Sowbelly and Hardtack

Food is perhaps the most common topic in letters that soldiers North and South wrote, including kinds of food at home they so desperately missed and food they would like to have shipped to them (butter was the most commonly requested item).  This section will focus specifically on the food they had in camp and while on the march.  Soldiers’ letters regularly include descriptions of the rations they were issued, and were frequently accompanied by complaints concerning the lack of quantity and quality of rations.  They also wrote about ways in which they supplemented their rations with items bought from sutlers or local people or foraged from the countryside while on the march.  The entries below are some selections from the CACWL glossaries.

 

able for one’s oats  adjective phrase  Figuratively: in possession of a healthy appetite.

April 12, 1863:  I am well and able for my rations such as they are  you complained alittle about not saying wether I was well or not in my last two  you may always take it for granted that I am able for my oats if I dont say sick. (John Boucher, CW Document Coll. MHI) Washington County, IL


'Baked beans,' as such, were mainly a Massachusetts delicacy.

baked beans  noun  In widespread use today, but in the 1860s limited mainly to New Englanders.

May 5, 1861:  I have just got up from the brackfast table where we had Bake Beans and Bake Indian pudding  ant [= aint] that good living. (Obed Davis, CW Document Coll. MHI) Suffolk County, MA

Dec. 9, 1861:  we have had Stewed Beans Since we have Ben here till we dug an oven in the ground and Paved it with Stones  it works well i tell you and we now Shall have Baked Beans as Long as we Stay here. (Joseph Barlow, Barlow Papers MHI) Essex County, MA

Dec. 8, 1862:  We have to Eat salt Poark Beef Steak stewed Beans Baked Beanes Rice but not eney squash Pie Nor mince Pie  I think Washington Pie would Go very well. (James Pratt, Pratt Papers MHI) Norfolk County, MA

 

blue beef  noun  Usually salted or brined (pickled) beef, but also apparently used for poor quality beef in general.

March 26, 1863:  I tel you we nead something migtey Bad from home  we have not Drawd a handful of flower since we left North Carolina  we get the worsed kind of corn meal and some old Blew Beef and that is some of it Kiled a weak Before we get it  you can gess how we fair  you have a eye dea [= idea] how Beff is that is kiled this time a year without it is fattend. (Isaac Lefevers, Lefevers Papers NCSA) Catawba County, NC

 

bull pudding  noun  See citation; same as skillygalee

Jan. 24, 1863:  perhaps you would like to know how a bull puding is made  it is made of hardbread [= hardtack] soked and jamed [= mashed] up fin  beef and pork cut pretty fine  soked dried apple and a little sugar. (Alvin Brackett, Harrisburg CW Roundtable Coll. MHI) Cumberland County, ME

 

Confederate coffee  noun  Any of several substitutes for coffee.  In the Southern Civil War letters, the most common substitutes mentioned are rye and wheat, which were parched (roasted) and ground.  Civil War-era Southern newspapers often contained “receipts” for making coffee substitutes from barley, acorns, cotton seed, sweet potatoes, okra, chicory, and almost any grain or starchy vegetable that could be roasted and ground.  See also rye coffee.

Feb. 21, 1863:  the boys have fine times here they all appear to have plenty to eat that is Bread & meat  Confederate Coffee & Shugar in abundance. (John Kiracofe, Kiracofe Letters Duke) Rockingham County, VA

 

corn pone  noun  See  pone (of bread).

 


The distribution of the use of the term 'cracker.'

cracker  noun  A thin, hard biscuit.  See Map. See also hard tack. [According to Bartlett (1848) the word “seems to be peculiar to the United States.” Although in widespread use in the 1860s, Southerners appear to have used cracker as an alternative to hard tack, a term rarely used by Confederate soldiers.]

Aug. 7, 1862:  tha all say tha ar all tierd of eating crackers and tha all ar in the dough up to thar elbows and I reckin I had beter git at it too or tha mite mak the boye chew crakers and my teeth is all brouk out now eating the turnel things. (A. P. Ward, Whitner Papers Duke) Catawba County, NC

Oct. 12, 1862:  we have crackers to eat that it would take a man six feet high with sledge hammer and anville to brake them.(Stephen Johnston, Johnston-Brown Papers MHI) Mercer County, OH

Feb. 25, 1863:  we have A lieutenant in the Regiment that says he saw when we was down the River Crackers with the letters .BC. Branded on them showing they had been Baked before the Christian Era commenced. (Isaac Marsh, Marsh Papers Duke) Lucas County, IA

Aug. 2, 1863:  We have verry warm weather now and plenty of strong bacon and wormy crackers to eat. (C. A. Hege, Hege Papers MHI) Davidson County, NC

April 24, 1864:  them that is at bristol gets only three crackers a day to the man and Jess said that there was not any thing to be got in ten miles of camp. (J. A. McMurtrey, McMurtrey Letters Emory) Fulton County, GA

 

cracker line  noun  A line of supply.

