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aa r reena eenactors ctors m magazine agazine

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issue iss ue 11

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dec december ember 2014 2014

150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg

Hello, I’m a Civil War Reenactor! Civil Civil War War Gear Gear Inspires Inspires Veteran Veteran To To Invent Invent Modern Modern Equipment Equipment Civil War reenactment etiquette Cooking Cookin Civil War Style

“It is something great and greatening to cherish an ideal; to act in the light of truth that is far-away and far above; to set aside the near advantage, the momentary pleasure; the snatching of seeming good to self; and to act for remoter ends, for higher good, and for interests other than our own.� -Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain-



Editor’s Note Muster is for those who love history and love to recreate it. Reenacting isn’t just a hobby it is a way of life. Some may think it is weird or that we’re all just a bunch of strange nerds trying to relive something that people seem to forget about, but we know that’s not true. Reenacting is so much more. It is about respecting the past and representing the honorable men and women of the era. In this first issue we wanted to cover some of the basics. Things such as pefecting the right persona, the planning and organizing that goes into a battle at each event, and how to have fun doing it. We also wanted to touch bases on how this history that reenactors portay is bringing to life a whole new era of technology for our soldiers over seas. Our big article for this month is the Battle of Gettysburg and it’s success. We also featured an interview from a local reenactor to let people see why we love these events so much. There are some really great period correct recipes at the end that I think you all are going to love! I hope you all enjoy this months issue.


Inside Civil War reenactment etiquette



How and when to die on the battlefield

Civil War Gear Inspires Veteran To Invent Modern Equipment

Read how calvary bags have been adapted for modern day soldiers

17 150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg

Read how this year’s event was bigger than anyone could imagine with over 200,000 visitors and more than 400 events that were planned for the week

23 Hello, I’m a Civil War Reenactor! Excuse Me, I Mean A Progressive, Campaign Living Historian 29 Cooking Civil War Style Ingredients and recipes to use around the campsite

Emily Mitchell


Civil War Reenactment Etiquette how and when to die on the battlefield By Paul Farhi


here’s no shame or glory in “dying” while reenacting a Civil War battle. There are, however, a few hazards in it. You might get stepped on by advancing infantry, or become seriously dehydrated while lying motionless in the summer sun. And make sure you don’t die on top of an anthill or a cow patty. For many of the 10,000 or so reenactors who will participate in a dramatic restaging of the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run on Saturday and Sunday, authenticity is almost everything. From the proper uniform to the right arms to the appropriate facial hair, the goal is to avoid all things “farby,” the derisive term for anything not quite out of mid-19th-century America. Dying is no exception. Many reenactors go to great pains to portray the, uh, great pains and suffering of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell in battle. They study photographs of Civil War dead for guidance about the grotesque positions assumed by men who’ve “taken a hit” from rifles and cannons. A few — the truly hard-core — go so far as to simulate the bloating of a newly dead body.

“No one wants to drive hours on end to go to an event and then march out onto the field, fire several rounds and then take a hit and lay on the field for the rest of the battle,” said Michael Cheaves, who reenacts with the 1st Tennessee Cavalry in Jefferson City. “It kind of defeats the purpose.” So, tough choices have to be made. Organizers typically brief reenactors about the approximate number of casualties involved in a battle and who will “win” the day’s fight. But if not enough men are falling when the historical circumstances demand it, field commanders will quietly start encouraging more to die. At the Manassas reenactment, Jonathan Novak knows his unit, the Confederate 4th Alabama, will take massive casualties. The 4th held out against overwhelming Union numbers 150 years ago, buying time for reinforcements to arrive. It lost almost a third of its number during this first major battle of the war.

One of the big issues in any reenactment is deciding who lives and who dies. As a rule, reenactors prefer not to. Or at least, they prefer not to die too soon in a restaging that could last 90 minutes or more.

