Saturday, April 30, 2022

Hatteras Inlet Assault 1861 Patriotic Envelope

     Taking a casual glance at this patriotic envelope and seeing General Butler along with mention of the Navy and the picture of a Confederate fort being bombarded by naval ships as troops storm it, the first instinct is to think of the capture of New Orleans in April & May 1862 where Benjamin Butler, "The Beast", gained his infamous reputation for draconian control.  But wait, was Commander Stringham the naval hero in the New Orleans assault?  Nope, it was another man, Admiral David Farragut.  So What's going on here?

Our Army & Navy US 23 Patriotic Envelope
(pictured is enlarged to show details; actual envelope size is the normal 5 1/2" by 3 3/8")
    Well, on the back side of the envelope is the printer's details:  S.C.Upham, Philadelphia, copyright 1861.  That information sends us on a quest to discover what Union battle involving both army and navy personal this envelope is celebrating since it's now obviously is not the seizure of New Orleans in 1862.
    Upham is celebrating the successful capture of the Confederate coastal forts protecting the Cape Hatteras Inlet in North Carolina (Aug.28-29, 1861).  This battle was part of the Union Atlantic Blockage Campaign to cut off Southern trade and stop their commerce-raiding of Northern shipping.  Despite the Union blockade of Norfolk, VA. the South still had access to trade via the North Carolina sound through the barrier islands coast.  The Hatteras Inlet was the most traveled and the most vulnerable to Union attack because it was deep enough for sizeable warships.
    When North Carolina seceded, they began the construction of Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras at the southern end of Hatteras Island to control access to Pamlico Sound.  Fort Clark faced east out to sea, with Fort Hatteras protecting the inlet the ships would sail through.  Fort Hatteras had only about ten 32-pounder smoothbore mounted guns when the assault came.  Fort Clark only had five.  Compared to the Union ship's guns, these were of limited range for coastal defense.  Nor was there really sufficient manpower at both forts to hold off a determined Union assault.
    The Union plan from Navy Secretary Gideon Welles was to sink old ballast-laden ships in the channels going through the outer banks along the North Carolina coast to block them so the South could no longer sail ships in and out.  Silas H. Stringham, commandant of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron did not believe this approach would work since he believed tidal currents would sweep away the wrecks or rapidly scour out new channels.  For Stringham the southern forts would have to be taken and held by Union forces to effectively shut the channels down.  This would need the cooperation of Army personnel along with the Navy assault.  General John E. Wood at Fort Monroe organized an infantry force of 880 troops to assist Stringham's ships and put Major-General Benjamin F. Butler in charge.
    Some of the Union ships arrived off the Hatteras inlet late Aug.27th and commenced bombarding Fort Clark the next morning on the 28th.  Stringham kept his ships moving in a loop, delivering a broadside against the fort, then moving back out of range to reload.  This tactic prevented the fort artillery from adjusting their aim as they fired against the fleet, and so reduced the traditional advantage of shore-based guns over attacking ships.  Mid-day the infantry troops began to attempt to land.  Only about a third of the Union soldiers were able to land on the beach a few miles east of Fort Clark because increasing winds caused the waves to surge higher and higher making troop transport impossible.  Shortly after noon the Confederate forces in Fort Clark ran out of artillery ammunition, so they spiked the guns and abandoned the fortification, heading for Fort Hatteras.  Colonel Max Weber, commanding the Union troops who had managed to get ashore, realized this and sent his men in to occupy Fort Clark.  The Union troops got their ships to cease the bombardment of the fort by waving the American Flag, signaling that it had fallen to Union control.
    Stringham then had his ships move to begin bombarding Fort Hatteras.  Because the Confederate forces were conserving ammunition, they only returned limited fire.  Stringham thinking it may also have been abandoned, sent a shallow-draft gun boat into the inlet to take possession of the fort.  Now the Confederate forces opened up with a full volley of fire, forcing that Union ship to flee back out to sea while the other Union ships again opened fire.
    With night coming and threatening weather, Stringham ceased bombardment and pulled his ships back out to deeper water until the next morning.  At dawn on the 29th, the Union ships steamed back in and anchored just out of range of the Confederate guns to renew their bombardment of Fort Hatteras.  Union ships were able to prevent Confederate transport shops from bringing in more troops to reinforce the fort garrison.  By 11:00 am the Confederates realized their hope of holding out was fast fading.  As they were preparing to spike the guns and withdraw, a shell hit and ignited the fort's magazine, forcing Commander Samuel Barron to raise a white flag.  Butler insisted on unconditional surrender.  Barron complied and the 700 Confederate troops and officers were taken prisoner.
    The taking of the Hatteras Inlet was a great morale boost for the Union after a summer of failure and defeats like First Bull Run.  It was said that when his staff woke President Abraham Lincoln up in the middle of the night to tell him about this victory, that he danced a jig in his nightshirt.
   Now we can better understand why Upham printed this envelope celebrating the Hatteras Inlet victory.  The picture of the soldiers storming the fortification and the ships bombarding it makes more sense when we understand the historical context.  And we have a better understanding of why Butler and Stringham are the two leaders on this patriotic cover.  Note that the Confederate flag pictured on the fort being attacked is the Stars and Bars first national flag, and not the battle flag which has become the one most people today would recognize as a Confederate flag.  Also note on the envelope picture that the flag pole is being shattered by the attacking Union forces.  This patriotic cover celebrates much needed good news for the Union cause in late 1861.

