Civil War Confederate Soldiers’ Homes

Soldiers’ Homes were established for Civil War veterans who could no longer care for themselves. A few states provided separate homes for Union and Confederate veterans. The federal government didn’t provide funds for the Confederate soldiers. This obligation fell on the states.

Confederate veteran Jefferson Manly Falkner founded what became known as the Alabama Confederate Soldiers Home in 1901. Falkner wanted to provide a home for veterans and their wives. Widows were allowed to live there after 1915.

Falkner donated 80 acres in the summer resort area of Mountain Creek where between 650 to 800 people found a home. The home’s last veteran died in 1934. Five widows remained until October of 1939 when the home closed.

Atlanta’s Confederate Soldiers’ Home, built in 1890, was also known as the Old Soldiers’ Home. Henry W. Grady raised funds for the home at 410 East Confederate Avenue through subscriptions until it finally opened in 1900. Fire destroyed the building in 1901, but it was rebuilt on the same location a year later. The home’s last veteran died in 1941.

The old Kentucky Confederate Home was the former Villa Ridge Inn just outside the Pewee Valley Confederate Cemetery. There was a hospital, entertainment, and religious services. There was housing for 350 veterans and a total of 700 former Confederate soldiers eventually called it home.

There were a few prerequisites to living at the Kentucky home. Besides being a former Confederate soldier, residents had to be mentally stable, a resident of the state for at least 6 months, and not an alcoholic.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

“Alabama Confederate Soldiers Home,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_Confederate_Soldiers_Home.

“Confederate Soldiers’ Home,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_Soldiers%27_Home.

“Old Soldiers’ Home,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_soldiers%27_home.

“Peewee Valley Confederate Cemetery,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pewee_Valley_Confederate_Cemetery.

 

Civil War: Confederate Remedy for Dysentery

As a writer of historical novels, I love to run across remedies used in past centuries. A wonderful book, Confederate Receipt Book, contains a few cures from the Civil War era.

A soldier’s remedy for dysentery (severe diarrhea) used only three everyday ingredients which were reported to be “efficacious” for these cases.

Dysentery killed more Civil War soldiers than any other diseases so it was a serious matter.

At that time, doctors often prescribed opium (paregoric, laudanum, or Dover’s powder) to treat dysentery.

Other medicines given to treat the disease were copper sulfate, oil of turpentine, lead acetate, and aromatic sulfuric acid. Surprisingly, laxatives were also used in the treatment—Epsom salts, calomel, ipecac, castor oil, and sulfate of magnesia. Calomel, also known as mercurous chloride, had terrible side effects: profuse salivation, loss of teeth, or—in severe cases—“mercurial gangrene.”

Strong medicines with unfortunate or fatal side effects could have led Confederate soldiers to search for a better cure. Or the lack of medical supplies might be the reason for trying a common cure. It’s also possible this simple cure had been around for years.

Whatever the case, the Confederate remedy for dysentery seems remarkably simple when compared to medicines listed above.

The instructions stipulate pure vinegar. The apple cider vinegar in my cabinet is diluted with water so that changes the experiment. This is merely a fun learning exercise since I’m not planning on treating dysentery, so this is not an issue.

I took a cup of apple cider vinegar and poured it into a salad dressing cruet. (Use any jar that can be tightly closed.) I then added salt, a teaspoon at time. The soldiers’ recipe advises to add as much salt as the vinegar can ferment and work clear.

My vinegar didn’t foam until shaking it. I used 6 teaspoons of salt, but it might have held more.

The soldiers corked the salty vinegar liquid and set it aside. When needed, they boiled a gill of water (4 ounces), added a large spoonful of the medicine, and drank it. It was supposed to be effective for cholic (colic) and dysentery.

As always, consult physicians before using this medicinally.

I use these old cures only in my historical writing. I made this recipe but will not be taking it. I’m not recommending it. This is merely meant to be fun and educational.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

Oates, Stephen B. A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War, The Free Press, 1994.

 

Civil War: Confederate Soldier’s Way To Relieve Asthma

As a writer of historical novels, I love to run across remedies used in past centuries. A wonderful book, Confederate Receipt Book, contains a few cures from the Civil War era.

A recipe to relieve asthma called for stramonium leaves (also known as Jamestown weed) to be gathered before the frost and dried in the shade.

