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In Their Own Words

March 21, 1863

Letter on Civil War Economics

During the Civil War, a frequent complaint was that merchants were gouging the public by charging vastly inflated prices. Merchants responded that many items were difficult to impossible to obtain, and further that the high prices were based on the value of Confederate currency. Atlanta merchant Samuel P. Richards reflected in his diary his experience with inflation from both the business and consumer points of views:

“Business continues good and money comes in so fast that we hardly know how to dispose of it to advantage, though to be sure, it takes a large part of it to buy food and clothing in these days of exorbitant prices. Flour is now $75 per barrel and rice 25¢. per lb. though I was lucky enough today to buy a sack of rice-flour for $20. We have lived on rice and corn for several weeks, wheat flour being too dear. I like a good rice-flour bread made with buttermilk and soda quite as well as flour bread, at least for awhile. But buttermilk is one dollar per gallon and rising, and soda has gone from ten cents per pound to four dollars!”

Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of 1954 original volume), Vol. I, p. 557.