    I admit that when I bought the original patriotic cover years ago at a military antique show, I bought it for two reasons.  First, because I saw Gen. Butler's picture on it, I just assumed it was celebrating the famous capture of New Orleans.  Secondly, since I had seen very few envelopes celebrating the Navy, I wanted to have one to reproduce for reenactors to use for variety in their letter writing and also in their displays for spectators to see.  Now obviously I was wrong about which battle victory it was celebrating.  But I don't regret buying it and reproducing it, because now I can say it shows an aspect of history that was important in that time.  And I also get to say that doing research is important in learning about history.

Children's Project:   Explore why the Union blockade of Southern ports was a good war strategy for the North and a harmful one for the South.  Although the Hatteras Inlet assault was only one part of the overall strategy, look at a map of the area to see how controlling it would help hurt the Southern shipping.  Also discuss how after a summer which produced little "victory" for the North, an actual victory would be good news to people supporting the Union cause.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Songs on the Civil War Battlefield -- Shiloh 1862

 An account from a soldier who fought and died there:
    The sanguinary battle of Shiloh was fought on the sixth and the seventh of April, 1862.  The ordinary scene which presents itself, after the strife of arms has ceased, is familiar to everyone.  Heaps of the slain, where friend and foe lie by the side of each other; bodies mangled and bleeding; shrieks of the wounded and dying, are things which we always associate with the victories and defeats of war.  But seldom do we read that voices of prayer, that hymns of exultant faith and thanksgiving, have been heard at such times and in such places.
    The following account was received from the lips of a brave and pious captain in one of the Western regiments, as some friends who visited Shiloh on the morning after the battle were conveying him to the hospital.
    The man had been shot through both thighs with a rifle bullet; it was a wound from which he could not recover.  While lying on the field, he suffered intense agony from thirst.  He supported his head upon his hand, and the rain from heaven was falling around him.  In a short time, a little pool of water collected near his elbow and he thought if he could only reach that spot he might allay his raging thirst.  He tried to get into a position which would enable him to obtain a mouthful, at least, of the muddy water; but in vain, and he must suffer the torture of seeing the means of relief within sight, while all his efforts were unavailing.  “Never” said he,  “did I feel so much the loss of any earthly blessing.  By and by the shades of night fell around us, and the stars shone out clear and beautiful above the dark field, where so many had sunk down in death, and so many others lay wounded, writhing in pain, or faint with the loss of blood.  Thus situated, I began to think of the great God who had given his Son to die a death of agony for me, and that he was in the heavens to which my eyes were turned, -- That he was there, above that scene of suffering, and above those glorious stars; and I felt that I was hastening home to meet him, and praise him there; and I felt that I ought to praise him then, even wounded as I was, on the battlefield.  I could not help singing that beautiful hymn:
When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
I’ll bid farewell to every fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes.
And though I was not aware of it till then,” he said, “it proved there was a Christian brother in the thicket near me.  I could not see him, but was near enough to hear him.  He took up the strain from me; and beyond him another, and then another, caught the words, and made them resound far and wide over the terrible battlefield of Shiloh.  There was a peculiar echo in the place, and that added to the effect, as we made the night vocal with our hymns of praise to God.
    It is certain that men animated by such faith have the consciousness of serving God in serving their country, and that their presence in the army adds to it some of its most important elements of strength and success.
From Christian Memorial of the War:  Scenes and Incidents Illustrative of Religious Faith and Principle, Patriotism and Bravery in Our Army by Horatio B. Hackett 1864 page 18-20.

