February 16, 1864: Starvation parties, and southern resolve

Richmond sees gaiety despite the lack of luxuries. According to one observer, southerners are in good spirits, and expect their fortunes soon to turn.

CHARLESTON MERCURY, February 16, 1864, p. 1, c. 5

The “Starvation Parties” in Richmond as Seen by an Englishman.
[Richmond (Nov. 27) Correspondence of the London Telegraph]

The crops this year have been good, but, owing to the difficulty of transportation and Government impressments, prices are high in Richmond. There are not a few individuals sorely strained in circumstances, especially the Government clerks and employees; but there is no whimpering or thought of surrender. Without noise or a particle of bluster, everybody is for fighting it out, and few, if any, look to Europe for aid of any sort. There is a disposition to bear cheerfully the inevitable hardships of the war and the blockade.

It is said that the matrimonial market is unusually active, and the bidding spirited. The young people plainly have not the fear of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward before their eyes. There are, it is true, no bloated “shoddy contractors,” to give expensive entertainments. In lieu of these they have in Richmond what are called “starvation parties.” These are now all the rage. There are no wines, or game, or confectionaries, or fruits; but there are bright eyes and happy faces. The rooms are filled with ladies who wear their old dresses, but who do not talk through their noses, and whose voices sound “low and sweet.” I do not believe there is one of these who would not feel insulted by a proposal to exchange places with Mrs. President Lincoln, albeit arrayed in all her diamonds and paraphernalia. They are the same ladies who for three years past have ministered at the hospitals upon the wounded or dying soldier, and brought comfort by their thoughtful care even to the bed of death.

Never was there a greater mistake than for the Federals to imagine that the South is even beginning to be depressed, and to despair of success. On the contrary, there has been a visible improvement in the temper of the people, and the simplest observer cannot fail to note that there is a fiercer determination to sacrifice all for independence than there was even six months ago, or has been since the struggle began. The campaign of next spring will open on the part of the Confederates with undiminished armies and a sure faith in final success. The atmosphere of illusion on this subject, in which the Federals are now living, will be dissipated by the shock of arms, and not improbably by the invasion of their own soil. The South is quietly getting ready for a long war, and nourishes no dreams of peace on any terms save independence and a separate nationality. 

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