Confederate soldier rescuing his fellow solder


“I personally am of the frame of mind that everything we do as reenactors should be done right, otherwise there is little point in doing it,” said Novak, who lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (He draws a line at eating raw salt pork, a common field ration, but you get the idea.) The “when” and “how” of dying during a reenactment present their own challenges. The standard is common sense. If you’re in a position to “take a hit,” the honorable thing to do is take it, said Donald Treco, who commands Company F of the 2nd California Cavalry, a Union outfit out of Sacramento. “The audience member today is sophisticated enough to know when a shot should have scored a casualty, and when no one falls, it can be met with laughter from the audience,” Treco said. “Just as in Hollywood, the suspension of disbelief. . . is the overall goal.”

Wounded confederate soldierBattle of Olustee

Some meticulous organizers have created clever ways of enforcing the timing of hits. At some events, they’ll assign “fate cards” to units to replicate the actual killed-wounded ratios. If the unit has enough members to match the number that fought, each reenactor may portray an actual historical person whose fate is literally in the cards. Others will place red or specially marked blank cartridges in soldiers’ cartridge boxes. When the soldier gets to one of these cartridges, the jig is up. Time to die. “There’s a lot of ‘I got you!’ ‘No, I got you!’ at the usual reenactment,” said Jerry Todd, who has participated in Civil War events for 36 years, most recently as first sergeant of the Federal 1st Maine Cavalry. “There are some that will never take a hit, and others you can hardly keep standing up. I’ve seen whole units drop dead when a single musket was fired, and exactly the reverse.”


Some would-be Federals and Rebs play out their death throes with agonized wails and rending of uniforms. (This is not overacting; gut-shot Civil War soldiers often tore at their uniforms to find their wounds.) Dying is also trickier if you happen to be portraying cavalry; falling off a horse is far more dangerous than falling off your feet. Since a dead reenactor might have to remain still for the better part of an hour, the smart ones will tip their caps over their faces once they drop, said Rick Lieb, who reenacts with the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a Federal unit in Youngstown. A disproportionate number seem to end up dying in the shade.

Harold Chase: Civil War Reenactor

“Hard-cores” will stay facedown so spectators can’t see their chests rising and falling as they breathe. Some will spatter fake blood. A few less rigorous types, however, have been known to sneak a camera onto the field and snap a photo or two of the action unfolding around them.

Novak points out that Civil War soldiers were more likely to be wounded than killed in battle and more likely to die from infection or disease after it than during it. Even so, when he takes a bullet, he tries to make it look right.

he tries to make it look right. A few less rigorous types, however, have been known to sneak a camera onto the field and snap a photo or two of the action unfolding around them. (So farby!)

Some would-be Federals and Rebs play out their death throes with agonized wails and rending of uniforms. (This is not overacting; gut-shot Civil War soldiers often tore at their uniforms to find their wounds.) Dying is also trickier if you happen to be portraying cavalry; falling off a horse is far more dangerous than falling off your feet.

“I think of where I was hit, how my mind and body would react to such a wound, and if I would survive it,” Novak said. “. . . I try my utmost to avoid it all looking like a scene out of a B movie.”

Since a dead reenactor might have to remain still for the better part of an hour, the smart ones will tip their caps over their faces once they drop, said Rick Lieb, who reenacts with the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a Federal unit in Youngstown. A disproportionate number seem to end up dying in the shade. “Hard-cores” will stay facedown so spectators can’t see their chests rising and falling as they breathe. Some will spatter fake blood. infection or disease after it than during it. Even so, when he takes a bullet,

At smaller events, where manpower is in short supply, dead soldiers often make miraculous recoveries and rejoin the ranks again and again. At Manassas, the dead will be expected to remain that way until the event concludes, with the bugling of taps or church call and the order to “rise up.”That is, of course, one of the beautiful things about a reenactment. Unlike the real conflict, with its horrifying carnage and destruction, no one sustains much worse than a bad sunburn at these battles.As Jerry Todd put it, “Reenacting, for the most part, is kids playing army.”