Shiloh Church

Summary historical perspective on the battle

    The intensity of the Battle of Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee on April 6-7, 1862, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, changed public expectations in both the North and the South that this would be a short-lived war because of the intensity of the battle and the high rate of casualties for both sides:
            Union losses out of 62,000 troops: 13,047
                        Killed 1,754
                        Wounded 8,408
                        Missing or captured 2,885
            Confederate losses out of 45,000 troops: 10,669
                        Killed 1,728
                        Wounded 8,012
                        Missing or captured 959
    In his memoirs in chapter 25 “Remarks on Shiloh” Grant writes “Up to the battle of Shiloh, I, as well as thousands of other citizens, believed that the rebellion against the Government would collapse suddenly and soon, if a decisive victory could be gained over its armies….” But the intensity and cost in man-power changed his perspective:  “I gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest.”
    Though the Union losses were greater than the Confederate, the Union victory would allow for him to push deeper into Southern territory to divide the Confederacy in two.  Victory came at a high cost.
Reflections on the “soldier in the ranks” perspective on dealing with the cost of battle
    In the midst of such pain and suffering what should one do?  The above account which Horatio Hackett recounts shows some dealt with the harshness of their suffering through the lens of faith.  The hymn “When I can Read My Title Clear” by Isaac Watts was first published under the heading "The Hopes of Heaven our Support under Trials on Earth" in his 1707 Hymns and Spiritual Songs:

When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
I’ll bid farewell to every fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes.
Should earth against my soul engage,
And hellish darts be hurled,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage,
And face a frowning world.
Let cares, like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall!
May I but safely reach my home,
My God, my heav’n, my All.
There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavn’ly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast.
    “Clear title” means “undisputed ownership”.  Isaac Watts’ original title -- "The Hopes of Heaven our Support under Trials on Earth" -- gives us insight into his meaning of this song.  In a world of fear and sorrow, Watts challenges us to put our trust in Jesus’ promise in John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (King James Version wording clearly is the basis for the song).  Through faith in Jesus, Watts says we can put in perspective the troubles of this world as we look to the place of joy Jesus is preparing for those who trust in Him as Savior.
    So there on the Shiloh battlefield where death, pain and sorrow were abundant, for many of the men this well-known hymn became a call to look to Jesus’ promise as a way of dealing with the “storms of sorrow” that night and yet also an offering of praise to Jesus for His willingness to “die a death of agony for me”.
    In the Old Testament, the town of Shiloh ("place of peace") became the place where the Tent of Meeting was located after the land was conquered and the people would come to worship God during the time of Joshua and the days of the Judges (Josh.18:1-10).  The Shiloh Meeting House on the battle site was built in 1853, and Union forces encamped along the ridge the church was built on.  The battlefield took its name from the church.  The church was damaged in the fighting, then used as a hospital after the battle, and finally torn down by Union soldiers for the lumber to build a bridge.

    In Nothing But Victory -- The Army of the Tennessee 1861-1865 by Steven Woodworth (2005) pages189-191 is a detailed description of the night of April 6.  After intense twelve hours of fighting came the darkness with the wounded between the lines "calling for mother, sister, wife, sweetheart, but the most piteous plea was for water". Then came the rain and thunder mixing with the ongoing artillery fire between the lines.  Woodworth cites that on one part of the battlefield was heard the singing of Charles Wesley's "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" hymn among the wounded.  And elsewhere was the singing of the hymn of this account.  I cite this as evidence that the above account recorded by H. Hackett is in fact a description of something that actually happened that night.

