Prepper Millionaire; Lessons From Ersatz In The Confederacy Part 1

The magic formula for wealth is very simple and well known: buy low and sell high. But like many things, the practical implementation of that is a bit challenging. It’s difficult to know what is currently “low” and when, or if, it will get “high”.

But as a prepper, you have a huge opportunity in front of you right now.

We are on the cusp of major changes. As the famous Chinese proverb says “with great change comes great opportunity”. And it is pretty simple; regardless of how the changes unfold there are certain patterns that emerge time and time again. Even if have limited resources right now, you can look at what items or skills were most highly valued during other crisis’s. Focusing your efforts on the most lucrative items will make it possible for you to improve your situation.

So, how to find out what are the most highly sought after items during a crisis? The book we are reviewing today “Ersatz In The Confederacy” gives a very detailed look at both the shortages and the substitutions made during the American Civil War.  (If you don’t have a copy of this book you can order it here from Amazon.com).  This book is a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day lives of those ‘left behind’ in the American Civil war. While most other writings focus on the generals and the battles, this book looks at the shortages and substitutions on the home front. All of human nature, and the opportunities for you, are on display.

If you recall from my trip to Cuba, the painful collapse the Cubans’ experienced was primarily because they sacrificed their local sustainability for massive production of export crops.

I used to think that back in the 1800’s there was a high level of self-reliance everywhere. Yes sure, they had ships and some trains, but nothing like our modern interstate highway system… Wasn’t all food production pretty much local?

It turns out that in the 1800’s in the Southern States there wasn’t anywhere near enough local self-reliance. They were importing huge amounts of food, clothing, equipment, and luxuries,

Similar to Cuba, the South had primarily focused on growing an export crop (in this case cotton), and only had a smattering of other necessary industries. The lack of self-reliance is arguably the reason for the South’s ultimate loss; it wasn’t on the battlefield, but the shortages on the home front, which ultimately defeated them.

Not surprisingly, food and medicines were the first and most challenging shortages to become apparent. Food is always the first thing to become scarce or expensive during a crisis.  By the of the war, the only thing you could find at the butcher shop were dressed rats.

Inflation began quite quickly and within the first six months of war being declared prices for food had increased at least 100%. Inflation continued to skyrocket until prices were 1,000% to 10,000% times higher, and then finally, completely unaffordable to everyone

If you want to know the fastest and easiest ways to grow food – especially during a crisis – check out the video set “Grow Your Own Groceries” by clicking here:  www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com/dvd

Almost anything you can think of related to growing food also became very valuable; seeds, tools, livestock, etc. Seeds especially became very difficult to obtain and could be sold for extremely high prices. So having a good seed bank is a small and easy investment. But seeds don’t have infinite shelf lives (check out my videos on seed saving and storage tips at “organizing your seed collection”).   Growing seeds is a super business opportunity which you can learn now even if you only have a backyard or small patio.  Heck, you can start with even just a sunny windowsill.

After food, there quickly followed shortages in fuel and firewood. Then as they wore out – clothing, shoes, tools, and the gamut of other household necessities became difficult to obtain.

Speculation and hoarding were a very natural reaction to the wild prices and are a common thread in almost every collapse scenario. The take away for us today is to get good at bartering and trading now.

Especially towards the end of the war with the currency basically useless, bartering was essential and those who had something to barter fared much, much better than those who had nothing.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Other than the basic staples, some of the most valued items for speculation were the luxuries; sugar, coffee, alcohol, corsets, fashion accessories, and delicacies. I just had a post up about the best way to store coffee, and coffee was so widely desired, I will have lots of future articles on coffee substitutes.

Not surprising, theft and robberies also increased dramatically. Everything of use was stolen if it could be, even clothes left on the line to dry would be taken if not watched.

Within two years rioting and looting occurred in many of the major cities and became quite common. And of course with a war going on, guns and ammunition also became very scared and highly prized.

As a modern woman today, I am reluctant to think of possible violence or crime as our world changes. But here again is the historical need for home and self-defense skills in times of crisis. Note that if teaching self-defense is your passion, now is a great time to start a business teaching those skills.

In part 2 of this series of “Prepper Millionaire” we will look at

  • Other successful businesses that may inspire you into a new career
  • What locales fared the best and worst, and why
  • A summary list of investment items with high yields and zero risk

So keep an eye on your inbox!  What?  You haven’t signed up for article announcements?  Do it now!

I would absolutely love to get your comments. Please write them in the comments section below.

Talk soon!





