The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

The Price of Things

When did Richmond have its first bread riot?

There had already been riots over food prices in other Southern cities and towns, but people generally were shocked when a similar event took place in Richmond. On the first of April, 1863, as the price of bread rose out of control, a large group of women, accompanied by some men, agitated in downtown Richmond. Their leader was Nancy Walker, but she was superseded the following day by Nancy Johnson.

The rioters attacked several downtown stores, trashing the places and taking practically everything of value. Store owners who placed locks and wooden splints to keep out the rioters failed, as the infuriated people knocked down one door after another. An aide to the governor of Virginia arrived and threatened that the crowd would be fired upon, but he was hooted and jeered. That was when Jefferson Davis arrived.


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