Children’s project questions:
            1) Talk about the shift from early war “optimism” that the conflict would be brief and end soon to the “reality” that it was going to be a “long hard road to Richmond”.  Explore why human nature often “presumes” desired outcomes more often than realistically thinking through what might happen and exploring ways to overcome the difficulties to accomplish the goal.
            2) Would there be many who would join in today if someone started singing a Christian song on a battlefield filled with wounded & dying soldiers?  What does that say about our culture today?  Does that make you glad or sad?

Friday, March 25, 2022

Letters Are Important to Civil War Soldiers

 What is the proof that letters were important to Civil War Soldiers?
We often hear that letters were important to soldiers serving on the field. The following excepts are from letters George P. Jarvis wrote to his sister Leonora Jarvis during the war when he served in the 3d Ohio.  The complete transcripts of all eight of his letters are in Billy Yank & Johnny Reb Letters under the Ohio section.  The complete letters are interesting reads.  I am only citing excepts from various letters that illustrate how much he treasured staying in contact with family back home through letters.  I hope you find this first hand evidence of "letters being important" enjoyable and informative.
George P. Jarvis (1842-1920). Raised in in Athens County, Ohio where his father had a mercantile business in the unincorporated town of New England. (No, not the region in the North Eastern US.)  He enlisted for three months in the 3d Ohio, then reenlisted June 1862. Wounded Oct. 1862 in the Battle of Perrysville Kentucky, he returned to his unit in late Dec. 1862 when stationed at Murfreesboro Tennessee.

Letters from home are considered a good source of news; also he mentions that he has enclosed a letter from a confederate soldier that was left behind when then they skedaddled. Letter #1:

Huntsville, Alabama
May 13th 1862
Dear Sister,
Having nothing else to do this morning, I thought I would drop you a few lines. The weather is very hot here now although it is only May and the Devil only knows how hot it will be next month. I think, however, that six or eight months will close this thing up [the war]   . . . I wrote to Charlie Collier some time since but as yet have received no reply. Haven’t had a mail for three weeks and can’t tell what is going on. About all the news we get is from a Nashville paper — a kind of a would-be Secesh if it dared to sort of a paper — and one don’t have much comfort in reading it. . . The enclosed letter is one that I picked up. The writer, it seems, was a member of Hindman’s Legion [CS Arkansas units led by Thomas Hindman that Jarvis’ unit routed] — the same we shelled at Bowling Green. It seems from his letter that they were not whipped, they only ran to prevent such a catastrophe. He is wrong as regards the number killed as there was not a person killed during the whole cannonade. It will give you a pretty good idea of Southern intellect. But I have been stretching this out longer than I at first intended and will have to close. So good bye all with kind regards to everyone. 
I remain as ever your affectionate brother, — Geo. P. Jarvis

    Letters allow “news” to flow both ways. Unfortunately, there is no copy of the captured confederate letter that Jarvis sent home.  But you can see he wants to keep his family informed of what’s going on in his life on the field.  At the same time, he relies on them to keep him updated on news, both family and national.   His letters show there is give and take between him and his family, which is an encouragement to him as he does his duty.

    This plain envelope is what he sent Letter #1 in to his sister.  Note that is it marked "Soldier's Letter" in the upper right corner.  So that is why the "due 3" is written in the lower left below the address. His sister had to pay three cents to redeem the letter.  In the upper left corned it looks like the letter was sent through the Chaplain of the 3d Ohio, who also wrote the tag Soldiers Letter.  Remember, there was no "free mail" for soldiers at this time in history.