Civil War Gear Inspires Veteran To Invent Modern Equipment Jim Cragg’s Mission Go Bag is a modern version of the Civil War cavalrymen’s saddlebags — both allow quick access to gear. By Nancy Jennis Olds

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Reenactor James Cragg,

who took part in the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee’s 150th anniversary reenactment, has made a business of understanding the Civil War. He applies what he learns from military technology during the war for today’s military, law enforcement and rescue organizations. Cragg is the CEO and President of Special Operations Technologies Inc. (S.O. Tech) of Los Angeles, Calif., a company he started in 1997. It designs and develops load-bearing equipment, holsters, parachute harness, packs, cases, slings and vests for military special operations and conventional military, law enforcement and search and rescue programs around the world. Cragg is a major in the United States Army Reserve. Many of his family were educated at West Point and served in the cavalry or medical units, including an ancestor, Capt. Alonzo Millard of Co. H, 2nd Ohio Cavalry. Cragg’s chosen career with the military took an unexpected turn when he severely fractured his ankle in a parachute accident. He decided he could better serve by founding S.O. Tech, “a company with a history.” It is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business that employs veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. All of its products are made in the U.S.


New Combat bag designed by James Cragg

A holder of 11 U.S. patents, Cragg acknowledges he is inspired by innovators of the Civil War who crafted lifesaving gear and weapons. He believes that these inventions, “once learned should stay learned,” in peacetime as well as during crisis. Cragg found himself searching for answers when he wondered why so many pieces of equipment were discarded on Civil War battlefields, especially at 1st Manassas. He wondered if it was because gear was inefficient or uncomfortable for soldiers. Examining period gear led Cragg to create modern designs. One of his inventions is a chest harness that holds rifle magazines spread in a flat row around the chest. This design was inspired by Capt. Anson Mills, who served in the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1897. He invented the woven cartridge belt shortly after the Civil War. With the Spanish-American War in 1898 there was increased the demand for Mills’ cartridge belt. Great Britain was the first foreign country to adopt it. Cragg researched Mills’ belt, the inline profile of the cartridge belt and the Sharps carbine ammunition box and developed a new concept.

Original Civil War Saddle bags 1862


Union calvary soldiers at The Batte of Tunnel Hill Tennesse

His design was adopted by U.S. Army Special Forces in Iraq and five years later by the U.S. Marine Corps and conventional U.S. Army forces. The harness has become the standard for ground combat use in Afghanistan. Many soldiers credit it with saving lives. Two additional Cragg products originate from the Civil War. The grab and go bags were inspired by cavalry saddlebags, which enabled troopers to fight with gear quickly at hand. Today’s soldiers keep a modern saddlebag, the Mission Go Bag, in their transport vehicles for quick access. Another Civil War cavalry item, the single point sling for carbines, made sense to Cragg for allowing exceptional control and skill in the saddle. The two-point under-weapon rifle sling, usually reserved for the muskets, was created for parades, not battles, he says. Cragg gives credit to 19th-century innovators such as Anson Mills and Samuel Colt, whose factory produced revolvers with interchangeable parts


and who completely revolutionized weapons. Another technology pioneer was Christopher Miner Spencer, inventor of the lever-action repeating Spencer rifle. Cragg notes that these innovators had to be adept in persuading a bureaucratic federal government to accept new technology. He tells a story about the Spencer rifle. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles arranged for Spencer to meet President Lincoln at the White House on Aug. 18, 1863, with a rifle and cartridges. They discussed the merits of the rifle, a gift to Lincoln who invited Spencer to return the next day. On the following day, Spencer, Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln and a Navy Department officer proceeded to the Mall by the Washington Monument for target practice. The Federal government eventually ordered 94,196 carbines, 13,171 rifles and about 58 million rounds of ammunition.

Union calvary soldiers at The Batte of Tunnel Hill Tennesse


150th anniversary of Battle of Gett

“For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863.”