Dec. 19, 1864:  old hood and forest has ben here to See us  forest Surounded this plase about twenty dase ago tho he wold not Cum in reach of ower gunes tho he had ower Cracker lines Cut of[f]. (W. S. Carson, Carson Family Papers GDAH) Bradley County, TN

 

cush  noun  A dish made with cornmeal stirred into hot bacon greese. [DARE  chiefly South]

July 23, 1864:  we have Bacon to eat that you would use to make Sop [= soap] of tho we wash it and get the grese and them mak it in to cush. (W. S. Robinson Robinson Papers Duke) Tuscaloosa County, AL

 

desecrated potatoes  noun plural  Probably an intentional malapropism of desiccated potatoes. Union troops were issued desiccated vegetables during the war. [see HDAS desecrated, adjective]

March 13, 1863:  we draw Cofee tea Rice Sugar Beans homany Soap and Canels [= candles] and Desecrated potatoes. (Simeon Royse, Royce Papers Duke) Washington County, IN

 

dodger, corn dodger  noun  A small cake of cornbread fried in a pan or baked (see citations). [The 1865 citation is from a letter by a New York soldier stationed in eastern North Carolina; DARE  South, South Midland]

July 18, 1862:  me and J. P. Freeman went out a wnsday while we was at the River & baught 4 doggers of corn Bread. (Henry Robinson, Robinson Letters Emory) Jackson County, GA

Feb. 2, 1863:  now I must quit and fix to go to the factory  I have just got word to Start this evenings[o] I must bake My doger and go. (Mary Driskell, Caldwell Collection ECU) Paulding County, Ga

Aug. 4, 1864:  I expect to remain in the confederate army so long as Jeph has a corn doggers and Skeleton beef for his Disciples. (Jesse Everhart, Everhart Letter WHM-C) Callaway County, MO

April 9, 1865:  one of them said we have no flower but plenty of corn dodgers in a little while dinner was reddy and as we took our chairs around the table anuther one said weans have no butter but youns can wallop your dodgers in our gravy. (James Beard, James Beard Papers MHI) Duplin County, NC

 

doddles  noun  Animal excrement. [see CUD doddles (sheep dung) and dottles (hen droppings)]

Dec. 3, 1864:  we got one turkey one chicken and animels supposed to be geese but we pronunced them doddels and did not eat them. (James Beard, Beard Papers MHI) St. Lawrence County, NY 

 

flatcake  noun  A pancake, a flapjack. [DARE flatcake, noun]

Oct. 26, 1862:  ward is as happy as a clam  he likes unkle sams flat cakes so well that he is eating them all the time. (Alfred Holcomb, CW Document Coll. MHI) Hampden County, MA

 

flipper  noun  A pancake, flapjack. [DARE  especially New England]

Jan. 1, 1863:  I have just bin to dinner  had flippers  good to[o]  had spider Cake yesterday. (James Pratt, Pratt Papers MHI) Norfolk County, MA 

 

flitter  noun  A kind of pancake made from a batter and either deep-fried or fried in a skillet. See fritter.

April 18, 1862:  easter is nere  cume down and take breackfast with us and we will fill a egg and stick flitter  knock a virgin pullet in the head  stew sum Suthern coffey for breackfast. (Mary Lockmiller, Lockmiller Papers Emory) Meigs County, TN

June 20, 1862:  you must come and tak a bate of fliters with me and al  come and see how good we can fri them. (William Watkins, Watkins Papers Emory) Franklin County, GA

July 27, 1862:  I cook some times two  fryen flitters &c  our cook ran away and has gone home.  (J. J. Davis, James Davis Papers Duke) Itawamba County, MS

 

fritter  noun  Fried bread made from a batter and either deep-fried or fried in a skillet (like a griddle-cake or pancake). See also flitter.