Circumstances sometimes make writing a bit difficult Letter #2:

Murfreesboro, Tennessee  September 4th 1862
Dear ones at home,
It has been some time since I wrote home but be assured that it was not a lack of interest on my part that caused the delay, but we have been on the move almost all the time and it has been impossible for me to send a letter even if I had written one. I will give you a brief account of our march and troubles. . . My postage stamps were all stolen from me by some rascal night before last and I would like some more if you can send them just as well as not. I would say something about our movements and force but are not allowed to do so. I will write again soon. Give my love to all.
As ever, your affectionate son & brother, — G. P. Jarvis

    Being on the march can make it difficult to keep them up to date with what he is experiencing.  And that his postage stamps were stolen also doesn’t help.  Remember, postage stamps functioned as small change during the war, so the thief was likely stealing them for the money value.  But For Jarvis the frustration is that it hinders his ability to stay in touch with his family.  For more information on this see my post “Letter Writing and Postage Stamps Importance to the Civil War Soldier” May 9, 2020 in the blog archive, where I discuss the need to use stamps as money because of the coin shortage during the war.

Mail Delivery is not always the best – grumbling about delays Letters #4 & #5:

Corinth, Mississippi
May 18th 1863
Dear ones at home,
Not as yet have I heard from you, but if I don’t get a letter tonight, I shall be disappointed, and I’ll give Uncle Sam’s mail carriers thunder for I think they have had sufficient time to have forwarded a letter to me since I wrote you last. But it will come some time and if it does not come tonight, I shall not despair. Suppose I should be at home soon. Would it not surprise you? . . . Now do not make up your minds to see me for this is only my opinion, but just consider me as absent till my time is out and then if I get home before, why! you will be disappointed, that’s all.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee
June 22d 1863
Dear Ones at P. G. C.
I take upon myself the duty of answering your kind letter of the 4th and 7th ulto. received yesterday. You can’t guess how much pleasure they afforded me, they being the first of a late date I had received from home since I left Murfreesboro to go on that confounded trip into the bowels of “Dixie.” I had you — when I was at Nashville — direct to that place without reference to Company or Regiment from the fact that I did not know what moment I would leave there nor where I would go, and I thought by so doing I could get the letters sooner and it has proved I was right. The letters remaining in the office are advertised each morning and as soon as I saw my name in the advertisements I wrote to the postmaster where to forward them to. Don’t you think I was rather cute?

    Jarvis has some interesting comments in these two letters about delivery issues.  You can’t blame him for grumbling about delays since he really values the letters from home.  Yet circumstances on the field often made mail delivery to the soldiers difficult.  The second letter shows an interesting point that evidently a list was put out to units about letters that the army mail service wasn’t sure where the addresses was located.  Interesting, as I had not heard about this approach to letter delivery, but it does make sense.

    This plain envelope is from Letter #6 which I have not cited anything from, but I have included the envelope picture here because of the "Due 6" cents stamp on it.  The cost of getting letters home for the soldiers varied at times due to factors such as a long distance or the need to be sent on a ship to get delivered.  I do not know what was the cause of the additional cost in this case.  Again, notice that this time George Jarvis wrote "Soldiers Letter" himself in the upper corner.  The postmark shows the letter clearly went through Nashville, TN to be delivered to Ohio.

Constantly changing circumstances sometimes mean rewriting is necessary Letter #7:

Chattanooga, Tennessee
October 3d 1863
Dear Sister,
Your kind note of 14 Sept. came duly to hand last evening about ten o’clock. You have no idea how glad I was to hear from you for I had not heard a word for nearly a month. I have written just as often as I could send letters and even oftener. Two or three letters I have written and kept a few days and then burned them up because I had no opportunity to send them. And by the time I would get an opportunity, they would be stale and I would write again. I have not written much account of the fight [Battle of Chickamauga] because you will get it in the papers much sooner and more correctly than I could give it to you, and I have not been on the field at all, but have been in the rear all the time where we get nothing but exaggerated reports till we ourselves get a paper containing an account of the battle. And even if I had been there, I could only have described first what came beneath my immediate notice.

    Jarvis takes keeping the family updated seriously, so as things are often changing, he updates letters if he can’t send them out.  And evidently, he doesn’t want his discarded letters to be found and read by someone other than his family.  Yet he is also honest in that he realizes his perspective is often limited and may not be the total truth of what has taken place.
    As I said at the beginning, I've only cited excerpts focused on illustrating his high value of staying connected with family through the letters.  I appreciate his sense of humor and also his humility.  He is sharing what he is experiencing so they can continue to be involved in his life even though separated by hundreds of miles.  Mail Call for him was a good thing to look forward to.  And because his letters have been preserved, we also get to see into his joy of keeping connected with his loved ones back home.

