Lack of Resources
On the other hand, due to a lack of income from their gardens, which would not provide a good enough source for survival alone, Confederate wives were faced with other dim possibilities: accumulating debt, facing foreclosure on their properties, and the possibility of any remaining sources they had being drained by occupying Union soldiers. As Ann Bowen described in a letter to her husband, Henry, “he ses pervison is very scarce whar he has ben he dont see no hopes of its ending short of a famin but he makes bad of all I no he dont no” (Item 2731), previsions were scarce due to Union occupation of the area in Wilmington. Ann wrote this letter January 14, 1865. At the time, as the archivist who transcribed the letter notes, Union soldiers were taking food from locals so they themselves would not starve. With acts like these, Confederates who remained at home in occupied areas such as Wilmington, North Carolina were thrown into a state of fear and panic. In the case of Confederate wives like Ann and Martha, Union soldiers raiding already scarce food supplies meant starvation or possible death for Confederate soldiers’ families. Although Union soldiers had not officially occupied the Washington County yet, there presence was being felt by Ann and the locals. It was during times like these where Confederate wives were again made helpless as yet another obstacle threatened attempt at having normal life in their husband’s absence. Although there was not much physically that wives such as Ann and Martha could do to stop Union soldiers, there were other ways to not give their occupiers what they wanted. According to Steven Ash, “Victorian ideals and the masculine culture of the military encouraged the assumption that women were harmless; thus, Southern women assertive enough to take on the invaders encountered few deterrents and were often humored, even goaded, by amused soldiers.” (Ash, 42) Though they were not able to avoid contact with their invaders altogether, Confederate wives were forced to share their scarce sources with the Union troops. However, what on the outside was a timid appearance, Confederate wives quickly reminded their occupiers who ruled their households. As Steven Ash states, “women, in fact, comprised the vanguard in this campaign of verbal defiance” (Ash, 42).