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This post was written by Marjory


  • carol says:


    Thanks for the wonderful information! I enjoyed the book:) (So valuble and so helpful.) God Bless.

  • John says:

    This is a really good article, Marjory. Things you never heard about, but affected millions of people. I love history, but never learned about rats in the butcher shop and rioting/looting in the cities.

    Who would have thought with the stories of huge plantations, they didn’t grow enough to supply themselves? Sounds a lot like our modern commercial farms, doesn’t it?

    I am very much looking forward to the next article as well.


    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi John, yes it was quite shocking to me too – that they weren’t more self-reliant. And of course, the Southerners themselves didn’t realize it or they wouldn’t have gone to war.

      You know today how you can hear almost any opinion on the state of the world – everything from ‘the recession is over’ to ‘the end is nigh’. Well, the same was true in 1861. The new president of the Confederacy, uh, President Davis, was sure the South had at least two years worth of food on hand. And within just a few months he was shown to be terribly wrong.

  • Don Selleck says:

    Another handy book to get is Felfal’s “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse”.


    What separates Ferfal’s book from most is that he lived through the Argentine 2001 financial collapse and documents what actually worked and what did not.

    Highly recommended!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Don, yes I did an interview with Fernando Aguire a couple of months ago. You might be interested to hear him speak. He has moved to Ireland now. And spoke with delight that home invasion with a small group of skilled thugs is rare in hi new home. Fernandos experience and writings were very impactful for me too. Nothing like reality…

  • Sam says:

    Really good post today. Thanks!I hope that it opens some eyes and minds as to how bad things can get whether the collapse is war, economic depression or EMP. Those with food will be the ones with options.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Yes Sam, and if I can be so bold as to suggest that those who can grow food will be even better off. LOL

  • thomas h. threlkeld says:

    not sure how to comment on the information you’ve been sending without ‘gushing’. I heard you speak a couple of times and found something you’re able to do that I admire very much – taking what can be complex and saying it simply. I’ve lived a couple of times in the area of Texas you call home. now i’m retired and living in the mountains south of San Jose Costa Rica. I was actually headed for Argentina and stopped along the way, now I’ve found everything a mostly self-sufficient person could want including peace and quiet. i live very well, never did live the American “get all you can even if you don’t need it” life anyway. have started my garden to be in practice although I can take the bus to Tres Rios Saturday morning and buy a fresh, variety of just out of the ground vegetables (25-30lbs) for about $12US. now am looking into raising some rabbits. thank you for your help and willingness to share what you’ve learned. tht

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Lucky lucky you! I tired to get my family to move to Costa Rica. I did several long research trips visiting farms, permaculture sites, sustainability centers… We don’t have a retiremen income and just couldn’t figure out how to make the economics work. Not to mention my family is quite resistant to leaving American soil, learning a new language, etc.

      Me? I would have loved it. Spent 7 years living in SE Asia. But such is life.

  • Aayla Wilder says:

    Yes, this is a very good book, and you did a pretty good job of introducing it, although it might not be such a good idea to give too many highlights, satisfying the main worries; but the devil is in the details, so I think it is best read. When I tell people about what I read, I tell them some of the similarities with today’s problems and encourage them to read the book. I have several people reading it now, and others ordering it.

    Personal story: during the depression, my father-in-in Boston (with people all around him jumping out of windows, saw the opportunity to become rich. He knew people wanted to make their clothes and shoes last longer, so he created a shoe polish and spot remover, which became very well known. He became a millionaire and sold the business later to a bigger company and became even richer by investing in other money makers.

    I was born and raised in Savannah, Ga. shortly after the Great Depression, and our lives weren’t much better during WWII, with rationing, etc. Hunting and fishing licenses were NOT required, so all our seafood and meat, except home raised pork and chicken was free and wild, we even ate pigs feet, frog legs, and turtles. With gardens, we fared better because of the lessons my forebears learned during the War between the States, Depression, and WWII. Now I forage to have free food again, and grow a garden and animals. Without going on, I had other similar experiences, living in post war south Korea when it was a barren and broken land, always threatened by the North.My very best survival lessons came from the seventeen years in South Korea living in the countryside, without canned goods, or conveniences. Everything in our lives was ERSATZ!!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Yes Aayla, there is a ton more in that book. Quite a few things I’ll be trying out and testing in the near future.

  • Jim says:

    I am reminded of an address given by a LDS religious leader, Enzio Busche, titled, “How Beautiful to Live in These Times and Be Prepared!”, that stated that when he was growing up during WWII Germany, among starvation and dearth, that the two items most bartered (like a currency) where tobacco and booze. Number three on the list was vegetable oil.