The dried leaves were then saturated in a “pretty strong solution of saltpetre.” There is no indication given as to how much saltpeter (a white powder with a salty taste) makes a strong solution. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, saltpetre is used in the preservation of meat as well as in the production of explosives and fertilizers.

The Confederate soldiers then smoked the saturated leaves. Inhaling the vapors helped loosen lung congestion. The soldiers cautioned that the fumes could strangle the patient if “taken too freely.”

It is not stated whether the soldiers rolled the leaves into a cigarette or inhaled them over a fire.

I wanted to know if stramonium was still being used to treat asthma these days.

This plant is considered poisonous if improperly prepared. In modern times, the juice is taken from the plant before seeds and flowers sprout. Then the juice goes through a process of dilution process. This removes the poisonous part.

It is used today to treat a variety of complaints, including asthma. It relieves chest tightness and a wheezy cough.

The home remedy sites stress that the plant is poisonous and must be prepared properly.

The soldiers also gave specific instructions about stramonium, such as drying the leaves in the shade and gathering them before the frost. They seemed to realize that the plant must be handled carefully to work best.

I don’t suggest following the soldiers’ recipe. There are too many warnings about the poisonous plant. As always, consult physicians before using this medicinally.

I use these old cures only in my historical writing. I have not followed this recipe or tried the cure. I’m not recommending it. This is merely meant to be fun and educational.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Homeopathy: Stramonium, Thorn Apple/Devil’s-apple,” Herbs2000.com, 2017/03/11  http://www.herbs2000.com/homeopathy/stramonium.htm.

“Saltpetre,” Cambridge University Press, 2017/03/11 http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/saltpetre.

“Stramonium/Stram,” Home Remedy Central, 2017/03/11  http://www.homeremedycentral.com/en/homeopathic-remedies/homeopathy/stramonium.html.

 

Civil War: Confederate Remedy for Chills

As a writer of historical novels, I love to run across remedies used in past centuries. A wonderful book, Confederate Receipt Book, contains a few cures from the Civil War era.

A common cure for chills was horehound, spelled hoarhound in the book. The soldiers believed that horehound, boiled in water and drunk as tea, was a “certain cure.”

People are usually running a fever when chilling. This leads me to believe that Confederate soldiers used the tea to reduce fever.

Is the herb still used medicinally today? Did the soldiers boil the leaves to make tea? The roots? The recipe does not say so I began researching.

Horehound is a bitter herb from the mint family. According to Mountain Rose Herbs, the part of the plant that is above the ground is dried and cut for use in teas and tinctures.

An article from Drugs.com supports this. Home remedies use the flower tops and leaves in bitter tonics to relieve the common cold.

The FDA ruled in 1989 that it didn’t find horehound, among others, to be useful in cough and cold medicines so products containing these ingredients had to be removed from the market.

Ricola, a cough suppressant made outside the United States, contains the herb and is sold in the US.

In modern times, horehound may be found in candies, liqueurs, and cough drops.

The articles I read suggest that more research is required to evaluate the safety of horehound and is not recommended for pregnant and nursing women. Physicians should be consulted before using this medicinally.

I love to find these old cures so that I can use them in my writing. Those who volunteer as Civil War reenactors may also enjoy this information. I have not tried this tea as a cure for cold or fever and I’m not recommending it. This is merely meant to be fun and educational.

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Horehound,” Drugs.com, 2017/03/11 https://www.drugs.com/npc/horehound.html.

“Horehound,” Mountain Rose Herbs, 2017/03/11 https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/horehound/profile.

“Horehound Herb,” Naturalremedies.org, 2017/03/11 http://www.naturalremedies.org/horehound/.

 

 

 

Co. “Aytch” First Tennessee Regiment by Sam R. Watkins

Subtitles: Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment

A Side Show of the Big Show

Sam Watkins was a private in Company H (Company “Aytch”) of the First Tennessee Regiment. On May 11, 1861, this Confederate soldier left Nashville with his regiment and was still in the army when General Joe Johnston surrendered on April 26, 1865.

What sights he saw.

Sam didn’t write a history of the war. Instead he records anecdotes and experiences of life as a Confederate soldier. He speaks honestly of the horrors he experienced in battles, as part of General Braxton Bragg’s army, and in witnessing his comrades’ deaths.

