“Is There Any Way to Get at the Distillers?”: <i>The Fall and Rise of the Moonshiners, 1861–1868</i>

Bruce E. Stewart

in Moonshiners and Prohibitionists

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780813130002
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135670 | DOI:
“Is There Any Way to Get at the Distillers?”: The Fall and Rise of the Moonshiners, 1861–1868

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With public attention focused on the Civil War, support for the temperance movement started to wane. In fact, by 1865, only five out of the fourteen northern states that had passed statewide prohibition during the 1850s retained those laws. However, serious food shortages resulting from the war led to calls for legislation in nine Confederate states, including North Carolina, to ban the production of alcohol for non-medicinal purposes. Illicit distillers, known as moonshiners, refused to comply with the ban and continued making and selling their product to neighbors, farmers and even soldiers, causing further strain to community and kinship ties. The success of statewide prohibition, however, was short-lived as the demand for locally made liquor increased with the decline in civilian morale following the war. As the economy started to improve and food became more available by 1868, many mountain residents no longer regarded moonshiners as “soulless scoundrels” but as legitimate entrepreneurs once again.

Keywords: North Carolina; liquor distillation; temperance movement; statewide prohibition; Civil War; moonshiners; food shortages; federal legislation

Chapter.  8900 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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