    Other no brainers, that are fairly cheap, are salt (and the origin of the word ‘salary’ for Roman soldiers getting paid in salt) and also sugar used in canning fruits. Salt and sugar will never spoil or go bad, if stored properly. If times get more tough, you can us them yourself. I am sure we can all come up with lists, like this one, tailored to our own needs:


    1. Jim says:

      I forgot to search the link for the Busche address referenced above. My google search turned up it up:


      Scroll down to the paragraph starting, “Frequently I am asked, ‘What were the most valuable items in the days of starvation in Germany?” The answer is difficult to believe, because some of the experiences we had seem to be totally illogical and contrary to human nature. The items of highest value were tobacco and alcohol, because people who live in fear and despair, who have not learned principles of self-control, tend to need in times of panic some drug to escape the dreadful awareness of reality. I have seen people give their last loaf of bread and their last meager supply of potatoes just to obtain a bottle of brandy’……….”

      His description of bacon and eating preferences was hilarious…

      1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

        That was an interesting (if lengthy) article. yes, the bit about bacon was funny!

        Here is another quote that caught my attention

        “As for what we needed, the food item we relied on most was vegetable oil. With a bottle of vegetable oil, one could acquire nearly every other desirable item. It had such value that with a quart of vegetable oil one could probably trade for three bushels of apples or three hundred pounds of potatoes”.

        Oils and fats are difficult to grow. Did you follow my series on ‘Apocalyptic Hair Doo” which talks about how soap will be hard to come by because the primary ingredient is fat. Here is the link to that video if you haven’t seen it

        1. Maxi says:

          The new laundry paks are quite handy. You can keep a year’s worth sealed and dry in just one or two glass gallon jars. Don’t forget a couple bottles of Lysol original concentrate to disinfect clothes and bedding when someone comes down with the “G.I. Blues.”

  • Nancy says:

    “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

  • JoyceP says:

    A few years ago somewhere in the Marketfarming listserv archives was an interesting discussion that included many historical anecdotes and recipes from the Civil War and post war era. The hardships mostly faced by women were horrid. In a similar vein I have been reading about life in the first Great Depression and (since I live in Wisconsin)how various ethnic groups homesteaded. I’m sure you don’t have much time for reading, but I recommend the following enjoyable and entertaining books as good sources of simple, low cost, how-to: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Little%20Heathens%3A%20Life%20and%20Times%20on%20an%20Iowa%20Farm%20During%20the%20Great%20Depression, and http://www.amazon.com/Putting-Down-Roots-Gardening-Wisconsins/dp/0870204661/ref=sr_1_25?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375481918&sr=1-25&keywords=Old+Wisconsin. I have read both books and think you would like them.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Oh thank you so much for those references. I would enjoy reading about that bioregions and how they did it back then.

      I just ordered both and will try to read them. I do confess to buying more books than I ever read… LOL. I could stop buying books now and have more than enough to keep me occupied for the rest of my life. I justify it by thinking I am creating a library for my community. LOL

  • Charles says:

    Greetings: Medicines of a life preserving kind are already becoming a little harder to obtain. If you regularly take a medicine ask for a refill a few days early (like 6 or 7. Every time you get a refill early you stock up a weeks worth of meds. Soon you will acquire a months stock. Be careful to watch expiration dates so it doesn’t become out of the safety zone to use.

  • Demar says:

    This is the best resource I have found for those concerned about real violence and how to survive it

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Damar,

      I’ve seen Timn Larkins marketing materials and I liked what I saw from that, but I haven’t reviewed his products yet. He has a lot of emphasis on women and smaller defenders. I would love to hear more from you about the product – was it easy to learn?

      Do you feel you are able to handle various attackers?

  • Those were some meaningful words Marj.
    It is not just the south that suffer from embargo. In the revolution war. We up north could not sell wool to the King. There were hundred of thousands of sheep in the N.E. Our life had changed. I was just talking to some-one about Cuba and I have to wonder, if Cuba had the auto’s of to-day if they were to be-come useless junk as they are not to be repaired by the comman man. Once a Ford was made to help the farmer and run on gas or alcohol. I only hope that if we see that we have painted our selfs in a corner. That we can look back and realize that our adjustments, need to go back.

    1. I would like to add,
      That we are all commom men. What I ment was “repaired by commom means”. I’m sorry. It would seem to me that a machine shop is as basic to life as a forge and a anvil. Basic live does not include PC hardware engining. There’s that corner I was talking about.

