Next Tuesday will mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War — the day on which Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter. In this war between North and South, food mattered a lot. Consider these tales:
- Ulysses Grant, the Union general who had once served as a commissary officer, told his superiors during the Civil War: “I will not move my army without onions.” The next day, three trainloads of onions were sent to Grant’s army.
- Major General George Pickett — who led the ill-fated Confederate charge at Gettysburg — brought troops in 1864 to reinforce General Lee’s defensive lines just east of Richmond. But Pickett arrived with complaints that his soldiers were “much worn for want of food” and “calling loudly for bread.”
- The artillery brigade led by Union Colonel Charles Wainwright played a key role in the battle of Gettysburg. As his troops approached the Pennsylvania town, Wainwright wrote that his brigade had picked and eaten so many cherries along the way that he worried that half of his troops “stand a very good show for an attack of stomach ache tonight.”
- A fellow Confederate officer wrote that Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson frequently sucked on lemons. However, that view is not supported by the diaries or letters left behind by Jackson’s staff, friends or his wife. A Virginia military colleague said a lemon was a “rare treat” for Jackson. Peaches — not lemons — were Stonewall’s favorite fruit.
- J.E.B. Stuart and his fellow Rebel cavalry officers had an additional reason for launching raids behind Union lines. As the author of a book about the Confederate cavalry writes, Stuart’s soldiers were “obsessed by the desire to eat Federal rations and northern delicacies” they found in the enemy’s camp.