, when Southern diplomatic overtures to France and England threatened to result in international recognition for the Confederacy. In the center Jefferson Davis–here called “Secesh”–raises a club labeled “Pirate Alabama” over the head of a brawny Union soldier whose arms are constricted by the Constitution, and around whose waist and legs coils a poisonous snake. Davis tramples on an American flag. At right stands a leering John Bull, who holds a pile of clubs in reserve for Davis. Behind him is a prancing Napoleon III, also watching the contest. In the distance two ships burn on the ocean. Napoleon: “Whip him, Secesh, and when I get Mexico, I’ll help you whip him again.” John Bull: “Down with him, Secesh–burn his Ships–destroy his Commerce–England has plenty more such clubs for you.” Secesh: “I’ll fix him–I’ll kill him.” Soldier: “The flag of my country trampled under foot–the ships of my country burning on the ocean–while I stand here entangled in the coils of this foul Copperhead, and so bound up by Constitutional restraints, that I am unable to put forth my true strength in their behalf.” The “restraints” mentioned may refer to opposition on constitutional grounds to Lincoln’s use of what he considered valid presidential war powers. The cartoon may have been specifically occasioned by the Supreme Court’s review in the “Prize Cases” of 1863 of the legality of the Union blockade.
In Starving the South, Andrew Smith takes a gastronomical look at the war’s outcome and legacy. While the war split the country in a way that still affects race and politics today, it also affected the way we eat: It transformed local markets into nationalized food suppliers and forced the development of a Northern canning industry where bully beef was tinned by the ton in Chicago – in Lincoln’s home state – and shipped on the railroads that financed him.
The artist ridicules the government’s early efforts to overhaul and augment a somewhat outdated Union fleet to blockade Southern ports and effectively defend against Confederate privateers and blockade-runners. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles of Connecticut is disparaged as two Union vessels–essentially wooden washtubs armed with small cannons–try to block the path of a sleek Confederate steamer, the “Nashville.” The first Union vessel, the “Cambridge” (left), has a stove on which a large kettle boils. Its captain addresses the “Nashville’s” crew, “Ship ahoy! Heave to, and surrender!! Don’t you see that the Department’ have bought and fitted up this magnificent vessel, on purpose to catch you?” One Confederate crewman responds, “I don’t see it! Nary a catch!!” Another thumbs his nose. A Union sailor laments, “The only way to capture that Ship, is to get Morgan to buy her.” The sailor is most likely talking about Junius Spencer Morgan, a wealthy banker and supporter of the Union effort. The captain of the second Union vessel, the “Gemsbok,” also calls out to the “Nashville.” He warns, “If you don’t stop, we have instructions to come to anchor, and write the Secretary for further orders.” To which comes the response, “Give our compliments to the Secretary, and tell him, he shall certainly hear from us by every Northern vessel that we meet.” An exchange occurs between two of the “Gemsbok’s “dispirited crewmen: “Well Shipmate we’ve done our duty; We were put in this old tub to Watch and we have Watched.” “Shiver my timbers my hearty! but it would have been a darned sight better to have put us in a decent Ship and sent us here to “catch.”” Both ships fire their miniature cannon at the “Nashville.
What is missing from Smith’s work is an accurate and detailed description of the northern scorched earth policy towards captured farms which were not only looted to depletion but then razed so that the survivors became refugees in a land of scarcity and pestilence. For the next three quarters of a century rural Southerners – especially the poor – would suffer from malnutrition and the host of diseases that travel in its vanguard.