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January 2014

Starving the South

“Famine is staring us in the face. There is nothing so heart rending to a Mother as to have her children crying round her for bread and she have none to give them.”

The Union navy blockaded Southern ports to stop ships from bringing in supplies. Agents from the Confederate government requisitioned food and livestock, taking them for the army to use. Union troops came through some areas of North Carolina and stole food and animals.

In early 1863 Mary Williams and fifty-nine other desperate women from the western part of the state asked Governor Zebulon Vance not to draft any more men from their farms into military service. The women noted that without the men they could not plant as many crops. County sheriffs and local governments tried to provide food for soldiers’ families, but many people still went hungry. Sometimes they tried drastic measures to get food.

In the town of Salisbury in March 1863, a group of fifty to seventy-five women armed with axes and hatchets descended on the railroad depot and several stores looking for flour. The women thought that the railroad agent and the storekeepers were hoarding flour, hiding it to sell later at a higher price. When faced with the angry mob, the storekeepers gave “presents” of flour, molasses, and salt to the women. According to the newspaper Carolina Watchman, the agent at the railroad depot insisted he had no flour. The women broke into the depot, took ten barrels of flour, and left the agent “sitting on a log blowing like a March wind.”

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

The Civil War Mess Kit


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The Civil War Mess Kit

Dig In: This nonregulation Civil War mess kit features a fork, knife, spoon, corkscrew, salt and pepper shaker, and cup enclosed in a mahogany carrying case. The typical kit was much less fancy and looked more like photo #2

A typical mess kit, like this one from Don Tolbert’s personal collection, for soldiers on both sides included coffee, hardtack bread and beans. These staples were cheap and easy to preserve and carry.

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

Food And The Civil War

Fresh beef, a staple of the soldier’s diet, wasn’t always available. Borden’s Condensed Milk and other canned foods were introduced during the Civil War.

Food During The War

As the war continued, Southerners began to feel the pinch of food shortages, especially in the cities, where residents did not produce their own food and had large concentrated populations. As the Union established more and more blockades, farmers were less able to transport food into the cities. 

Some popular dishes in the South included fried ham with red-eye gravy and biscuits, Hopping John (a stew made with bacon, peas or beans, and red pepper). Vegetables included tomatoes (Ruffled Yellow), lettuce (head, leaf, and romaine), beans (Great Northern Yellow Eye, Jacob’s Cattle) and snap beans, sweet corn (Black Aztec), cabbage, potato (Early Rose and Irish potatoes), cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and beets.

Men on the field often ate canned food, as storage was more difficult since soldiers would travel from camp to camp every day. Some of the labels are surprisingly familiar: Underwood Deviled Ham· Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce· Borden’s Condensed Milk· Van Camp’s Pork and Beans· McIlhenny Company’s Tabasco Sauce

Chronic food shortages and outright hunger crippled the South throughout the Civil War, breeding despair among civilians and soldiers alike.

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

Southerners Used Food Substitutions During The Civil War

Southerners Used Food Substitutions During The Civil War

Before secession, a typical Southern family’s grocery bill was $6.65 per month. By 1864, it was $400 per month. In fact. Confederate dollars were so devalued that many families could not afford to buy food staples. As produce became more and more scarce or expensive, people had to find substitutes for common foods. Many residents were quite creative, and although most of the substitutes did not survive until modern times, satisfied southern appetites to some degree. Here are some examples:

Meat (at least $20 for one meal): 
Domestic animals, crows, frogs, locusts, snails, snakes and worms

Okra seeds that were browned, dried sweet potatoes or carrots, roasted acorns, wheat berries

Herbs, sumac berries, sassafras roots, raspberry, blackberry, huckleberry and holly leaves

Water and corn and molasses, fermented in an old barrel

Milk or cream:
Beat an egg white to a froth and add a small lump of butter, mix well.

Molasses, sorghum, dried, ground figs, honey, watermelon syrup
Vinegar (apple): molasses, honey, beets, figs, persimmon, may-apples and sorghum

Rice, rice flour, cornmeal, and rye flour.

Boiled sea water, or taking dirt from the smokehouse, adding water and boiling it. Skim off the scum on the top and drop in cold water, and the salt sinks to the bottom. The impurities could be boiled off. Wood ashes or gunpowder could substitute for salt as a seasoning.

Source: Varhole, Michael J. Everyday Life During the Civil War.

From: The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

This week in the Civil War for January 26, 1864

The Union forces pushed back from Dandridge, Tenn., were still in the area 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. For the time being, they disrupted Confederate attempts to capture Union supply wagons and restock their troops in need of shoes, further weapons and additional ammunition. On Jan. 27, 1864, a Confederate force smashed into a Union cavalry brigade. Hard fighting erupted and Union forces took advantage of dense fog to drive back sharply. Union troops swiftly routed Confederates in the area of Fair Garden Road and pursued many of the rebels, capturing and killing several. Union troops attacked another Confederate unit before withdrawing, weary from combat and running short of ammunition.

