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Friday, September 9, 2011

Civil War Photo Friday: Foraging for supplies

In my Civil War horror novel, A Fine Likeness, the bushwhacker band at the center of the action stops off at a safehouse of rebel sympathizers. One of the residents is a disabled Confederate veteran who tells them his memories of the Battle of Wilson's Creek. Over dinner, one of the veteran's sisters remarks that they might as well have seconds, because Union troops had already taken most of their food, and will probably come back to take the rest.

Foraging for food was a common practice in both armies. Enduring long marches on bad or sometimes no rations, the troops couldn't resist grabbing a chicken or some apples. Multiply these individual thefts across several regiments, and the passage of an army could be worse than a visit from locusts.

This period engraving shows the Union army hard at work putting food on the table. The wagon is loaded with hay and barrels (of molasses? whiskey?) as the horseman on the left is having some trouble with a chicken. While this image is done in a humorous style, scenes like this wouldn't have been funny to farmers in the war zone.

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