    2. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Shannon, yes I too wondered how the North fared. But apparently it was much easier on them than the South. Actually, I have to confess I don’t even know how the whole war got started. I am sure there are numerous version of that…. Gosh, look back at Pearl Harbor. We thought we knew what happened there.

  • We are homesteading and like other preppers, stocking up on what our family needs. We are also stocking up on nonperishable items to sell/barter as finances allow.

    I have researched a lot of items in demand when a crisis hits. A number of things that are nonperishable that folks will want: Bleach for water purification, matches, lamp oil, Baking soda for cleaning and health, personal hygiene products like tampons, pads, diapers and the most important…TOILET PAPER!

    When I visited Hawaii in the 80’s our tour guide told us a story about the economic effect of the last dock strike. Common household items were being sold for insane profit due to lack of supply. I learned that around 4/5 of all products are shipped from CA by cargo ship. Within days islanders were feeling the effects of shortages for everyday items. Those who had extra “gotta have it” items were selling them for a fat profit.

    While most folks might think that food was the top item in demand, it was not the most profitable. The number one item in demand was toilet paper. It was in such a hot item that hotels were not allowing people carrying bags into their public restrooms. Locals were coming in and taking the toilet paper! Toilet paper was a primo “gotta have it” item that anyone selling it could get 6 dollars a roll!

    Let fast forward to today. Can you imagine how much folks will pay NOW for a roll of TP? EVERYBODY uses toilet paper…it’s like a hygiene crack fix (pardon the pun). You won’t do without it unless you have NO CHOICE.

    Now think about this: Every home, business and public restroom in America has toilet paper. This is the ONE item that everyone uses rich or poor. Those who have it, will make a pretty penny if they choose to sell or barter with it. It will be worth way more than its weight in gold to those who want it bad enough.

    I plan to be ready for when the “Fit hits the Shan.” The Banking industry will soon push the Federal Resreve tank lever for the final flush that sends our economy swirling down the crapper.

    No problem. I plan on turning that Economic Crapper into a nice side business. I intend for our family to survive and thrive no matter what happens to our economy. To me, those stacks of fluffy white rolls are like bank rolls of money…one roll a time.

    So next time you are meditating on the throne and about to use the TP, imagine how of each of those handy little squares can become money in your pocket. You could be wiping your butt with greenbacks. Nuf said.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Yup, there is a strategy to that! LOL.

      Mullen leaves make a good toilet paper substitute. But I won’t tell anyone and destroy your market.

    2. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Nice points about Hawaii. They are really way off the beaten path aren’t they? Like forget help…

    3. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Nice points about Hawaii. They are really way off the beaten path aren’t they? Like forget help…

  • Jess Moore says:

    In consideration of “Ersatz In The Confederacy”.
    My Aunt Gussie grew up in the post-war South. (Apparently, her father was dead.) Her family lived in a shack on a plantation. As a girl, she worked in a dry goods store. One Christmas, the store owner offered to let her pick a gift from the store. She chose a doll. She never had a doll. When she got home, her mother made her return the doll and pick some glasses- so that they could all drink together at the table. (She never married and grew up to own her own children’s clothing store.)

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Thanks so much for your story of your Aunt. Those were definately different times and something we can all learn from.

  • Excellent article, Marjory. Behind the scenes history is overlooked, even in schools that actually teach history anymore. But, indeed, we are on the edge of major changes. There’s a long winded and overly detailed book out “The Fourth Turning” that I’ve recently read, an examination of human history and how with amazing regularity, human societies always go through 4 ‘turnings’ or cycles that always include collapse and restructure, which is where we are today in the USA, right on that leading edge of turn #4. Get ready and ‘hunker down’, the wave is coming.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Silas,

      I’ve heard that tile before… ‘The Fourth Turning’. Sounds like you recommend it with reservations that it will e a bit drawn out?

  • Tallan Acalin says:

    I have a drop order/shipping business For Personal Self Defense items(pepper spray, Bear Repeliant, Sun Guns, Self Defense DVD’s, Etc.)
    as well as home survailence gear(ie) Camera’s of every type and style. I’m also well versed in Solar Installation & studing Electrical Wiring for residential & Commercial applications. + I just finished a 20+ year career in the Security Field here in Calif. ( The First POLICE STATE ) lol.

  • G. says:

    This book is very relevant for today. I knew that the South was not very self sufficient and the North had the factories.

    For me, there were some things that stood out.

    The blockade. We no longer “make” things, neither finished products or resources for products as we have in years past. Stop the imports, and where would we be? In the same position as the South.