o starts a powerful passage by William Faulkner in “Intruder in the Dust.” The Mississippi novelist and poet poignantly painted the scene of dry-mouthed young men anticipating battle. But the Confederate attack, known in the annals of history as Pickett’s Charge, ended about a mile away in failure, gray-clad troops blunted by determined Union troops at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Those young boys recalled by Faulkner were stopped at the Angle, a stone wall considered the high-water mark of the Confederacy -- perhaps the last chance for victory in the U.S. Civil War. Instead, the Union prevailed at Gettysburg, a turning point in the four-year war that claimed at least 620,000 lives. This weekend and through July 7, between 200,000 and 300,000 visitors -- more than the number of combatants -- will flock to the town and fields of Gettysburg National Military

ark to mark the 150th anniversary of the three-day clash, which cost an incredible 51,000 casualties. Pickett’s Charge will be the climactic event of a large re-enactment this weekend outside of park boundaries. On July 3, the actual anniversary of the attack, National Park Service rangers will guide thousands of visitors in loose formation across a gently rolling field. Others will stand where Federal regiments poured rifle and artillery fire into the arc of Confederates. The event ends with the playing of Taps by multiple musicians, a solemn remembrance of selfless sacrifice by the warriors at Gettysburg. Times have changed since previous anniversary observances, including the 1938 reunion, at which grizzled veterans of the battle met at Gettysburg one last time in an event known for reconciliation. They shook hands across that famous wall at the Angle. Some let out the haunting Rebel Yell. The 150th commemoration of the battle will tell a wider story than previous observances, officials told CNN. “For decades, people came here for military and black powder,” said Carl Whitehill, media relations manager for the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.


tysburg provides a bigger story

By Phil Gast

“Now they want to know about the civilians and what they endured during and after the battle.” Mike Litterst of the National Park Service said interpretations at federal Civil War battlefields have evolved in the past 25 years. Besides telling the story of the battles and the homefront, exhibits increasingly stress the importance of the conflict to civil rights and the role of African-Americans, thousands of whom served in the Union Army. About 400 events are planned over 10 days, including a second battle re-enactment next weekend. Gettysburg National Military Park on Sunday will hold one of its 150th anniversary signature events, an evening program entitled “Gettysburg: A New Birth of Freedom.” The keynote speaker is historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Country music singer Trace Adkins and a military band will perform the national anthem. The ceremony concludes with a procession to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, where luminaries will mark each of 3,500 graves of soldiers who died at Gettysburg. “I think it is an opportunity for people to have a deeper understanding of what happened here and how it is still relevant in 21st century America,” said Litterst.

Small town made way into history books Gettysburg, then a bucolic town of 2,400 souls, found itself directly drawn into the Civil War during the first days of July 1863. Southern troops took the war to the North after a resounding victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville two months before. Gen. Robert E. Lee’s soldiers on the first day of battle pushed Union troops through the town and onto hills and ridges that eventually played a large part in the battle’s outcome. “There was street fighting in the inside (of Gettysburg),” said Whitehill. “Throughout the town, a lot of people were shooting muskets out of windows.” Jennie Wade, while kneading dough, was fatally shot in the back on July 3, the only civilian casualty at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, now with a population of about 7,800, and surrounding Adams County anticipate a $100 million economic impact from 150th anniversary observances. Whitehill has spent much of his time assisting nearly 700 journalists from across the United States and abroad. Among international media are German, UK, Australian and Swiss companies. Photo of the battlefield in Gettysburg PA

The area’s 2,600 rooms and 1,800 campsites are largely filled, although a few are left. “A lot of people move to this area for the history,” said Whitehill. “A lot of people just love being close to it.” First aid tents all over town will assist any visitors and event participants who run into problems from the muggy and warm temperatures. Visitors can take free shuttles into downtown and re-enactments. The National Park Service also offers shuttles and satellite parking. Traffic flow on Friday, the first full day of 150th events, went well. Thousands of re-enactors go back in time Don Ernsberger led the building of a replica Pickett’s Charge stone wall for this weekend’s re-enactment at Bushey Farm. Seventy volunteeers shaped 88 tons of stone to re-create the focal point of the march. “The Confederates captured that angle for about five to eight minutes and the Union reinforcements came in and pushed them out.” Ernsberger, who authored a book about the wall and the attack, will portray a Union lieutenant on Sunday. “I wrote this book three years ago and I hope to see it happen before my eyes,” he said. An estimatetd 10,000 re-enactors are on hand at Bushey Farm this weekend, said Kris Shelton, media and marketing coordinator for the Blue Gray Alliance, which is sponsoring the event. The first mock battle went well Friday, said Shelton, who said organizers have detailed logistics plans for the maneuvering of troops at the site. There’s a chance of rain for the next several days. “We are historically accurate, but we don’t control the weather,” Shelton said. Organizers expect tens of thousands of spectators on Saturday and Sunday. Besides portrayals of the fighting, the re-enactment will include about 200 individuals representing the town of Gettysburg in 1863. “The civilians living there have done careful research of the residents of the town and they have taken on their identities, including their trade and craft,” said Shelton. 19