Children Projects:
1)  Do you think Jarvis’ action in letter #7 in getting rid of old letters that he didn’t get sent out and so had to update by rewriting is in part due to his finding that confederate soldier’s letter he mentions in letter #1?  He doesn’t want his feelings, concerns and perspectives being read by someone other than his intended readers, his family.
2)  Explore the issue of stamps being worth money by also reading the blog I mentioned in comments on letter #2.  Today if you took in a stamp to a store would they accept it as change?  No.  Especially the “forever stamp” which has a constantly changing value.
3) Look at the envelope pictures.  They are marked “soldier’s letter”, but they were not "free".  The family had to pay the money due to redeem them at the hometown post office.  And remember “3 cents” back then was of much greater value then 3 cents is today.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Hard Crackers, Come Again No More! A Song Celebrating a Beloved Civil War Army Ration!

    Yes, the title above is being sarcastic.  John D. Billings shares his memory of a famous Civil War song that captures the “man in the ranks joy” over the army’s provisions (Hard Tack and Coffee.  Soldier’s life in the Civil War 1887).  This song that Billings remembers is a Civil War parody of a popular song from 1854 “Hard Times Come Again No More” by Stephen Foster that
challenged the fortunate to remember the struggles of the less fortunate.  The Civil War song is a satirical mocking of a staple of army rations that went by a variety of names: the hard cracker, hardtack, hard bread, army crackers, worm castles, sheet-iron crackers, tooth dullers.  Billings writes:

    “For some weeks before the battle of Wilson’s Creek, Mo., where the lamented [General Nathaniel] Lyon fell, the First Iowa Regiment had been supplied with a very poor quality of hard bread (they were not then -- 1861 -- called hardtack).  During this period of hardship to the regiment, so the story goes, one of its members was inspired to produce the following touching lamentation:

Let us close our game of poker,
Take our tin cups in our hand,
While we gather round the cook’s tent door,
Where dry mummies of hard crackers
Are given to each man;
O hard crackers, come again no more!
Chorus:  ‘Tis the song and sigh of the hungry,
“Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more!
Many days have you lingered upon our stomachs sore,
O hard crackers, come again no more!”

There’s a hungry, thirsty soldier
Who wears his life away,
With torn clothes, whose better days are o’er;
He is sighing now for whiskey,
And, with throat as dry as hay,
Sings, “Hard crackers, come again no more!”  -- Chorus

‘Tis the song that is uttered
In camp by night and day,
‘Tis the wail that is mingled with each snore,
‘Tis the sighing of the soul
For spring chickens far away,
“O hard crackers, come again no more!”  -- Chorus

When General Lyon heard the men singing these stanzas in their tents, he is said to have been moved by them to the extent of ordering the cook to serve up corn-meal mush, for a change, when the song received the following alteration:

But to groans and to murmurs
There has come a sudden hush,
Our frail forms are fainting at the door;
We are starving now on horse-feed
That the cooks call mush,
O hard crackers, come again once more!
Chorus:  It is the dying wail of the starving,
Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again once more;
You were old and very wormy, but we pass your failings o’er,
O hard crackers, come again once more!

The name hardtack seems not to have been in general use among the men of the Western armies.”  (p.118-19)

    In sharing this memory, Billings is reminding us that he and others did their duty even though it meant having to be “creative” with less than ideal food rations as well as with finding humor in what they were dealt.  Now certainly down through the centuries it has always been the habit, and the right, of the ranks to complain about the rations provided.  You have to enjoy the creativity of this song in lamenting what was a part of life for the soldier during the Civil War.

