“A perfect nutriment for heroes!” Apples and North American Soldiers, 1757-1918 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 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.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 the British 43rd 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 the orchards about three miles from the fort ... the [men] filled bags, haversacks, baskets and even their pockets with fruit; a most grateful treat to our poor soldiers in particular, so long accustomed to a salt diet, without any vegetables."2 Revolutionary soldiers ate their fair share of the fruit, gaining nourishment and muchneeded 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 Parker, 15th Massachusetts 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 wrote Dr. John Cochrane from West Point describing his cook’s newest passion: "When the Cook has a mind to cut a figure (and this I presume he will attempt to do to morrow) we have two Beef-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 one foodstuff 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 were sweet 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 was splitting into ten thousand pieces and my sight entirely failed. I ... tumbled, off my horse and lay on the ground, giving myself up for lost." His lieutenant found him and administered 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 to supplement soldiers’ diets in the War Between the States, and various kinds of preserved apples, bought or issued, often made their way to the troops. Soldiers enjoyed the fruit in many forms. Walter and Robert Carter, 22nd Massachusetts Volunteers, ate fresh apples near Sharpsburg, Maryland, "Wednesday Eve, October 29 [1862], Bob's birthday, seventeen years old. [Brother] Bob and I have just finished our celebration supper ... It consisted of flap-jacks fried by Bob, ingredients furnished 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 John McMahon, 136th 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 am in 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, 116th 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, 92nd 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 negro cabins 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 into thin 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 here and 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 the floor 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 it often 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 apple sauce for supper." From Petersburg, Virginia, Walter noted on 1 July 1864, "We have enjoyed 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 a month; we had meat, potatoes, farina, apple sauce, molasses, cheese and lemonade." Late in the war canned and dried goods were more frequently seen. Walter Carter, still at

Petersburg, 13 July 1864, "Our team ... returned this noon with plenty of dried apples, pickles, turnips, crackers, and one or two boxes of peaches and milk … so you see I am all right; a soldier is happy as long as his food is good and sure. We have now adopted a new system of procuring [U.S.] sanitary [Commission] goods. Our Surgeon ... took a team, and went direct to City Point and loaded it full of supplies for our regiment alone ... we received new potatoes, dried apples, pickled onions and cucumbers, tea, mustard, and a few cans of fruit ... Dr. Stearns gave the non-commissioned staff ... a can of apple sauce, strawberries, chocolate, a bottle of port wine, and a can of milk … all got a bountiful supply.”8 Other soldiers mentioned applesauce, with differing sentiments. From “Near Berryville, Virginia, September 8, 1864,” Captain John De Forest, 12th Connecticut Volunteers, informed his wife, “The fact is that I am not badly off just now, compared with the conditions of things at times. Night before last I was on picket and splashed back to camp in the morning through a rainstorm, daubed with mud and drenched to the skin. And what a breakfast I had! Applesauce; plundered applesauce; nothing but applesauce; not even a hardtack! A perfect nutriment for heroes!”9 Apples could be purchased, too. At Christmastime 1863, J. Spiegel, sutler to the 120th Ohio Regiment, advertised his “Latest Arrivals: 20 kegs of fresh Ohio Butter, sweet and nice; 10 kegs new Ohio Apple butter; 20 barrels green Apples; 10 barrels Oranges; and many other eatables of the choicest kinds.” After the war Captain Albert Barnitz, 7th Cavalry, wrote his wife from camp near Fort Hays, Kansas, 6 May 1867, “Capt. West furnished the officers a repast of ice cream last evening! – a great surprise! – made of condensed milk, I believe, and ice from the Post. I purchased a barrel of apples the other day – green apples – from a man who had hauled them all the way from Missouri (for the use of my company) – and a bushel for myself! Green apples mind, and very fine flavored, at $5 per bushel.”10 Whether speaking merely of color or unripe fruit, green apples did not impress some soldiers. Confederate soldier Robert Patrick gave this unflattering description when he “called at the house of a citizen” in Mississippi, August 1863: “When I went in, I found a gaunt, sallow faced Tennesseean sittng in the little parlor. He looked like he had been reared from infancy on goobers, green apples, persimmons and dirt.” Shadowing Confederate forces near Monocacy Junction, Maryland, Captain De Forest’s regiment suffered from a lack of rations: 4 August 1864, “our … men have had no meat for four days; only crackers and coffee. And the officers, being without pay and without a chance to forage, live on green apples or other deleterious provender.” From Halltown, Virginia, he wrote on August 24th, “Having got some money at last and being settled near our base of supplies, we no longer starve on green apples and the like, but feed reasonably well on salt beef, hardtack, flour and potatoes, all purchased of the commissary.”11 First World War troops also foraged, but the only mention of apples I discovered was as hospital food. Allen C. Huber, Co. K, 138th Infantry, 35th Division, after being wounded: “October 13th [1918] Feel a little better this morning ... Can't eat much though … beef and gravy, boiled potatoes, sliced tomatoes, stewed apples and bread for dinner. Gosh, if I had had this stuff up at the lines where I felt good and could eat it, I would have thought I was a King …” Fifty-five years earlier Union private Wilbur Fisk mentioned similar hospital fare. “Mt. Pleasant Hospital, Camp Convalescence [Washington, D.C.], Jan. 15, 1863 … Toasted bread with butter or apple-sauce was

served every day to the feebler [patients]. Boiled rice and milk, meal porridge, farina puddings, and almost any article of diet was readily granted by the physician if asked for … Those who were able took their meals at the mess barrack together. Theirs was the common army fare, with sometimes a little butter or apple-sauce thrown in for extras.”12