From abcnews.go and the Associated Press

The West Point of the Confederacy

The Burning Of The University Of Alabama~ 
"The West Point of the Confederacy" 

Cadet Greene Marshall Labuzan  from Mobile entered the University of Alabama in 1863 at the age of seventeen. Labuzan, who later became a successful attorney, took command of the skirmishers after John H. Murfee was wounded.

The University Of Alabama (UA) was considered a major target of destruction by the Northern Army during the Civil War as many of it’s cadets that graduated went on to become officers in the Confederate cause during the war. The campus was hit by Croxon’s Company, a division of Wilson’s Raiders, and was burned on April 4, 1865 after an unsuccessful attempt to stop the raid into Tuscaloosa at the Black Warrior River bridge crossing by the UA Cadets and the Tuscaloosa Home Guard. The remaining UA cadets were comprised of young boys and their instructors since many of the older student cadets had left the university to join the Confederate cause and were stationed throughout the South.

The Tuscaloosa Home Guard was comprised of young boys and old men. Only four major campus structures were saved from burning. The University of Alabama survived, recovered, and went on to become one of the greatest Universities in the United States of America.

Throughout the war the University supplied the Confederacy with a cadre of young men with military training. In President Garland’s own words, “We annually send about 200 youth, well drilled in infantry and artillery, into the field.” It is no wonder that the University became known as the “West Point of the Confederacy.” 

Image W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library

The CIvil War Parlor

This week in the Civil War for January 19, 1864


Union forces intent on better securing eastern Tennessee for the federal government march in mid-January 1864 on Dandridge, Tenn., not far from a vital rail supply line linking eastern Tennessee and Virginia. The Union advance forced Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to fall back. But on Jan. 17, 1864, fighting erupted between the opposing forces. Confederates backed by artillery and Cavalry forced the Union fighters under Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis into retreat by nightfall. But for lack of more shoes, supplies and ammunition the Confederates were unable to destroy the federal forces outright.

 From abcnews.go and the Associated Press

White House of the Confederacy

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During the Civil War, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived in a Richmond, Virginia mansion. Now referred to as “the White House of the Confederacy,” the residence was saved from demolition in 1896 and since 1988 has been restored to it’s wartime appearance. American History TV visited to learn about the Mexican War veteran and U.S. Senator who became leader of the Confederate States of America. 

Link to C-Span's video

This week in the Civil War for January 12, 1864


In wintertime 150 years ago in the Civil War, speculation arose in the North about the road ahead to the long conflict. The New York Times, in a dispatch Jan. 13, 1864, noted that the North would need to "bisect" the Confederacy if the Union were to prevail. "But there is much to do — indeed, there is much being done — which is all-important and highly essential to future operations." The paper noted that the spring warm-up comes first to the South and a key to the Union war strategy would be laying down new supply and communications lines by rail and other means to eastern Tennessee.

The paper noted that the Union's recent victories in eastern Tennessee would make that one base for launching further strikes into the Deep South. And the paper exhorted Lincoln's government to supply Grant with sufficient troops for the fight ahead. "Let the Government not fail to see to it that Gen. Grant has an army in numbers sufficient for his work ... the last fatal blow to the rebellion is to be struck by Gen. Grant."

From abcnews.go and the Associated Press

Medal of Honor approved for Civil War veteran


Alonzo Hersford Cushing was an artillery officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He died at the Battle of Gettysburg while defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett's Charge, for which he earned the Medal of Honor 147 years after his death.

More than 150 years after he gave his life at Gettysburg leading the effort to repel Pickett’s Charge, 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing is finally on track to get the Medal of Honor after Congress last month approved waiving the time limit for the nation’s top military honor.

The waiver was one of a half-dozen included in the massive defense policy bill — legislation that also began to tweak the Medal of Honor system, standardizing the amount of time a nomination may be considered and removing a cap that, in recent years, had said nobody could win the medal more than once.

In the case of Cushing, Congress‘ approval puts him over a major hurdle. Now he must clear a review by the Defense Department, which has expressed support, and then one by President Obama.

“Having members of both parties in both Houses coming together to recognize Lt. Cushing’s valor is amazing,” said Dave Krueger, one of those who has picked up the banner to fight for Cushing. “It has not, nor should it be, an easy process. The story of Lt. Cushing is so compelling that our legislators have cleared the way for the president to award him this nation’s highest military honor.”

It’s unclear why Cushing wasn’t awarded the medal in the 1800s.
Those above and below him in rank both earned it, including Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who led the overall defense against Pickett’s Charge and gave permission for Cushing to advance, and Cushing’s own trusted Sgt. Frederick Fuger, who held up the wounded Cushing so he could see the battlefield and served as the lieutenant’s megaphone, calling out the orders Cushing could only whisper because of his two injuries.

Cushing died on the Pennsylvania battlefield of a third injury.

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