WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- Agriculture and food played powerful roles for both the North and South during the Civil War, according to a new book by a Purdue University historian.
"Both regions saw agriculture as a form of power," said R. Douglas Hurt, professor and head of Purdue's Department of History. "In 1861, when the war began, northern farmers didn't see agriculture as power but southerners did. In fact, the South overestimated their agricultural might. At the same time, the North came to the realization that farming was a major strength for the Union."
The Civil War turned into very productive years for northern farmers. Agricultural prices went up, paper currency was abundant and many Union farmers paid off mortgages. By comparison, the Confederate farmers saw downward shifts with their agricultural strength dissolving as the war lingered.
"Food and Agriculture during the Civil War" compares both sides of the war by year, starting in 1861 through 1865. The book was published by Praeger.
The book includes a photo essay secured from research at the State Library of Virginia, Virginia Historical Society, Tennessee Archives, Georgia Archives, Newberry Library, Indiana Archives and Ohio Archives. Source material included letters, diaries and contemporary newspaper accounts.
"The book is a culmination of 10 years of research," Hurt said. "It was a joy to research and write. I think it makes a contribution to American agriculture during a watershed moment in our history."
Hurt is author of "Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South;" "The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History;" "The Big Empty: The Great Plains in the Twentieth Century;" "Problems of Plenty: The American Farmer in the Twentieth Century;" "American Agriculture: A Brief History;" "American Farms: Exploring Their History;" and "The Great Plains during World War II."