A Union Girl In The South 04: Dora Miller’s Civil War Diary, Jan 28, 1861

When Dora Miller published her Civil War diary in the 1880s, she changed or obscured the names of the people she talked about, since many of them were still alive at the time.

One of those people was a young man she calls “Rob” in the diary. Rob was an enthusiastic secessionist, and was almost violently impatient with Dora’s allegiance to the Union.

Louisiana had just seceded from the Union, and many in the state were eagerly anticipating that European nations would quickly recognize and lend assistance to the new Southern Confederacy. But when Rob read in a French newspaper that France would follow a policy of non-intervention, he turned his anger on Dora.

“I believe these are your sentiments,” he said to her as he read from the newspaper.

When Dora replied, “Well, what do you expect? This is not their quarrel,” Rob was incensed.

“He raved at me,” Dora recorded in her diary, “ending by a declaration that he would willingly pay my passage to foreign parts if I would like to go.”

Cotton Is King!

Rob’s father tried to calm him down. “Keep cool; don’t let that threat excite you,” he told Rob. “Cotton is king. Just wait till they feel the pinch a little; their tone will change.”

The belief that “cotton is king” and that the South’s control of that necessary commodity would force nations like England and France to back the Confederacy in order to assure a continuing supply was considered gospel among secessionists. But as events would prove, that faith was disastrously misplaced.

The cotton crop of the years immediately prior to secession had been ample, and England in particular had a surplus. Even when supplies ran low, cotton would never become the economic weapon Southerners thought it was.

In a sense Rob’s apprehensions and anger were justified. No European nation would ever recognize the Confederacy or lend it any material support.

Photo credit: David Ohmer via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)
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