Feb. 15, 1863:  I have got all most tird out on fritters  We have had no other bred hardly sence we hav been keping bachlors hall  miller and martin is the Cooks. (John J. Taylor, Taylor Papers Duke) Orange County, NC

 

gollop  noun  Food swallowed in haste. [DARE gollop, noun; OED gollop, noun,“A greedy or hasty gulp”; see also EDD gollop]

April 28, 1863:  times is hard hear harder than I ever thout that I should se  they give us Branch water and gollop for Brexfus dinner and supper. (Joseph Cowand, Cowan Papers Duke) Bertie County, NC

 

gritter  noun  A grater. [DARE  chiefly South Midland]

April 24, 1863:  Wee made the Canteens into grittirs to grate our corn and wee Brild our meat on the Coals and travaid on to the ohio river. (J. N. Levi, Levi Letters TSLA) Hamilton County, TN 

 


Southerners apparently did not eat 'grub' -- or at least, they did not call it such.

grub  noun  Provisions, food, rations.  Although the term was common in the Northern states, it was very rare in the South.  See Map. [Bartlett’s Americanisms (1848)]

April 13, 1862:  we hafto cary our grub too miles thrugh the mud and you beter beleve that we havehard times. (Henry Huffer, Huffer Letters MHI) Bartholomew County, IN 

July 28, 1862:  he said he could Sympathace with me for his mouth was as bad as mine it is not any  way dangerous but very disagreeable on the account of grub. (Harvey Miller, Miller Letters IHS) Cass County, IN 

Sept. 10, 1862:  wee have plenty of grub if wee Cood git it but tha Codent git eny teams to hall it.  (Isaac Liston, Liston Letters IHS) Vigo County, IN

Oct. 20, 1862:  I am getting t[i]red eating the grub we have here and I want you to send me a box of provison. (W. J. Helsley, Helsley Papers FHS) Trumbull County, OH

Aug. 17, 1864:  all the Citisens has to Come to our commissary to get their grub  all the cuntry is cleard of every Chicken an rostenyear [= roasting ear]. (Joseph Skipworth, Skipworth Papers SIU) Jackson County, IL

Feb. 28, 1864:  Wm Whited and my self is A going to chattanooga to morrow to see if that box of grub is ther. (Strader Evans, Evans Papers MHI) Vermilion County, IL 

March 27, 1864:  I got up a requsition for Better grub and more of it. (W. J. Johnson, H. M. Johnson Papers Duke) Hillsdale County, MI

April 1, 1864:  Ely Williams eating his grub he has been out on garde. (Thomas LaRue, LaRue Papers MHI) Benton County, IA

Aug. 5, 1864:  I hope this will find you all well and able for your grub. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL

Aug. 6, 1864:  I was detaild at midnight to go to Welton eight mils to git mules for to pack hour grub.  (J. S. Fellows, Fellows Letters MHI) Cerro Gordo County, IA 

March 30. 1865:  you asked about our grub wee have plenty to eate and a good bead to Sleep on. (Samuel Reeves, Reeves Letters Notre Dame) Knox County, IN

 

hard cracker  noun  See hardtack.

July 5, 1861:  all we have had to eat were one hard cracker 4 inches square and coffee. (George Rapp, Rapp Papers FHS) Delaware County, OH

Oct. 27, 1861:  hard crackers is our princaple bread. (David Baker, Baker Papers FHS) Lake County, IL

 


‘Hardtack’ became a popular term among Union soldiers during the war.

hardtack  noun  A ship-biscuit, a square of hard, unleavened bread equivalent to sea biscuit; also refered to by soldiers as cracker, hard cracker, or hard bread (also short form tack).  Most likely hardtack is an Americanism, although it is not listed in either the 1848 or 1859 edition of Bartlett’s Americanisms. The earliest OED citation is from an 1836 issue of The Knickerbocker or New York Monthly Magazine, and there are only two citations which that predate the Civil War. The term apparently caught on with Union soldiers early in the war as a way of denigrating the quality of their rations, but is rare among Southerners except for those serving in the Union Army.  Florida Confederate Wilbur Gramling was a prisoner of war at Elmira, New York when he used the word in his diary in January 1865.  See Map.

Dec. 24, 1862:  I should like to be at home to morrow very well and help to eat good Christmas Dinner but I cannot be thare and will have to content myself with hard tack and sow Belly. (W. J. Helsley, Helsley Papers FHS) Trumbull County, OH

Jan. 20, 1863:  we have whole rations of coffee and sugar. and some times Molasses. we also have hard crackers or hard tack as we call them, and Bacon or Sow Belly. (Israel Atkins, Atkins Papers MHC) Shiawassee County, MI 

Jan. 23, 1863:  you Will find the hard tack as bad as henry Said  to day i broke three hard tack into A tin cup of Coffee and Skimed 15 worms off of it and they Would average from A half an inch to an inch long and besides the most of them are full of littel bugs but then it is nothing after you get uste to it. (Edward Cotter, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Monroe County, NY

