The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

The Military Draft

Were any communities abandoned because of labor shortages?

In the North and the West, virtually no communities were abandoned; on the contrary, quite a few new towns were chartered or incorporated. This was not the case in the South, however, where the needs of the agricultural population simply were not met.

Perhaps this was because of a preindustrial mindset; then again, it may have been sheer greed on the part of the cotton growers. In either case, the South continued to produce cotton—above all other crops—for the first year and a half of the war. Only in the spring of 1863 did the Confederate government finally attempt to persuade the big cotton growers to switch to foodstuffs, and by then it was almost too late. To name or number the Southern towns that became deserted is nearly impossible, but the federal census of 1870 would show that at least eighty percent of all counties of the former Confederacy had a surplus of females and a dearth of males. This is one reason why the “Southern widow” became a staple of literature and poetry: she was, in fact, representative of a very real situation.


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