The Contraband Trade and the Problem of Loyalty
Chapter 3 focuses on the contraband trade between Mississippians and the Union army from 1862–1865 and the effect that it had on conceptions of national loyalty. Initially, the Confederate government banned the trade of contraband items such as cotton, tobacco, clothing, and guns with the North. Confederates claimed that the trade stifled southern economic independence. Yet, when key southern commercial cities like Memphis and Vicksburg fell to the Union, Mississippians immediately exchanged goods at Union lines for manufactured articles and raw commodities. Confederates debated amongst themselves over whether the trade was treasonous and to be squelched, or whether it could be beneficial by supplying Mississippians with needed goods. Far from simply denoting treason or loyalty, the contraband trade demonstrated how multiple allegiances informed Mississippians’ behavior, and it also revealed a crucial thread of continuity during the Civil War through the maintaining of established market ties between North and South.
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