Feb. 8, 1863:  we shal have hard tack and cold water for dinner  I wish you could have some hard tack  you would have to have some new teeth. (Benjamin Hatch, CW Document Coll. MHI) Windsor County, VT

March 11, 1863:  i was To work down on the dock yesterday onloading a large vesel called the Arago it is a large one i tell you  They say she had on bord 8,000 boxes of hard tacks that is caled crakers.  (William Pedrick, Pedrick Papers Duke) Fulton County, NY 

April 20, 1863:  we have plenty of hard tacks and fat meat to eat  coffe & shugar and beens.  (Timothy Rardin, Rardin Letters SRNB) Clay County, IN 

April 24, 1863:  they are frade of the 9 mounths men  feer they will shoote them  the Rebes call them Harde Tacks for they will sell their cattriges for Harde Tac they Relive us on Picket  as soon as they com on poste our boys comense hollowing Hard Tacks and soon as the Rebes hears that it is Hard Tacks they wount say a worde to them for they are down on them. (William A. Smith, Smith Letters MHI) Chester County, PA

Jan. 12, 1864:  a few minits ago I finished my dinner  it consisting of bean soop Sowbelly & hard tack [I] eat five tack. (John Rhoades, Lewis Leigh Coll. MHI) Miami County, OH

Jan. 12, 1864:  thare was an engine to run over the road to day and a train to come in to morow loaded with hard tack. (Charles Caley, Caley Corr. Notre Dame) Lake County, OH

Nov. 26, 1864:  we had to pitch our tents & get our Suppers make coffee & fry our meat & eat our hard tack  the hard tack is crackers about 4 inches Square ½ inch thick. (Henry Rowe, Rowe Letters SRNB) Buffalo County, WI

Jan. 30, 1865:  no news worth relating all quiet still getting hardtack. (Wilbur Gramling, Gramling Diary FSA) Leon County, FL

 

hoecake  noun  A cake of cornbread fried in a skillet; the name supposedly comes from the former practice of cooking the bread in the field on the blade of a hoe.  [DARE  chiefly South, South Midland]

Aug. 3, 1861:  I dreamed last night that I was at home and I thought that I was eating Roastenears and hoe cake and butter. (Hiram Camp, Camp-Reynolds Papers GDAH) Coweta County, GA

May 25, 1862:  if you get this letter befour hamp leaves send me a little butter and lard to shorten our old leather hoe cake. (Stafford Thigpen, Kirkland Coll. GDAH) Coffee County, GA 

July 13, 1862:  I went out in the Cuntry tother day and giv a quarter of a dollar for a little hoe cake of corn bread and hit was burnt on one side and had no Salt in hit but I eat hit all at once and thort hit was mity good. (Hillory Shifflet, Shifflet Letters MOHS) Madison County, KY

 

hog jaw, jaw  noun  variant form of hog jowl. See jowl. [DARE  chiefly TN, KY, AR]

June 4, 1862:  Wee have A Plenty to eat  Such as it is  We have Pickles Beef and hogs Jaws a plenty.  (W. W. Brown, W. W. Brown Papers Duke) Stewart County, GA

June 4, 1862:  we dont get any meat but hog Jaws & beef & after this weak weak we will get 2 lbs of spilt bacon one pint of surup [as] much rice as we want & meal & a little flour also a little coffee & suger. (Thomas Woodham, Woodham Papers UGA) Stewart County, GA

Feb. 2, 1863:  So She went to the Smoke house and Sold me a Jaw and then give me about two pound  of sausage meat. (J. A. McMurtrey, McMurtrey Letters Emory) Fulton County, GA

Feb. 16, 1863:  we are camped too miles from Rodgersville on the hoalston river we get plenty hog jawes and meal and flower. (Jesse Rector, Rector Papers UTA) Rhea County, TN

 

hog meat  noun  Pork. [DARE  South, South Midland]

Dec. 24, 1861:  We fare a good deal better than we did last week.  Then we did not get nothing hardly but the meanest kind of pickled beef but now we get right Smart hog meat & fresh beef. (J. C. Tharp, Tharp Letters TSLA) Fayette County, TN

Jan. 30, 1862:  we get nothing to eat except Beef and that is so por that you can See how to shoot Black Birds threw them  Tom we have not see a bit of hog meat sence par was up hear and I am getting so poor that I cannot hardly walk. (James Muire, Muire Papers VHS) King and Queen County, VA

Feb. 23, 1862:  we git A plenty of beafe to eate and we git some hog meat to  we git flour and Crackers to. (William Hale, Kinny-Prater Coll. UGA) Jackson County, GA