He often remarks that “abler pens than mine” could do the story better justice. Sam, you did well. Readers like me felt your pain across the years. I felt the terror you must have endured when General Bragg ordered a reserve line to stand behind the fighting line and shoot anyone who ran away.

I felt your pride when a young woman invited “a tattered soldier” to supper and accepted your arm in escort.

I felt your gut-wrenching sadness to see your army decimated.

You showed that a general can resign with honor but when privates resign it is considered desertion.

Sam intended to include additional notes in a second printing of the book, but seems to have been unable to raise enough to fund the publishing costs. His great-granddaughter, Ruth Hill Fulton McAllister, included his notes in this edition. I love the poem included in the appendix—“A Land Without Ruins” written by Father Abram Joseph Ryan, the poet laureate of the Confederacy. Here’s a quote from the last stanza:

For out of the gloom future brightness is born,

        As after the night looms the sunrise of morn;

        And the graves of the dead, with the grass overgrown,

        May yet form the footstool of Liberty’s throne,

        And each single wreck in the war-path of Might,

        Shall yet be a rock in the temple of Right!”

An insightful look into the everyday life and thoughts of a Confederate soldier. Great book for lovers of the Civil War and American History.

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

Apple Pie Recipe Without Apples used by Confederate Soldiers

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Recipes used to be called ‘receipts.’ Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

I found an intriguing recipe called “Apple Pie Without Apples” in an 1863 book, Confederate Receipt Book. I had to make this one.

The main ingredient is crackers. Civil War soldiers ate hard tack, which John D. Billings describes in his book, Hard Tack and Coffee, as “a plain flour-and-water biscuit.”

Billings, a Civil War soldier, had two of these crackers while writing his book that published in 1887. (It doesn’t say if the hard tack was baked during the war.) When measured, he found they were 3 1/8 inches by 2 7/8 inches and almost ½ inch thick.

This apple pie recipe uses crackers. The soldiers would have used hard tack because that was available.

blog-127Place crackers in a small bowl. (Not having hard tack on hand, I thought Triscuits might be an acceptable substitute.  I used 20 of these crackers. Regular crackers would also be fine.) Soak these in water until soft. For our modern crackers, this takes about five minutes. I can’t imagine how long soldiers soaked the hard tack.

Empty excess water. Mash the softened crackers.

Add 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg to the crackers. Mix together.

Spray ramekins with cooking spray. Spoon mixture into ramekins until about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

My husband tried it first. “It’s strange. It doesn’t taste like apple pie.”

I had to agree. This recipe does not taste like apple pie. I didn’t really care for it.

Soldiers probably didn’t have cinnamon too often in camp but this spice would definitely enhance the flavor. In the next batch I added a teaspoon of cinnamon along with the nutmeg.

Both my husband and I agreed that cinnamon improved the “appleless” pie. Though it was a strange and unfamiliar dessert, I’m happy I tried it. It would make a fun dish at Civil War reenactments.

For the Confederate soldier starving for his mother’s apple pie, eating this dessert probably gave him a nostalgic taste of home.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

Billings, John D. Hardtack & Coffee, University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

 

Biscuit Recipe Used by Confederate Soldiers

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Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and food rations. They had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

Confederates published a fun book of recipes in 1863 called Confederate Receipt Book. I tried one of the biscuit recipes.

In reading the recipe before starting, one thing that struck me was that they used cream of tartar. Other food recipes called for tartaric acid. I hadn’t used that in biscuits and wondered if it was a readily-available ingredient for Southern soldiers.

A little research showed that many plants, including grapes, have tartaric acid, which is an organic acid. The process of making wine creates cream of tartar. It is a leavening agent.

Since food supplies were often scarce for Southern soldiers, it makes sense that they used whatever they had on hand and adapted it.

blog-110Measure 4 cups of all-purpose flour into a mixing bowl. Add 3 teaspoons of cream of tartar and mix thoroughly.

Add 2 tablespoons of shortening. Use a fork to cut the shortening into the flour mixture. It won’t look much differently after combined because it’s not a lot of shortening. Most modern recipes call for ½ cup or ¾ cup of shortening (or butter) but I wanted to try the Confederate soldiers’ recipe so I didn’t alter it.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda into about 1 ½ cups of warm water. Stir and add to the dry ingredients to make a dough. If more water is needed, add a little at a time until the dough is the right consistency.