Safety of participants and guests comes first, but authenticity also is a priority. “People are here to recognize and honor and commemorate what these people went through, the sacrifices of both soldiers and civilians,” said Shelton. The battles draw re-enactors devoted to donning the proper uniforms and equipment. They can get caught up in the heat of the battle and emotional or significant moments. “That intensity is something that really sparks re-enactors,” she said. “That combined with leaving electronics and the modern world behind.” Visitors and participants alike understand that real people died in battle -that freedom had a cost. Making the battlefield historically accurate While battle re-enactments are not permitted on National Park Service sites -- the commemorative clashes will be on privately owned land -- such events and the visitor experience at Gettysburg National Military Park are “not mutually exclusive,” said Litterst. “We want that excitement to spill over to the sites and grounds where the events actually took place,” he said. The National Park Service does not provide crowd estimates or projections, but it’s clear the park will be busy over the next week, given ranger-led hikes and special programs. “We will probably see crowds we probably haven’t seen before, or since the centennial,” said Litterst. “For the next couple weeks, there won’t be many places to get some alone time here.” But for those who want to get away from at least some of the hustle and bustle, he recommends a visit to the East Cavalry Battlefield Site east of town and the park’s Big Round Top, which has a great walking trail. The battlefield looks much different from even 20 years ago as the NPS worked to make it look much closer to its 1863 appearance. Trees have been removed in some places and orchards planted. Thousands may make the July 3 Pickett’s Charge commemorative march, timed to the actual assault. Those with younger legs may be in front. And, like battles of old, there will be stragglers. “There will be not be a shortage of people with stories and pictures of greatgreat grandfathers who made that march,” said Litterst. “That is a neat part of the story.”


HELLO, I'M A CIVIL WAR REENACTOR! Excuse Me, I Mean A Progressive, Campaign Living Historian By Jesse Pearson ‘Let’s do that,’ he suggested, and so we have been reenacting together since 2000.” We have always been quietly fascinated by the people who dedicate their lives (or at least weekends) to pretending they are from an entirely different period of time, so we asked him what it was all about…

Vice: What was your first time reenacting like? Bill Cross: It was a small event in a state park off I-95 north of Philadelphia. It was quite thrilling marching through the woods to the sound of unseen cannons and rifle fire. Despite the hints of modern life like electrical lines and the sounds of traffic off the highway, I could understand the dread and excitement they felt back then.

That must be a bummer though—hiking through the woods in fully authentic period gear and then seeing a bunch of guys lugging a Coleman cooler or something…

Portrait of Bill and his son by Chris Morgan, using a period-authentic wet plate camera of course.


ill Cross is a Civil War reenactor with a wide range of battles, ranks, and personae under his belt and the current treasurer of the Rowdy Pards “progressive, campaign living history society.” Growing up his father hauled him to all the major Civil War battlefields. “As an adult, I became more interested from books and also from the wargaming craze of the 1980s when I bought and played every CW board game I could find. Finally, my own son got interested in it when I took him to Gettysburg and we saw a group of reenactors there. 23

Well as I got more and more interested in the hobby, I drifted away from “mainstream” reenacting, which is laden with anachronisms, including large tents, cots, or women and children camping with the soldiers. I was attracted to “campaigning,” which means you carry all your gear on your back for the weekend, often marching from point A to point B. While I wouldn’t want to get shot or suffer from 19th Century diseases like dysentery, I relish things that recreate the life of the Civil War soldier.

