31 July 1862: “Well, the poor soldier has paid out his little wages (if indeed he has received it,) for clothing and shoes, or nearly so, and consequently has none of any consequence to pay these extortionary prices for vegetables.”

Item description: Letter to the editors of the Wilmington (N.C.) Daily Journal, written by a “Soldier from Wake,” as published in the 31 July 1862 issue of the Journal.

Item citation: “Extortion – The Soldier,” The Daily Journal (Wilmington, N.C.), 31 July 1862.  North Carolina Collection call number: C071 Z.  Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

For the Journal.

Extortion — The Soldier.

Messrs. FULTON & PRICE: — I am not intimately nor personally acquainted with you, but since I have been soldiering around about Wilmington I have seen you on the streets, and have read your paper a great deal; and from what I have seen in your paper I take you to be both patriotic and loyal to the Southern Confederacy, and strong anti-Holdenites. To-morrow is the Soldiers’ election in this State, and, let others do as they may, as for me, if I am permitted, I shall vote for Johnston. I hope all the soldiers belonging to this State will do the same.; for if Vance is elected, although he is a clever fellow, a good joker. (I have heard him speak,) yet most assuredly the North will take it as a strong Union triumph in the good Old North State, and therefore will tend to our great disadvantage. But this is not altogether what I intended to write about. I want to say something about “Extortion” and the poor soldier.

I see two articles of late in your paper — one on extortion and the other complaining against it. In the first, sellers in general are impeached as being extortioners, which I think is about correct. But the poor soldier has nothing to sell. He is given himself up to his country to aid in its defense, and gets in return the pitiful sum of $11 per month for his services, and sometimes four, five, six or seven months before he gets that. The mother, wife or sister is at home greatly grieved on account of the absence of her father, husband or brother, and perhaps greatly in need of his aid for sustenance. But he only gets $11 per month. — Perhaps, when he gets this, he wants to send it home, but he has to pay back that money he borrowed of his brother soldier to buy his ($1 per lb.) chewing tobacco. He is barefooted, and must pay the shoemaker $8, $10 or $12 for a pair of shoes.* His shoes need half-soling, he must pay from $3 to $4 to have his shoes mended. Now, here comes the vegetables. He wants them – his taste is not changed by becoming a soldier in the defence of his country’s rights What do you ask for these Irish potatoes? One dollar per peck, sir. What do you ask for these cabbages? Twenty five and thirty cents. What for these apples or peaches? From forty to sixty cents per dozen. What for these melons? One dollar and twenty-five cents, &c, &c. Well, the poor soldier has paid out his little wages (if indeed he has received it,) for clothing and shoes, or nearly so, and consequently has none of any consequence to pay these extortionary prices for vegetables. His family is at home expecting his aid, and perhaps fails to obtain it. These vegetables are placed before his eyes enticing him to buy, but he has not the “wherewith.” He wants these luxuries, but is compelled to do without them, if he is honest; and if he is impudent enough to take an apple or peach he is grumbled at;– and if one, through his anxious cravings, ventures into a man’s enclosure after a melon (though we do not approve of such conduct,) he finds a man with fixed gun to shoot him down and take his life, for the sake of a watermelon. And if a man is suspicioned and arrested for such alleged conduct, after authority releases him he turns about and publishes the soldier for roguery. I do not approve of soldiers doing wrong, but they have severe trials and temptations, and if one or two transcends the bounds of honesty, the whole should not be accused with the wrong.


* The government allows a soldier so much clothing per year, but sometimes, from some cause, they fail to get it, and have to expend their own means, if any, to avoid going bare.

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