Sept. 30, 1862:  we have not marched much for the last ten days and it looks like thay are trying to feed us to death now, thay are giving us eny quantity of fresh beef and fresh hog meat. (James Booker,Booker Coll. UVA) Pittsylvania County, VA

Dec. 19, 1862:  we have a mong us yet a bout 75 pounds of hog meat that we brout from home. (A. H. Lister, Lister Papers USC) Greenville District, SC

 

Indian pudding  noun  A dish made from cornmeal and molasses. [Bartlett’s Americanisms (1859); DARE  chiefly New England]

May 5, 1861:  I have just got up from the brackfast table where we had Bake Beans and Bake Indian pudding  ant that good living. (Obed Davis, CW Document Coll. MHI) Suffolk County, MA

 

johnny cake  noun  A pancake made with cornmeal. See slapjack. [Bartlett’s Americanisms (1848); DARE  scattered, but chiefly North]

Dec. 28, 1862:  we have A Dutch oven in which we bake our corn meal or sometimes we make jonny cakes. (Charles Lutz, Lutz Papers MHI) Stephenson County, IL 

March 20, 1863:  I come off from picket yesterday had a first rate time  got all the milk I wanted & some johny cake & goose eggs for diner. (Norman Markham, Markham Papers FHS) Hillsdale County, MI

 

jowl  noun  The cheek meat of a hog; variant form jole. See hog jaw. [DARE  chieflySouth, South Midland]

May 18, 1862:  we hav flour an musky corn meal and beef and somtimes Hogs Jole and coffee and suger or molases an wee hav nothing to cook it in. (W. T. Farmer, Farmer Family Letters GDAH) Wilkinson County, GA 

Feb. 26, 1863:  If I had what we throad away last year I could live fine.  Yes if I had them old line peaces of meat and hock joynts & joles I could make it get further. (J. T. Knight, Knight Letters TSLA) Wood County, TX

 


‘Light bread’ was widespread in the Midland and South.

light bread  noun  Loaf bread made with yeast. See Map. [DARE  chiefly South, South Midland, OK, TX]

Jan. 7, 1862:  we have for breakfast a small pice of light bread and half a tin of coffee. (John Boucher, CW Document  Coll. MHI) Washington County, IL

March 7, 1862:  we have beefe bacon potatoes (Irish) peas light bread and good warm corn bread and molases. (W. S. Shockley, Shockley Papers Duke) Jackson County, GA

March 27, 1862:  This is a beutiful place, and the Sick Souldiers have enjoyed themselves verry Well,  The ladys come in all the time, Bring Chicken, Lite bread, pies and any thing one could want. (J. A. Harris, Harris Letters Emory) Claiborne Parish, LA

April 22, 1862:  we git plenty to eat now  we get sugar and coffe bacon sometimes lite bread corn meal & flower & crackers. (John C. Hartsel, Apperson Papers VPI) Franklin County, VA

Aug. 15, 1862:  we eat out breakfast which is sometimes Coffee Bacon or beef stued aples and corn if we go after them and Light bread. (Jonathan Herrold, Herrold Letters FHS) LaPorte County, IN 

Feb. 12, 1864:  we have not had any potatoes but twse [= twice] for five or six months  Neathe[r] have I had A bite of lite bread for near four months. (Clark Whitten, Whitten Papers MHI) Lucas County, IA

May 10, 1864:  we draw flower. crackers light bread sugar and coffee soap candles beans vinegar bacon bef pickel pork pepper &c. (W. H. Chapman, Chapman Family Papers TSLA) Campbell County, TN

 

liver and lights  noun  The edible organs of a pig or other livestock; lights refers specifically to the lungs. [DSME liver and lights, noun]

April 8, 1864:  I have saw 40 wagons in a Company hunting corn and finding none  when it comes to killing frames [= emaciated livestock] of Cows Just to get the liver & lites to eat you may say it is hard times. (N. J. Cloer, Lewis Leigh Coll. MHI) Macon County, NC

 

meal’s victuals, meal of victuals (also vitals, vitls, vitualsnoun phrase  The amount of food that would be consumed at a single meal. See also victuals.  [EDD meal, sb.1. 1. (4).]