Um, yeah. It would be a pretty intense level of dedication to get dysentery for a role. I know. Then there is also a raging debate in the hobby about whether the only partially accurate mainstream reenactments really teach the public anything about what it was really like on the field of battle. It’s one reason I prefer events catering to campaigners, including small “living histories” where a group of reenactors focuses on the history and not on the battle. But there’s no question the public likes to see the guns and cannons going off. It’s very satisfying to have groups of kids cluster around asking questions and perhaps recreating the bonding experience that brought me closer to my own father, and which has kept my son in the hobby in spite of, you know, sports and girls.

So do you prefer to wear gray or blue? I’ve portrayed common soldiers from both sides, as well as a few officers. Now I look for roles that challenge and broaden my understanding of the period. Like what? Last year I raised a company of fellow reenactors to portray a German unit from Ohio. While not of German extraction, I do speak the language fairly well, and have portrayed a German coal miner in a West VA unit in the past. But this time, I was the captain of a “Dutch” company. You see, Americans confused the word “deutsch” (German) for “Dutch,” so Germans were called “Dutchmen.” A soldier from the same regiment won the Medal of Honor at the battle we were reenacting in 1862, and I was able to track down his descendants. They came to the reenactment with his medal, and laid a wreath on the graves of the Confederate dead in a gesture of reconciliation. There wasn’t a dry eye around.

Bill’s troops marching into battle Gettysburg 2013


I’d like to hear a bit about your personal collection of memorabilia. My most treasured artifact is a key-wind pocket watch. It’s amazingly heavy in comparison to my grandfather’s stem-wind watch from 1900, so I can always feel it in my vest pocket. I also have a French-made sword that I carry when I portray an officer. But most of my gear is accurate reproductions of period equipment, most of it made with recreations of the tools, materials and finishing products used then. For example, knapsacks were constructed out of linen or other cheap cloth, and then covered with an oily paint mixture. Leathers were dyed with things like walnut hulls or iron oxidation. Most garments were hand-stitched, too, so you will find that nearly all my uniforms (and I reenact both Confederate and Union) are hand-sewn. While spectators don’t know the difference, I do.

Does reenacting serve any purpose besides letting guys play in the woods and shoot of cannons? Reenactors have raised large sums of money, often for smaller battlefields like McDowell, VA. These places aren’t always on the radar screen of the National Parks Service or the major preservation organizations like The Civil War Preservation Trust. Development is gobbling up the land around battlefields at a depressing rate. There are even plans to build a casino at Gettysburg! 25

Union reenactors at the Battle of Gettysburg July 2013

That’s disgusting. Would you go back in time if you could? I seriously want to know. Yes. Not to experience the action, but to learn more about the people. Before Freud, people didn’t look for hidden psychological meanings in their own actions and the actions of others. I’d like to just spend time with an ordinary family, perhaps my mother’s ancestors in Virginia.

But what would you eat? Wasn’t there heavy food shortage during the Civil War? They made do. I’ve already eaten many foods from that era. The most common foods soldiers ate were hardtack (crackers made without leavening) and salt pork (sow belly, preserved with salt to prevent spoilage). At one event, we roasted fresh beef on sticks and ramrods to kill the maggots that had sprouted on it when some flies got loose. No one who roasted their meat got the “old soldier’s revenge” that weekend. I’ve even eaten period candies. Lemon drops were a favorite back then, along with hoarhound candies. These were often sent from home in Adams Express Boxes. 26



Cooking Civil War Style By: Cheramie Sonnier


earth cooking instructor Gayle B. Smith scooped up a shovelful of hot, glowing red coals from the fireplace and told her cooking class audience, “This is your burner.” Smith, along with West Baton Rouge Museum employees Linda Collins and Tracy Flickinger, were demonstrating what Southerners would have cooked during the United States’ Civil War of 1861-1865, what food stuffs would have been available and what recipes were used. For the March 12 class on “A Battle for Food: Civil War Era Southern Recipe Books,” the three women donned costumes appropriate to the era and demonstrated how to cook on coals on the hearth in the museum’s kitchen, which is set up to reflect the 19th century time period. They prepared an apple pie (with no apples), potato soup, planked fish, squirrel stew, corn pone and collard greens. All the recipes came from Civil War-era cookbooks. Smith, who said she has been “cooking at the hearth for 18 years, learned the ancient art at Magnolia Mound Plantation in Baton Rouge. She has studied at open-hearth cooking schools in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, visited open-hearth kitchen programs in the South and in Canada, and been a guest cook at Oakley Plantation in St. Francisville and Hermann-Grima House in New Orleans,