    The women didn’t know how to knit (was it sew also?). Apparently many lived a rather easy, and unskilled lifestyle. Its sounds much like today.

    The war caused constant migration/refugees.

    Under the act of March 26, 1863, **the army could seize the people’s goods.** Unfortunately, food was taken as well as other goods. There was also looting. Chilling.

    Bartering became commonplace, and worked. Encouraging.

    Transportation was curtailed due to lack of carriages/carts and animals to pull it. The people were reduced to walking. Inability to travel and transport had a negative impact on people’s lives. Things could not be repaired because of the lack of skilled workers, tools, and supplies. My husband can fix and repair just about anything, but repairing means supplies. A protracted period of “austerity” would reduce resources.

    Food. While I live in an area that many women do consider putting up food, usually freezing and water bath canning. A supply of a year or more is never considered. Saving seed? Having the knowledge and supplies for off the grid food preservation? Not so much.

    Again, thank you for suggesting this book. I am glad I purchased it. It is definitely food for thought.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:


      That was a really thoughtful and well written summary of the book.


  • elizabeth says:

    This book highlights the skills most of us have forgotten, but which would be necessary if the grid and the conveniences of today were removed. How many of us today, for example, could sew, knit or crochet, spin, weave, cook over a fire, make a fire, find or apply home remedies, and the like. These are skills our grandmothers and great grandmothers knew. When “conveniences” became available, we ceased to learn them. (How much of that was encouraged so that we would purchase the conveniences?) Today, children no longer learn to write well with a pencil or spell – the computer does it. We become more and more dependent and less and less human.

    That’s the comment. The question (open ended) is how to find the resources and the time to relearn the skills we have forgotten, or live in a space that does not encourage their use? (One can’t hunt in a city, difficult to grow anything in a dark apartment.Everyone does not have the financial resources to travel or attend classes.) Personally, I can darn a sock and knit a scarf and do some handwork; I can often make a fire, but need matches; I have observed cooking on a wood stove – remember a great aunt doing it. We don’t have any more woodstoves, and probably burning wood is not good for the planet anyway.

    Enough rambling. This was a good book.

  • Jo Oliver says:

    My question needs some background info. When I moved to ‘ole fartsville’ in FL, in a development of 3000 homes-a gated community, but not a ritzie place. Homes here go from $40K to $200K. Most of the people do NOT work; many older than this 68yo with less skill than I have. Most of the homes are what I call “glued together”. Two 1/2’s go on a trailer and when they reach the site they put it together-poorly, may I add. The structure is not the strongest.
    I would like to teach others about what I do, but that will give away my secret, that I am a preppers. A majority claim they will be dead by the time TSHTF. I have a gut feeling, none of mine have ever been wrong, that the LORD Intends for me to be arround to help others. Though the house is small, I believe I have enough to keep me for one year. I have seeds also, but fear growing stuff outside and am thinking of doing an inside job, but when the sun flares hit, that leaves out the ‘sunlight to grow stuff’ factor. Also, there is a law snuck into the health care bill that basically says, “……can not grow, harvest, sell, share,or destroy anything from nature….” a jailable offense. The army that is being built by the guy who lives on our dime, in the White House, already has an aarmy of his own- 23-35yo with heavy guns to carry. It is very frightening.
    Unfortunately, I live alone and am moderately handicapped and unable to physically do the things I ‘know’ how to do. Paying someone is not an option as my SS is lower than most. Bartering is a possibility, but right now, there is enough for just me with some extra (building up) if my son needs to be here w/ his family.
    Most of the people here haven’t a clue what is going on and I feel bad for them. As I said before (I get confused) can figure out how to enlighten them. Any one w/ some ideas?
    Marjorie, you are a guiding light and a wealth of knowledge. I wish I had the family property, our family used to own, so I can go live in the woods and raise chickens, but that’s gone. IS there ever a time when chickens (1or 2) can be raised inside a home, in a seperate area? Would appreciate any help.
    Also, do you have a general website forum we can all go to (and one always included in any of your mailings) so all the info is in one place? I pray every day for what is to come. GOD Bless all of you. hugs……..jo

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Jo,

      When in Cuba people raised chickens in their apartments – usually in a room that was sacrificed to the mess – like the bathroom.

      ?wonder if you could raise them outside, and just call them pets.

      So glad to hear of your understanding of the role you’ll take when you are needed in your community.

      Also, I am working to create n area with more room for discussion, projects, meet ups, etc. I am not in any regular forums right now as too busy with this site and my research. Uh, my kids and community too.

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