Excerpt from: “A Yankee Spy in Richmond: The Civil War Diary of ‘Crazy Bet’ Van Lew”

By Elizabeth Van Lew

January 24, 1864

Alas for the suffering of the very poor! Women are begging for bread with tears in their eyes, and a different class from ordinary beggars. What an experience is that of an intelligent person, born and brought up in the Southern States, and continuing their residence there through this terrible rebellion. The peace, plenty, and freedom of the whites under the old government stands in strange contrast with the scarcity and apprehension of the Southern Confederacy Government.

On Thursday I went to the city for meal and could not get a particle any where. I went to the City Mills. They told me they had no corn and could procure none. They were only grinding for toll, as persons would bring them corn, that "the people" would come crying to them for meal and they did not know what to do, that they had none to give them and people must starve. the miller told me they were grinding at the little mill on the Dock. I went immediately there and found it so, but they would let no one family have more than a peck at any price. There were crowds of persons coming and going, each for or with their peck, and for this peck they paid five dollars, which was cheap. I tried to get rice, but we could not. We bought one hundreds pounds for fifty dollars a few days since. Friday we bought a bushel of meal for $225 per barrel.

There is a starvation panic upon the people. I do not think it is yet as desperate as many imagine, but in all this there is great consolation. I am willing to live on crust, to give up everything, provided everything is taxed and taken from every body else. No boy over fourteen is permitted to leave the "Confederacy." I meet everywhere the unplaned, rough coffins of the wretched prisoners. (p. 54)

A Yankee Spy in Richmond