Common ingredients used in common Civil War recipes

Corn Pone and Plank Catfish being cooked on an open hearth

Families in the North did not suffer the severe food shortages that those in the South did, Smith noted. Since most of the war was fought on Southern soil, it was Southerners’ crops that were confiscated for feeding troops. Flickinger held up a catfish tied to a plank, which had been propped on the side of the fireplace hearth to cook. “In south Louisiana you can fish,” and that’s what people often did to put food on the table, Collins said. The cook would take “a fresh fish with the look of life in its eyes and place it on hard wood which had been soaked overnight,” Smith said. “Planked fish is a big deal now in restaurants. Back in the day this was what you did to live.” As Collins untied the fish from the plank, she commented, “I’m not sure about the fish. You can never be sure about fish,” if it has cooked enough to be save to eat. Before the Civil War, wealthy Southern families enjoyed a variety of dishes which were usually prepared by slave cooks, who “were given only enough spices for that day’s cooking,” Smith said.

People also ate collard greens, seasoning it with bacon, Smith said. “You might have pork from wild hogs and you ate anything from the garden the Union soldiers hadn’t stolen.”

“Dinner, the big meal of the day, was eaten from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the afternoon pre-Civil War. Bowls went around the table. At night supper was leftovers. Breakfast could be salads, greens were not uncommon,” Smith said.

They ate potato soup made with red potatoes and “if hungry, you’d go hunting,” which perhaps meant squirrel stew for dinner.

Collins pointed out that the kitchen was separate from the “big house” because of the danger of fire and the smells and heat from the kitchen. Slaves “might be given sweet potatoes to put in coals at night,” Smith said. They also received regular allotments of pork and corn (or cornmeal), which were believed to give strength and muscle, and molasses, she said. “At the time of the Civil War, the slaves were gone. Who was cooking?” Smith asked her audience. “Some slaves were still around, but everyone in the South was on the same plane as far as cooking and eating. The small yeoman farmers and the people in the big house were all equal in eating, too.”

“Everyone talked about eating bad beef, which didn’t keep well,” Smith said. And, “you can put eggs in the ashes on the hearth and bake them. You put down a layer of ashes and lay the eggs on it. Then, another layer of ashes, then hot coals. “I’ve learned from experience the egg blows up if the hot coals touch it,” she added. The recipes the three women demonstrated were from “Civil War Recipes, Receipts from the Pages of Godey Lady’s Book” and “Confederate Receipt Book, A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts Adapted to the Times.”


Open hearth cook, Gayle Smith, left, watches while Linda Collins, center, pours hot water over collard greens and Tracy Flickinger assists, right

Inexact measurements Recipes usually didn’t include measurements and those that offered some guidance were often vague. For example, Smith asked, what is a measuring cup? She showed a variety of cups that might have been used by a cook in a mid-19th century kitchen. They ranged in size from a demitasse cup to a substantial tin cup. Measuring spoons also present a similar problem for the modern cook trying to interpret the era’s recipes, Smith said. Gourds were turned into useful kitchen tools, Smith said, holding up a ladle gourd. “You also could have used gourds as cups and bowls or as funnels.” She also showed whisks made from broom corn and dogwood stems. Various herbs and spices, some more valuable than others “because they came from far away,” were used for flavoring dishes, Smith said. For example, rabbit soup or squirrel stew might be flavored with nutmeg, pepper, sweet marjoram and mace.