Sept. 18, 1861:  there is never a meals of vitals eat here by our croud but what there is some one is quarling about not gitting a nuff to eat. (Furniaful George, F. George Papers Duke) Wayne County, GA

April 23, 1862:  I hant had a d[a]ys sickness to mis a Meals vituals sens I left home the first time. (D. M. Hitt, Confederate Miscellany Emory) Cherokee County, GA

May 25, 1862:  I can truly say without jokeing that we can make as nice A meals victuals as I ever saw any where. (Jasper Gillespie, Gillespie Papers GDAH) Monroe County, GA

June 22, 1862:  I have heard Several Soldiers Say they have oferd five Dollars for one Meal of Vituals  I heard one Man Say that had oferd twenty Dollars for one Meal of Vituals & Could not get it. (W. T. Martin, W. T. Martin Papers Emory) Pickens District, SC

July 11, 1862:  I want to eate one more meals vitls of your cuokin befor I die. (Thomas Woodham, Woodham Papers UGA) Stewart County, GA

Nov. 6, 1862:  wee have in ower mes to regler Coocks wee pay fifty cents amonth  for Cooking  whin tha gite a meals vitls redy wee all Snatch ande pull hoo will gite his plate ful firste. (Isaac Liston, Liston Letters IHS) Vigo County, IN

March 21, 1863:  i wood giv ten dolers for one good meeles of vittels but we cant git it here for love nor monney. (Solon Fuller, Fuller Papers Duke) Randolph County, AL

 

middling  noun  The side meat of a hog. [DARE  chiefly South, South Midland]

Feb. 6, 1863:  Some body Stold 9 midlings of meat & 7 Joints from John Pitmans wife. (Henry Robinson, Robinson Letters Emory) Jackson County, GA

Oct. 17, 1863:  I will tel you Sumthing about our fair [= fare] doun [= down here?] it is ruff Scillitcake  cold at that  verry often burnt on the outside an raw in the midle  fat middlin Sum times  beef and pickeld pork that not good. (R. C. Caldwell, Caldwell Collection ECU) Cabarrus County, NC

Feb. 21, 1864:  I have put in a midling and a ham and some meal and flour and a chees box full of butter and one pound cake and some fruit and rye. (Margret Box, Box Family Papers USC) Laurens District, SC  

Feb.14, 1865:  I will name the things that I want  some buter a polk of flower [= a poke of flour] a pese of meet of a middling and some sower crout and a pese of Soap and a few buiscuits. (James A. Smith, J.A. Smith Papers Duke) Cabarrus County, NC

 

mustard salad  noun  Mustard greens.

June 5, 1863:  we can by just any thing we want that is to eat from Mustard sallad to pound Cake.  (Henry Misemer, Misemer Letters TSLA) Monroe County, TN 

 

nicknack, nicnac  noun  A snack, food item, delicacy. [OED knickknack | nicknack, noun, 2.a; DARE knickknack noun1, especially South, Mississippi Valley]

Oct. 1, 1862:  I have drawed my bounty but will not send it home by male. I expect to keep the most of my money with me for a man needs money in camps to by little nick nack. (J. T. Knight, Knight Letters TSLA) Wood County, TX

July 20, 1862:  wee can buy Some little nicnacks by paying a hi prise for it  I bought me som cucubers and paid 50 cts for 7  potatoes is Seling at 25 cts a quart that is dear eating. (C. M. Epperly, Epperly Letters GLC) Floyd County, VA

Dec. 18, 1862:  Tell Julius and Mary to send me some chestnuts, grassnuts, and ground peas and pies. I hope that you will not think hard of me for writing for more clothing &c because I need them very much here and as to eatables [and] nicnacs  they are very scarce here. (C. A. Hege, Hege Papers MHI) Davidson County, NC

Nov. 18, 1864:  we will have Short & rough fare this winter but there is tapisters going threw the camp with nicknacks for sale  the Sell Sweet potaters at a dollar a pound  Irish potaters a dollar a quart  two turnups Small ones for a dollar  appels 4 little ones for a dollar  pies as big as a hand for a dollar. (John Peterson, Peterson Papers Duke) Catawba County, NC

 

Old Ned  noun  Fat salt pork, bacon. [DSME old Ned, noun, 1; DARE  chiefly South, South Midland]

Dec. 21, 1862:  I have to gow to put on some of old Nead to cook to pursurve life. (Phillip Shull, Councill Papers Duke) Watauga County, NC

June 7, 1863:  We are doing very well here living in cane tents have drawed new Oil Blankets plenty hard crackers Old ned sugar &coffee  so we are perfectly at home. (John Boucher, CW Document Coll. MHI) Washington County, IL

 

parched corn  noun  Dried corn that is shelled and roasted in a skillet, commonly eaten by soldiers when no other food was available. [see DARE parch, verb]

Feb. 2, 1862:  we was on the retreat all day and eat nothing for 2 or three days and when we did get some Thing To eat it was parched corn. (Noble Stone, N. L. Stone Letter SRNB) Bedford County, TN

