Days Gone By - stories from the past

People were starving in Alabama in 1866

This transcription of a news article was published in the April 18, 1866, edition of the Union Springs’ Times, Bullock County, Alabama. It reveals the conditions Alabamians faced at the end of the War Between the States

Starvation in Alabama

Great destitution prevails in Marshall county in this State! Grant famine stalks there; and starvation stares the people in the face In a published appeal to the citizens of Nashville for aid for his suffering people, Honorable Louis Wyeth, Judge of Probate, says, “three persons have already died from absolute want, and hundreds, many hundreds, must perish unless quick relief is provided. In a population of less than ten thousand, there are two thousand, one hundred and eighty persons, women, children, and infirm men, without any means of support.”

Alabamians receiving rations / sketched by A.R. Waud, artist (Library of Congress)

Marshall is not solitary in her distress. Unfortunately, a large number of other counties are almost in as great want. Many of them, remote from depots, are unable to obtain even a limited supply of rations each month. We trust Commissioner Cruikshank, aided by the Freedmen’s Bureau, will be able so to distribute the rations furnished by the government as to prevent actual starvation. Success attend Governor Patton in his efforts to negotiate the $500,000 bonds authorized by the Legislature for the relief of the destitute of the State. Relief from this source may come too late. Will not those more highly favored heed this cry of want, and of their abundance send relief to these suffering people.

We suggest to the ministers of Union Springs that on next Sabbath, they bring this matter to the attention of their respective congregations and that they open subscriptions, through which the charitably disposed may give these sufferers help, either food or the money to buy it.

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By (author):  Causey, Donna R

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. As a Civil War buff, I find it so hard to talk to others about how the Southern people, and Alabama in particular, suffered after the war. There appears to be very little sympathy left in present-day for them. This article tore at my heart-strings. Both good, bad and sad history needs to be told.

  2. Thank you for the history. The South is so needlessly maligned. The real history of the Civil War
    (and its aftermath) needs exposure.

  3. Wasn’t the great period of Reconstruction a wonderful thing imposed by the Federal Government? (Sarcasium off). All of those who wish to rewrite history, ignor this part.

  4. Some of those that suffered the most were the southern Unionists in Marion, Winston, and Blount counties. The territory north of the Tennessee River was occupied by Union forces for much of the war, the Home Guard and Conscription Agents were relentless in the area because most of the military-aged men either were hidden in the rough terrain of the area or had crossed over the river and joined the Union army. They burned crops, homes, and took property of the families that remained behind. The only businesses that remained were owned by Confederate sympathizers because those owned by Unionists were destroyed or fell into disrepair due to the absence of their owners, so Unionist families could not buy things they needed because they were refused service. Even charitable contributions of food and other necessities made to help the suffering families were under control of Confederate sympathizers who would not distribute anything to starving Unionist families.

    As if the Unionist families weren’t mistreated badly enough by Confederate sympathizers, occasional raids by Union forces led to foraging parties who took farm animals and crops. They typically provided a receipt to the families that would allow repayment after the war, but those weren’t edible and some families never lived to cash in their receipts. Members of the Union 1st Alabama Cavalry (many of whom were from north Alabama) were cognizant of how badly their families were suffering and when they served with General Sherman on his campaigns through Georgia and especially South Carolina, they were accused of committing some of the worst atrocities against Confederate citizens along the marches. Payback was hell.

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