“Jockey Hollow and the associated Wick Farm property of Morristown National Historical Park have a history of orchard use dating to before the American Revolution. By 1816 the orchard contained as many as one thousand trees, and over time various property owners have continued to manage an orchard at the site. Currently, the orchard occupies approximately ten acres and nearly two hundred trees of different varieties and ages. The existing orchard represents a Civilian Conservation Corps restoration project from the 1930s intended to reestablish the eighteenth century character of the site. An orchard management plan for the site is being prepared to provide recommendations for preserving the historic character of the orchard through the implementation of a sustainable preservation maintenance program. The plan provides a contextual overview of the history of fruit growing in the United States to help frame the historical importance of the orchards at the park. Stewardship objectives for the orchard, consistent with the park's overall management plans, are provided to help inform resource management programs. Maintenance methods, techniques, and schedules guide ongoing field operations, and a record-keeping system is provided to document work accomplished and changes in condition over time.” Olmstead Center for Landscape Preservation, http://www.nps.gov/oclp/morris_orchard_plan.htm

Endnotes 1. Paul Fussell, "My War," The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations (New York and Oxford, 1982), 265. 2. John Knox, The Siege of Quebec and the Campaigns in North America, 1757-1760, Brian Connell, ed., (Edinburgh, U.K., 1976, originally published 1769), 50. 3. John Chilton to brothers, 6 October 1776, John Chilton letters, A. Keith Family Papers, 1710-1916, Virginia Historical Society. Journal of Nahum Parker for six months service in the 15th Massachusetts Regiment, 3 July 1780-12 December 1780 (Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty - Land - Warrant Application Files, National Archives Microfilm Publication M804, reel 1874. 4. George Washington to Dr. John Cochrane, 16 August 1779, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 17451799, vol. 16 (Washington, DC, 1937), 116-117. 5. Joseph Plumb Martin, Private Yankee Doodle: A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier (New York, N.Y., 1962), 200-203. 6. Robert Goldthwaite Carter, Four Brothers in Blue (Austin, Tx. and London, 1979), 149-150. John Michael Priest, ed., John T. McMahon’s Diary of the 136th New York, 1861-1864 (Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Publishing Co., Inc., 1993), 43. W. Springer Menge and J. August Shimrak, eds., The Civil War Notebook of Daniel Chisholm: A Chronicle of Daily Life in the Union Army, 1864-1865 (New York: Orion Books,1989), 27. 7. Claire E. Swedberg, ed., Three Years With the 92nd Illinois: The Civil War Diary of John M. King (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1999), 87-88. Bell Irvin Wiley's The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union (Baton Rouge, La. and London, 1988), 238. 8. Robert Goldthwaite Carter, Four Brothers in Blue (Austin, Tx. and London, 1979), 84, 91, 451, 458. Some Carter letters not included in the article narrative: "On picket beyond Rappahannock river, Saturday night, November 1863": Walter Carter, probably promoted to corporal, "I am now ... living pretty well; even this morning out here on picket, I had toasted soft bread, butter, cheese, coffee and apple sauce; it was the result of a strike I made at a neighboring house, in our last camp. I lived in a small, wall tent, had a stone fireplace with cheerful evening fire in it, and had good things to eat; rations of hard bread, fired meat, boiled potatoes and dried apple sauce.” 366; "U.S. Sanitary Commission, City Point, Va., August 11, 1864." Walter Carter, "All our noncommissioned staff are here, and I am eating Jordan's cooked messes the first time in three months and a half. I have learned to cook in style during that time, I assure you. I am living with Soden, Hospital Steward, in a nice wall tent made of ponchos; we have nice bunks, covered with fly netting and filled with straw; we have a tin pail, wash basin, and everything comfortable, from the 'Sanitary' canned stuff, wines, etc. ... We guard the shops belonging to the Government ... I go over to get my soda water, ice cream, porter, and a little blackberry and sherry wine at times; Sam helps me to canned stuff, crackers, etc. ... Haze Goodrich is in charge of the Ninth Corps dispensary. I took dinner with him yesterday; he lives magnificently; he gave me a large box of goodies and a can of milk, not mentioning a glass of ale. Had bread and butter, apple sauce, and a boiled dish for dinner, bread pudding for dessert." 474-475.

9. John William De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures: A Union Captain’s Record of the Civil War, James H. Croushore, ed. (Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1996), 170 (hereafter cited as De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures). 10. Otto F. Bond, ed., Under the Flag of the Nation: Diaries and Letters of Owen Johnston Hopkins, a Yankee Volunteer in the Civil War (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1998), 91. Robert M. Utley, ed., Life in Custer’s Cavalry: Diaries and Letters of Albert and Jennie Barnitz, 1867-1868 (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1977), 46. 11. F. Jay Taylor, ed., Reluctant Rebel: The Secret Diary of Robert Patrick 1861-1865 (Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1996), 124 (hereafter cited as Taylor, Reluctant Rebel: The Secret Diary of Robert Patrick). De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures, 152, 167. 12. Diary of Allen C. Huber, Co. K, 138th Infantry, 35th Division, given to John Huskey following the war. Transcribed by Robert Huskey, grandson of John Huskey. World Wide Web, http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/missourians/johnhuskey.htm. Emil and Ruth Rosenblatt, eds., Hard Marching Every Day: The Civil War Letters of Private Wilbur Fisk, 1861-1865 (Lawrence, Ka., 1992), 45.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful