Sanitary Commission Cooking Tent at Fredericksburg, VA
(You thought I forgot, didn’t you? No, I was on babysitting duty and didn’t have research material at hand.)
We walk into our kitchens each morning not thinking about all the conveniences at our fingertips. For the participants in the Civil War, hunger was a constant companion, especially in the south. Camp kitchens might be fully stocked or simply kettles over a fire.
Again we sat down beside (the campfire) for supper. It consisted of hard pilot-bread, raw pork and coffee. The coffee you probably wouldn’t recognize in New York. Boiled in an open kettle, and about the color of a brownstone front, it was nevertheless… the only warm thing we had.
– Charles Nott, Union Soldier, 16 yrs. old
Charles was fortunate to be getting his raw pork and weak coffee.
The Union formed a Sanitary Commission that tried to organize feeding their two million men once they realized the war was going to take more than ninety days and 75,000 men. James M. Sanderson was a member of the Sanitary who was concerned about reports of poor food quality and preparation. He’d also been a hotel operator in New York with experience in food service. With this in mind he started making the rounds teaching camp cooks how to prepare simple, healthy meals for the men. He even wrote a cookbook for them called the Camp Fires and Camp Cooking; or Culinary Hints for the Soldier: Including Receipt for Making Bread in the “Portable Field Oven” Furnished by the Subsistence Department.
The cookbook had some interesting recipes and information to be sure.
Below is a scene from Rain Crow where Jeb Stuart and the camp acquire some fresh pork for a change. Stuart, Callahan and some others have been out all night meeting with an informant, so they were jerked out of a deep sleep.
The hog-shooting scene due to not giving a password actually did happen as recorded in a diary, though it didn’t happen in the Stuart camp also that I know of.
It was mid-morning when the first shot fired and tumbled Callahan out of the dream in his grandmother’s kitchen where she was just serving up hot apple pie. He jerked on his pants and boots, grabbed his gun and ran to the sound when another shot answered. The entire camp was running. Ten yards from the picket lay a one-eared, black and white hog still twitching on the road, but quite dead with a hole through his head. Soldiers spilled out of the camp prepared for a full on Yankee attack, but the only casualty seemed to be Hamilton Hog.
“Miller!” Stuart, who hadn’t even bothered to dress, stood over the hog in his carpet slippers and robe with a revolver in each hand, shouting at the picket.
Miller ran up the road to stand before Stuart, quite purposely not looking at the hog between them. “Yes, sir?”
“Why is this hog dead?”
“I shot him, sir.”
“Well, I had guessed that.” Stuart moved away from the growing blood puddle before it engulfed his slippers. “Why did you shoot him?”
“I told him to halt three times and identify himself, sir. He refused to halt or give the password, so I felt compelled to halt him with force.”
Stuart shoved his guns into his belt. “Refused to give the password, huh? Well, we have rules about these things. You men take up a collection so we can pay that farmer for him. Call.” He turned around to find Callahan. “You take the money to the farmer. Ask him how much he wants to sell us a pig. Don’t tell him we already shot it or it’ll be the prize hog in the ten county area.” He glanced down at the carcass. “Though that is a damn fine looking hog. I hope it wasn’t his only boar.”