You may notice, as I did, that there is no salt in this recipe. I didn’t add any.

I imagined that soldiers baked their biscuits in a skillet. I greased the skillet with shortening—not cooking spray because the men in Civil War camps didn’t have that.

I baked my biscuits in a 425 oven for twenty minutes and then increased the temperature to 450 for another 4 or 5 minutes because they were taking longer than normal. I usually bake food at 425 if the recipe calls for 450 because it’s easy to burn. Next time I will bake these biscuits at 450 for 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned.

blog-117They rose nicely in the oven, almost doubling. They looked great. The consistency was really nice, but I missed the salt. It would have tasted better with a teaspoon of salt in the flour mixture.

I wondered at first if salt was often in short supply. Maybe that was the reason for omitting salt from biscuits.

Then another possibility occurred to me. Salting meat was a way of preserving it before refrigeration. If the meat was already salty, the soldier probably didn’t need it in the biscuits, too.

Most Civil War soldiers didn’t know much about cooking at the beginning of the war. Mothers, wives, and sisters usually did the cooking and baking back at home. The men adapted pretty well . . . and even published a few of their recipes!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Tartaric Acid,” Wikipedia.com, 2017/02/06 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartaric_acid.

Amazon page for Sandra Merville Hart

Charcoal Tooth Powder

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Recipes used to be called ‘receipts.’ Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

Confederates published a fun book of recipes in 1863 called Confederate Receipt Book. It contains a variety of recipes for many things needed in an army camp. One of them is a recipe for making tooth powder from charcoal.

Charcoal is made by burning wood, so Confederate soldiers would have had an abundance of this in their army camps.

charcoal-powder-1053836_960_720To make tooth powder, pound charcoal in a mortar as finely as possible, or it could be ground in a mill. Sift it well.

Apply to teeth twice a week. According to Confederate soldiers, it kept teeth a beautiful white and also freshened breath. Gums also benefited from the treatment as it made them “firm and comfortable.”

Grinding charcoal in a mortar using small amounts of water kept the dust from flying around. It was also easier to use when stored in water.

There are currently charcoal toothpastes on the market. This old-fashioned tradition for cleaning teeth seems to be making a come-back but experts warn they don’t know the long-term effects.

Still, it’s fun to watch wisdom from the past making a reappearance from history.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Charcoal,” Merriam-Webster, 2017/02/03 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/charcoal.

Mulpeter, Kathleen. “Is it safe to Whiten your Teeth with Activated Charcoal Toothpaste?” Health, 2017/02/03 http://www.health.com/oral-health/charcoal-toothpaste.

 

Making Soap

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Recipes used to be called ‘receipts.’ Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

Confederates published a fun book of recipes in 1863 called Confederate Receipt Book. It contains a variety of recipes for many things needed in an army camp. One of them is a recipe for making soap.

Boil 12 quarts of water and pour it over 5 pounds of “unslacked lime.” Terms and spellings of words changed over 150 years. I looked up unslaked lime, which is a white crystalline oxide.

Set aside the lime and water.

laundry-666487_960_720Boil another 12 quarts of water. Dissolve 5 pounds of washing soda in the boiling water. Baking soda, known as sodium bicarbonate, becomes washing soda by heating it.

Once the soda is dissolved, combine the mixtures together. Let it stand for 12 to 24 hours to allow chemicals to react.

After it sets for a day, carefully pour off all clear liquid without disturbing the sediment.

Add 3 ½ pounds of clarified grease and 3 or 4 ounces of rosin, which is a solid resin from pines.

Boil the whole mixture together for an hour. Pour to cool into pans.

Slice into bars for use.

There is no mention how much soap this recipe makes, but it seems like enough for many soldiers to walk away with a bar of soap.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“How do you turn Baking Soda into Washing Soda,” Reference.com, 2017/02/03  https://www.reference.com/home-garden/turn-baking-soda-washing-soda-9d1fdee9f330c19.

“Rosin,” Wikipedia, 2017/02/03 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosin.

“Unslaked Lime,” WordNet Dictionary, 2017/02/03 http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/unslaked%20lime.