May 11, 1862:  We Com very Nearly Starving on they way. We went 3 Days and nights without Eny thing to Eat but a little parched Corn. (Henry Talley, Talley Papers VHS) Mecklenburg County, VA

March 12, 1862:  it is harde times we air liven on half rashing  the was two days we hade to live on parch corn. (Jesse Fuller, Confederate Miscellany Emory) Itawamba County, MS 

June 22, 1862:  I have heard A Many A Soldier Say that he had March three Days on eating parch Corn. (W. T. Martin, W. T. Martin Papers Emory) Pickens District, SC

Jan. 19, 1863:  the fight hear lasted Seven day and a great portion of the time the men Sufferd for food  their was portion of the time the men lived on parched Corn. (Lewis Dunn, Dunn Letters FHS) Grayson County, KY

Jan. 23, 1863:  we had to do the best we could in the rain and snow and had nothing to eat for one day and night but parched corn and it raining and snow ing all the time. (J. A. McMurtrey, McMurtrey Letters Emory) Fulton County, GA

Nov. 13, 1864:  We left Pealmetta  Ga Sep. the 29 and March for 35 Dayes Strat A long  a the rates of 18 mile A Day and A Bout  A half  nof to eate thar Was one tim We had to liv on Parch Corn thre Days. (Thomas Warrick, Warrick Papers ADAH) Coosa County, AL

 

plate pie  noun  A flat pie with a minimal amount of filling. [DARE plate pie, noun]

July 13, 1862:  buter is one dollar an twenty five cents a pound  coffee is 2,50 a pound  sugar is 75 cents pound  and a plate pie is 50 cents a peace. (Daniel Gilley, Letters Home, the CW Letters of D. H. Gilley npn) Henry County, VA

Sept. 6, 1863:  I will tell you that small plait pies is Worth one dollar apease and but little frute in them  appels and peeches from 50 cts to $100 per dosent  the frute is very hie hear. (J. J. Amick, Amick Papers USC) Lexington District, SC

 


'Pone' enjoyed limited usage during the Civil War, being largely confined to a small subset of Southern speakers.

pone (of bread), corn pone  noun  A flat loaf or cake of cornbread. See map. [OED pone, noun2, from “Virginia Algonquian apones, appoans bread (with -s taken as the plural ending)”; DARE  chiefly South, South Midland]

Nov. 10, 1861:  send me A pone of loaf coarn bread & one of wheat bread  ill tell you I am geting the tirdes of beef & wheat bread you ever saw. (W. T. Martin, W. T. Martin Papers Emory) Pickens District, SC

Feb. 27, 1863:  I hav got mee A pone on to Rais then I think I can Eat my supper. (J. W. Reese, Reese Papers Duke) Buncombe County, NC

Jan. 17, 1864:  I hate to Beg But i want you to send me some Buter and A Poan of Bread the first chance. (Joseph Templeton, Templeton Letters USC) York District, SC

April 21, 1864:  the boys at the camp is very kind  they come two or three every day  Lieutenant Allison Stefen Clark and two others come to day Stephen Clark baked a very nice pone of bread and fetched to me and W W Allison sent me a piece of bacon  it is as good pone as I ever eat. (Alvira Taylor, Taylor Papers Duke) Orange County, NC

Nov. 18, 1864:  we get about half Pound of Bacon for two Days and corn bread ready baked with the brand [= bran] in it  we get a pone Some biger then one hand for one day rashens  that is about all that we get. (John Peterson, Peterson Papers Duke) Catawba County, NC

 

ration  noun  A regular allowance of provision, a fixed amount of food; numerous variant forms, especially rashing. [OED ration, noun, 3.a. (earliest citation from 1687)]

April 27, 1862:  it takes near all the Money that I make to by Some thing to eat for our Rashing is Short. (W. W. Brown, W. W. Brown Papers Duke) Stewart County, GA 

June 4, 1862:  government hasent giv me any thing yet only a tent & ole musket & catrige box  if I hav to mov a way from hear I hav nothing to carie my cloas in nor my rastins. (Thomas Woodham, Woodham Papers UGA) Stewart County, GA

June 28, 1862:  we have but 2 frying pans & one Skillet to our compney I got Rashings cooket fur 5 of us fur 50 cents. (Henry Robinson, Robinson Letters Emory) Jackson County, GA

Sept. 4, 1862:  we taken manasas and got what we all wanted to Eat and tuck 2 Days Rasins with us and Burnt up the plaice. (E. B. Coggin, Coggin Papers ADAH) Chambers County, AL