Children’s project:
1) Make some hardtack (there are various recipes on line; this one from the site:  Emerging Civil War – “Civil War Cookin’: Hard Tack Come Again No More”.  No, haven’t personally tried to use this recipe.  Others on line have differing measurements, salt added, and cooking times etc.
    3 cups flour (can use all-purpose, but whole wheat is more authentic)
Water (1 cup)
Add enough water to Flour so the mixture is soft, but not sticky, then knead for 8 minutes to make the dough elastic.  Roll the dough out and cut into 3”x 3” squares ½” thick.  Use a nail or something to prick four holes across in four rows down into the dough, then turn over and do this again -- (this prevents the cracker from “rising” as it bakes).  Bake at 450 degrees for 7 minutes, then reduce oven to 350 and bake for additional 7 – 10 minutes. They will be hard, and get harder as they cool and dry.  Bake them for looks, not for eating as they will be hard.  Don’t put them in a sealed container because they will mold, but let them dry out completely.  Add weevils for additional flavor and realism.  What?!? Just joking.  My family has a couple of hardtack pieces that we use for living history display that were given to us almost 30 years ago.  That should tell you how “durable” hardtack is.

2) Look up the words to the song “Hard Times Come Again No More” and compare them to this Civil War song parody.  (Parody: an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect).  Explore how parody works by looking at Foster’s song which calls on the favored in society to see the distressed struggling people around them and realize their plight.  Some say Foster’s song was his way of calling on the privileged to realize the needs of “the less fortunate” around themselves.  Others see his song as expressing his personal feelings as he descended into loss in his own life.  It most likely is a mix of both.  As culture continued to divide and the Civil War came, his song was indeed a challenge needed by society to look compassionately on others in their struggles.  Now obviously the parody Civil War song “Hard Crackers Come Again No More” is making the challenge for the “privileged” well-fed officers to see the plight of the “down-trodden” man-in-the-ranks.  Some eat well in the army, while many others must make do with poor quality rations as they obey the orders of the privileged to march and fight.   The “effectiveness” (= popularity) of the Hard Crackers song is in a great degree based upon the popularity of the Hard Times song in the culture of that time.  Maybe come up with a project where your child does a parody on something that is popular to them.

Friday, February 11, 2022

To My Wife -- A Civil War Poem from a Blessed Soldier far from Home

 At midnight, on my lonely beat,
    When darkness veils the wood and lea,
A vision seems my view to greet,
    Of one at home who prays for me.
Picture from a Civil War envelope

The roses bloom upon her check;
    Her form seems to me like a dream;
And on her face, so fair and meek,
    A host of holy beauties gleam.

For softly shines her flaxen hair;
    A smile is ever on her face;
And the mild, lustrous light of prayer
    Around her sheds a moonlike grace.

She prays for me, that's far away --
    The soldier in his lonely fight;
And asks that God in mercy may
    Shield the loved one and bless the right.

Until, though leagues may lie between,
    The silent incense of her heart
Steals o'er my soul with breath serene,
    And we no longer are apart.

So, guarding thus my lonely beat,
    'Mid darkening wood and dreary lea,
That vision seems my view to great,
    Of her at home who prays for me.

“Written by Joseph McArdle, Company F 163d New York Volunteers.  For some years First Assistant Chief of the Kansas City Fire department, and noted for his bravery and zeal in the discharge of duty.  He died a little over a year ago [Feb.21, 1893] from the effects of pneumonia, contracted while fighting a disastrous fire.  A self-contained and somewhat diffident old solider, he was loved by his comrades, especially by veteran Company A, but few suspected that he possessed any talent in a literary way.  Among his papers, however, was found the following little poem, written in 1864, dedicated to his wife, and containing sentiment worthy to be perpetuated.”  (Page 525 Under Both Flags  A Panorama of the Great Civil War as Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure and the Romance of Reality  Edited by C.R. Graham. 1896)

An obituary from Kansas City says that McArdle was born in Ireland in 1837, and came to the U.S. at age 10.  “When, in 1861, the war of the Rebellion broke out, McArdle enlisted in that famous 73d New York, 4th Regiment, Excelsior Brigade, 2d New York F’ire Zouaves.  In the fall of 1864, McArdle went to Kansas City and engaged for a short time in work for the government. But the urgent call for troops by President Lincoln once more appealed to his patriotism, and he re-entered the army, enlisting in the 51st Missouri, and serving as first sergeant. After five months’ service his regiment was mustered out of service, and McArdle went back to Kansas City.”  The obituary goes on to share about his service as their Fire Chief.
So McArdle would have been 27 years old when he wrote the poem about his love for his wife and her love for him that gave him strength as he served his country.  C.R. Graham is right.   Such love, such drawing strength to do the hard and challenging from knowing that you are loved by a wife who lets you go to do your duty while deeply desiring you to safely return is indeed a “sentiment worthy to be perpetuated”.  Consider the wisdom observations from King Solomon:

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and has obtained favor from the Lord”
Proverbs 18:22 NASV
“An excellent wife, who can find her?  For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” 
Proverbs 31:10-11,30 NASV

For my tribute to my wife, see my post on Aug.24, 2016:  In Honor of my Beloved Wife Vicki Lynn Rowe.