Cornbreads Smith and Flickinger also prepared the flat, coarse cornmeal cakes known as corn pone. “It was also called hoecakes because slaves sometimes put it on the blade of a hoe to cook,” Smith said. “Pone was water and white cornmeal. At this time-frame white cornmeal was what was used. White corn was grown here.” Corn pone, which comes from the Indian word “apone,” or “apan,” meaning baked, was also known as ash cakes because it was baked in ashes. 31

Another version went by the name Johnny or Johny cake, which some have suggested is a derivation of the word “journey,” according to “Around the Southern Table, Innovative Recipes Celebrating 300 Years of Eating and Drinking” by Sarah Belk (Galahad Books, 1991), Smith said. “Each colony, each community, had its own versions and names, a tradition that faded as the iron kitchen range made all hearth cakes virtually obsolete …,” wrote Karen Hess in historical notes and commentaries in “The Virginia House-wife” by Mary Randolph, a facsimile of the first edition, 1824, along with additional material from the 1825 and 1828 editions, published in 1984 by the University of South Carolina Press.

Mock apple pie Class participants liked the corn pone, which was served with molasses, better than the Apple Pie Without Apples that Smith and Flickinger prepared from a recipe from the “Confederate Receipt Book, A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times,” with an introduction by E. Merton Coulter (The University of Georgia Press, 1960, 1989 printing).

Growing fire preparing for the cooking class

Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times,” with an introduction by E. Merton Coulter (TheUniversity of Georgia Press, 1960, 1989 printing).

The recipe calls for using a small bowl of “beaten biscuits,” which were very hard, unsalted crackers. “The recipe only says make sure the crackers aren’t hard and to soak them, but doesn’t say whether to use water or milk,” Smith said as she broke white unsalted crackers into little crumbs. It also says to “sweeten to taste” so Smith added a 1/2 cup sugar.

“Sugar usually was in the form of a cone and you snipped off what you needed, but they could have used sugar house sugar, which is not brown or white, but honey-colored.” Collins added, “In Louisiana and Texas, people had plenty of sugar” even during the Civil War. The recipe also says to add “some” butter so Smith decided to use about 2 tablespoons of melted butter. It was flavored with a “very little” nutmeg. “It would have been baked in a tin in a preheated large Dutch oven with coals under and top of it so it was cooking as in an oven,” Smith said. “But, you only can control the heat temperature by practice.” The consistency of the mock apple pie “looks like mush,” Smith said, adding “I had my husband taste it. He couldn’t tell what it was. It’s more interesting than delicious.” Some class participants also liked the squirrel stew, which the three presenters made using an 1861 recipe for rabbit soup. The original recipe from the pages of Godey’s Lady’s book says to strain the soup into a tureen and add the grated yolks of six hard-boiled eggs and some croutons. “Usually presentation was a big deal” at the tables of pre-Civil War plantation homes, Smith said. “But at this time, the big house was probably not concerned about it, only in not starving.”


Cooking utensils used at reenactors camp site at The Battle of Olustee, Lake City Fl


Civil War Recipes Recipes for sitting around the campfire

Onions & Apples Ingredients: - 1 qt of water - 1/2 pound of salt pork - 4 apples( use the tart green ones) - 2 large onions

Instructions Cook diced salt pork in a heavy iron skillet until crisp, and set aside the salt pork. Core the apples and slice into thin rings. Slice onions into thin rings also, fry in salt pork fat until brown. Add 1 qt of water and cook until apples and onions are tender (about five mins. and add water as needed). When tender add in the salt pork, and season to taste. This a easy dish to prepare in the field.

Hard Tack

Ingredients: 5 Cups Flour (unbleached) 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder 1 Tablespoon Salt 1-1 1/4 cups Water

Instructions Preheated Oven to 450 In a bowl, combine the ingredients to form a stiff, but not dry dough. The dough should be pliable, but not stick a lot to your hands. Take this mound of dough, and flatten it out onto a greased cookee sheet (the ones with a small lip around the a real shallow pan...), and roll the dough into a flat sheet aprx. 1/2 inch thick. Using a breadknife, divide the dough into 3x3 squares. taking a 10-penny nail, put a 3x3 matrix of holes into the surface of the dough, all the way thru, at even intervals (Village tinsmithing works sells a cutter that does all of great!). Bake in the oven for aprx 20 Min., till lightly browned. Take out and let cool. Do this the day before your go on the field, and your will have enough tack to fill your haversack. It will be somewhat soft on Saturday morning, but, by Sunday, you should soak it in your coffee before eating, else you will have a hard time chewing.

Muster Magazine  

A fictional magazine created for Civil War Reenactors.