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“'A perfect nutriment for heroes!': Apples and North American Soldiers, 1757-1918"

“'A perfect nutriment for heroes!': Apples and North American Soldiers, 1757-1918"

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Published by John U. Rees
Writer and Second World War army veteran Paul Fussell spoke for soldiers through the ages in noting that "rations were tedious" and that "soldiers at all times and places are fixated on food." He could have added that soldiers were notoriously light-fingered and craved variety, thus explaining why apples and other non-ration items sometimes found a place on the military menu.
Writer and Second World War army veteran Paul Fussell spoke for soldiers through the ages in noting that "rations were tedious" and that "soldiers at all times and places are fixated on food." He could have added that soldiers were notoriously light-fingered and craved variety, thus explaining why apples and other non-ration items sometimes found a place on the military menu.

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Published by: John U. Rees on Sep 19, 2013
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02/03/2014

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“A perfect nutriment for heroes!” 
 Apples and North American Soldiers, 1757-191
 
John U. Rees
(
Food History News 
, vol. XIV, no. 1 (53), 2, 7.)
Writer and Second World War army veteran Paul Fussell spoke for soldiers through theages in noting that "rations were tedious" and that "soldiers at all times and places arefixated on food." He could have added that soldiers were notoriously light-fingered andcraved variety, thus explaining why apples and other non-ration items sometimes found a place on the military menu.
1
 British and American Troops, 1757-1781.
To be fair, apples and apple by-products were
sometimes officially sanctioned to augment rations. During the Seven Years’ War 
theBritish 43
rd
Regiment of Foot was in garrison at Annapolis, Nova Scotia. Captain John
Knox wrote on 3 November 1757, “all the men off duty were sent to the orchards
eastward of Mayass Hill, for a quantity of apples for the garrison ... After we reached theorchards about three miles from the fort ... the [men] filled bags, haversacks, baskets andeven their pockets with fruit; a most grateful treat to our poor soldiers in particular, solong accustomed to a salt diet, without any vegetables."
2
 Revolutionary soldiers ate their fair share of the fruit, gaining nourishment and much-needed relief from the monotonous, and sometimes debilitating, army ration. John Chilton,captain, 3rd Virginia Regiment, wrote from Manhattan Island in October 1776, "We have just removed from our old encampment about 1/2 Mile into the Woods ... we send out
scouting parties and [t]ake … Cabbages, apples &c." In 1780 Nahum P
arker, 15thMassachusetts Regiment, several times consumed apples at West Point:
3
 
Saterday 29 I Got my Clock washd / we drawd Bread and no Meat for to day … som[e]
Aples Stewing now x o Clock Friday September 1st 1780 Calvin and I went out after Aples / Cloudy
Officers’ formal meals also featured apples. In August 1779 General Washington wroteDr. John Cochrane from West Point describing his cook’s newest passion: "When th
e Cook has a mind to cut a figure (and this I presume he will attempt to do to morrow) we have twoBeef-stake-
Pyes… Of late, he has had the surprizing luck to discover, that apples will make
 pyes; and it's a question if, amidst the violence of his efforts, we do not get one of apples
instead of having both of Beef.”
4
 Connecticut soldier Joseph Martin related various occasions when he consumed onefoodstuff or another that occasioned regret. In autumn 1780 Martin was riding horseback along the Hudson River: "Being hungry ... I saw some fine-looking apples in a field ...dismounted and filled my pockets with them and ate a considerable quantity. They weresweet and of rather a tough texture, and caused me considerable trouble." Having "gone but a small distance before my apples began to operate ... my head ached as though it wassplitting into ten thousand pieces and my sight entirely failed. I ... tumbled, off my horseand lay on the ground, giving myself up for lost." His lieutenant found him andadministered some warm water: "... I had no sooner swallowed it than it caused me to
discharge the contents of my stomach, which quickly gave me ease.”
5
 
 
The Long and the Short of It, 1860’s and 1918.
 
“Found” fresh apples continued tosupplement soldiers’ diets in
the War Between the States, and various kinds of preservedapples, bought or issued, often made their way to the troops.Soldiers enjoyed the fruit in many forms. Walter and Robert Carter, 22ndMassachusetts Volunteers, ate fresh apples near Sharpsburg, Maryland, "Wednesday Eve,October 29 [1862],
 Bob's birthday, seventeen years old 
. [Brother] Bob and I have justfinished our celebration supper ... It consisted of flap-jacks fried by Bob, ingredientsfurnished by myself, and soft bread and butter. We ate sugar and butter on 'slabs,' and had
a good apple to wind up with. ...” Dried apples were also mentioned.
Corporal JohnMcMahon, 136
th
New York, wrote from near Stafford Court House, Virginia, 18
February 1863, “Yesterday it snowed very hard all day and
has now turned into rain. I amin my tent [a log hut, topped by a tentcloth roof] by a good fire and have some beans, and
 pork boiling for dinner and some dried apples cooking I bought the other day.” Corporal
Daniel Chisholm, 116
th
Pennsylvania Volunteers, noted in front of Petersburg, Virginia,
29 June 1864, “We are still in the same place, all quiet in front, days are hot and nights
are cool. We have marching orders. Our rations consist of soft Bread, pork, beans,[sauer]Crout, Sugar, Dry Apples, Coffee
and Whiskey. All hunkey.”
6
 Special dishes were sometimes possible. John King, 92
nd
 
Illinois, wrote on “June 14,1863, Triune, Tennessee … There were many fine apple orchards in this part of 
Tennessee and in June the fruit was well-enough matured to make into green apple pies
or apple sauce or apple jack …When the army was not too far from the base of supplies
we could get some flour instead of hard tack. Then the soldiers could go to the negrocabins and dwelling houses and unceremoniously borrow or 
carry away … bake ovens.
One could bake anywhere with them, in the house or out of doors, rain or sunshine,wherever hot embers could be obtained. Soldiers could get green apples, slice them intothin pieces, roll out crusts made from the flour, lay in the sliced apples and cover with
another crust.”
"Hardtack pudding" was another Civil War recipe, "made by placing the biscuit in a stout bag, and pounding bag and contents with a club on a log until the biscuits were reduced to a fine powder; then we added a little wheat flour, if we had it ...and made a stiff dough, which we next rolled out on a cracker box lid, like a pie-crust;then we covered this all over with a preparation of stewed, dried, apples, dropping in hereand there a raisin or two just for Auld Lang Syne's sake, rolled and wrapped it in a cloth,
 boiled it for an hour or so and ate it …"
7
 
 
 
Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with fork, knife, plate, and cup sitting on thefloor and preparing to eat
a slice of the apple on his lap.”
(Library of Congress,Prints and Photographs Online Catalog)
 
Sauce was the apple dish most mentioned by soldiers, the Carter brothers speaking of itoften in their letters home. Robert wrote from Alexandria Heights, 24 August 1862, "If we could only have the rations the government provides for us, we should be well
satisfied; but we are deprived of them in some way … I 'drew' (term for foraging from
 plantations) some green corn and apples to-day, and I mean to have roast corn and applesauce for supper." From Petersburg, Virginia, Walter noted on 1 July 1864, "We haveenjoyed a glorious breakfast and dinner; John [Carter, 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery]is much pleased with my mode of living; he said he had not eaten so much before for amonth; we had meat, potatoes, farina, apple sauce, molasses, cheese and lemonade." Latein the war canned and dried goods were more frequently seen. Walter Carter, still at

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