Children’s Project:  Discuss how McArdle’s love for his wife and his knowing that she cared and prayed for him while he was away in danger serving his country would have been a source of strength for him.  Discuss how a strong marriage between husband and wife can be built by sharing how you and your spouse have deepened your love for each other.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

On a Muddy Path You have to Laugh -- Burnside's Mud March January 1863

    General Ambrose Burnside, who replaced George McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac in Nov.1862 hoped that his plans in January 1863 to march on Richmond would go better than the disastrous assault on Fredericksburg he had commanded in December 1862 had gone.  This time he planned for his army to outflank Lee’s defensive position at Fredericksburg by crossing the river upstream and drawing Lee’s men out of their defensive positions.  That was the plan. 

           On January 20, 1863 in unseasonably mild weather the Union Army started its march to cross the Rappahannock.  But during the night a violent storm began pouring down rain which continued coming over the next two days.  The torrential downpour turned the dirt roads into a muddy quagmire.  One solider wrote “The whole country was a river of mud, the roads were rivers of deep mire.”  Wagons sank to their wheel hubs in mud.  At times artillery became so hopelessly stuck that even a team of 12 horses and 150 men couldn’t pull one cannon out of the mud.  Soldiers slipped repeatedly, many losing their shoes in the thick mud.  The rain ended on the 22nd, but the unusual above freezing temperatures kept the roads sticky mud paths where horses and mules died of exhaustion.  To help raise his soldier’s spirits Burnside issued a whiskey ration, but instead it led to drunken troops brawling with one another.  Across the river, Confederate pickets watched the struggling Union troops with amusement.  Some put up a large sign on the riverbank that said “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud” and another sign “This way to Richmond”.

    On the fourth day, Burnside cancelled the order for the advance and ordered his troops to return to their encampments.  Many in the ranks were totally demoralized.  A Massachusetts soldier, Charles E. Davis Jr. wrote, “It is not an exaggeration to say, that before or after, there was seen no such state of demoralization as possessed a large part of the Army of the Potomac at the end of this foolish undertaking.”  Lincoln replaced Burnside with Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac on Jan.26th. 

    All this historical background gives an interesting twist to a “revised prayer of the soldier while on the celebrated Burnside Mud March” that John Billings shares in his book of Civil War memories  (Page 72 Hard Tack and Coffee 1887):

"Now I lay me down to sleep
In mud that's many fathoms deep
If I'm not here when you wake, 
Just hunt me up with an oyster rake"

    You have to smile at the humor of whoever came up with this revision of a prayer meant to comfort.  Sometimes things in life are so bad, the only thing left is to find something to laugh over.  Yes, this is not a “significant historical notation”, but Billings gives us insight into one way the men in the ranks struggling through the muddy quagmire got a brief moment of relief.  And evidently one solider remembered it long after and shared it with Billings.  Good night and watch where you sleep.

General Burnside Civil War Patriotic Envelope US48
celebrating his attacks on Confederate forces along the North Carolina coast
from February through June 1862.
Wonder how popular this one was among the soldiers after the mud march?

Children's Project:  Explore how both the Confederate signs and the Union revised prayer are both "sarcastic humor" using irony (intended meaning is the opposite of what's expressed).  Explore how what is humorous to one is not so funny to the other (am sure neither the Union soldiers seeing the CS signs nor General Burnside were pleased to be mocked).  This might be an interesting way to discuss different types of humor and the challenges of "cancel culture" with your children.  For example, should they share a joke mocking their teacher with the teacher?  And obviously jokes about you as a parent are always off limits.