Shortly after the war began a Philadelphia school girl, Bettie Ann Graham, reluctantly returned to Wythe County, Virginia, and her dysfunctional family. Graham bitterly writes in her diary on May 5, 1861: "Tis as I expected, nothing but quarreling all the time. I pray that none I love may ever know the pangs inflicted by a drunken father & an insane mother."
As much as possible Confederate women tried to live normal lives despite shortages of specific foods and goods. In her 1861 diary Charlotte Phipps of Rogersville, Tennessee, recorded her recipes for "Gold and Silver Cake" and "Sponge Cake."
The fact that the war took so many men from home was particularly worrisome to women left on the plantations and in towns, as Mrs. Roberts describes in this March, 1862 letter. "(S)hould the darkies trouble I assure you we would be in a bad way are (sic) men are thinned out so." However, hard times did bring about ingenuity. Mrs. Roberts describes her innovation of using rye as a substitute for coffee, which was in short supply due to the blockade.
A Henry County, Virginia, resident complains to her sister about hard times and high prices, August 23, 1862: "Times are very hard here every thing is scarce and high . . . corn is selling for ten dollars, bacon 45 cents per pound, brandy is selling about here from 4 to 5 dollars per gallon, in Danville it sells for eight dollars. We cannot get a yard of calico for less than one dollar we cannot get a pound of copperas [a sulfate used in making ink] for less than a dollar and 25 cents."
Southern women were determined to protect themselves against the "ultimate outrage" (rape). On February 21, 1863, in Fauquier County, Virginia, 63-year-old Lucy Johnston Ambler confided in her diary: "I intend to get Mr. Downs to show me how to shoot tomorrow and how to load."
The Confederate Congress, in a December 1863 resolution, denounces the Union army and discreetly complains "helpless women have been exposed to the most cruel outrages and to that dishonor which is infinitely worse than death."
Mary Barr Wall of Winchester, Virginia, received this gloating March 6, 1863 letter from a Baltimore brother-in-law describing the good life in the North, latest fashions, parties and balls, museums, and churches. He offers to send her ribbons of any color she wants and urges her to "Come down and see for yourself."