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July 14, 1861, the U.S.S. Daylight under Commander Samuel Lockwood, initiated
the Federal blockade of Wilmington, NC. It was the last major port to be blockaded
in the strategy to close Confederate ports.
The South used small, fast ships to try to slip past the Union Navy, and over the
course of the war, five out of six blockade runners were successful in evading the
blockade. But because of the runners’ small size, drastically less cargo got into
and out of the South.
The whole country experienced food shortages, but the blockade made things more severe
in the South. Prices soared and people got creative about stretching foodstuffs. According
in Civil War America, some butchers even sold dressed rats. But in case you’re
eating this over lunch, these examples from the book of making do are easier to digest:
When salt was unavailable to use as a seasoning, things with a salty flavor could
be used, such as a pinch of wood ashes or a wild plant called coltsfoot, and soldiers
sometimes used a dash of gunpowder.
Chicory, acorns, beans, beets, bran, corn, cornmeal, cotton seeds, dandelion
root, okra seeds, peanuts, peas, sugarcane seeds and wheat berries were variously
parched, dried, browned or roasted and used to make ersatz coffee. Other versions
used tubers like carrots or yams, which were cut into small pieces, dried, toasted
ad then ground up.