Oct. 23, 1862:  I am roused up to nigt at 1 oclock to pack up our clothing and prepare three days rashing and be ready to march at a moment warning. (John Jefcoat, Jefcoat Papers Duke) Orangeburg District, SC

Nov. 14, 1862:  We do not fare much better now for We draw too days rashing and eat up in one.  (Daniel Boyd, Boyd Papers Duke) Abbeville District, SC

Dec. 29, 1862:  you tell them I have Ben Living on half Racherns of steer untwel I am as fat as you no what. (Joseph Cowand, Cowan Papers Duke) Bertie County, NC

Feb. 10, 1863:  we have drawed our rashings and we have throwed them a way and bought a apart of what we eat. (J. A. McMurtrey, McMurtrey Letters Emory) Fulton County, GA

May 6. 1863:  orders has come for us to keep three days rashing cooked on hand. (Reuben Buckley,  Buckley Letters MSU) Scott County, MS

June 16, 1863:  We are a going on after the yankes to Wards martinsburg  We have stop to cook rasherins. (J. H. Hundley, Hundley Letters SHC) Stokes County, NC

 


‘Roasting ear’ was especially common in the South.

roasting ear (also rosten ear, rosten year, rosen ear, rosen year)  noun  Immature field corn suitable for cooking, roasting (in the shuck, as in the ashes of a fire). Scattered in the Midland but most common in the South. See Map.

Aug. 17, 1861:  Rosenyears are geting so they will do to eat but cant get them at any price. (D. N. McCorkle, Civil War Collection NCSA) Catawba County, NC

Aug. 24, 1861:  I have not had a taste of a Roasting Ear this year yet their have been a good many in camp but I can ardly get the sight of them. (John J. Hileman, Hileman Letters, Lewis Leigh Coll. MHI) Rockbridge County, VA

Aug. 25, 1861:  hear is plenty of fruit an water mellons an ground peas for Sale  heare corn is fine an just in rosen years  (B. L. Mobley, Mobley Papers Emory) Burke County, GA

Sept. 9, 1861:  this is a fine country down here  we press peaches tell you cant rest  we get the verry roasneers  we cant see any montains dwn here  we have splendid water down here  If we want any corn we Just go to corn field and get it. (J. B. Painter, Painter Letters UVA) Botetourt Co. VA

Aug. 14, 1862:  I want yew to make mee apeach pye and eate it for mee and cook som beans and rosenyears to geather and yew and the children eate them for me. (James Lockmiller, Lockmiller Papers Emory) Meigs County, TN

Aug. 27, 1862:  we hav Been liveing on Rosting years 56 Days. (Wilburn Thompson, Thompson Papers Duke) Milton County, GA

Sept. 18, 1862:  i went 3 Days and never eat noth ing but Roastin years. (Amos Dalton, Dalton Family Papers USC) Greenville District, SC

Sept. 22, 1862:  we Suffer for Something to eate & something to war  we hav to Steal rosen ears.  (Thomas Woodham, Woodham Papers UGA) Stewart County, GA

Oct. 16, 1862:  I have Seen very hard times on this march. I lived on Rosenyears for a week  Some times we would march all day and when we would Stop for the night we would Detail fore or five men from Each Co. and Send after Corn. and we would Rost Corn and Eat until our Bellies was as tight as an old Bast Drumb. (Henry Talley, Talley Papers VHS) Mecklenburg County, VA

June 19, 1863:  the corn is growing finely  It is silking & Tassleing and Some is in roasting Ears. (W. H. Harden, Harden Papers Emory) Pike County, GA

July 8, 1863:  I Saw one corn Silk this year and I expect you have rosonears before this Time. (J. H. Lacy, Athey Letters ADAH) Montgomery County, AL 

May 1, 1864:  They have not planted very much corn here yet  the first I saw planted was the 26th They said that tha was a going to plant the next week  they was a planting a rosting neer patch then.  (P. J. Peterson, Peterson Papers Duke) Catawba County, NC

July 11, 1864:  I can be Able after this time to sende you all the rosten years you wish as thar will be aplenty. (A. B. Parks, Rice Family Papers MSU) Oktibbeha County, MS 

July 17, 1864:  rosen ears will soon be plenty  we can git beans now  i had a good mess the other day just by picken them. (W. L. Brown, W. L. Brown Papers ETSU) Knox County, TN

Sept. 12, 1864:  Well wouldent I like to have some of your fryed chickens and rosting years and biscut. (Reuben Buckley, Buckley Letters MSU) Scott County, MS  

 

rye coffee  noun  A coffee substitute made from parched rye. See also Confederate coffee, wheat coffee.  [OED rye, noun1, rye coffeeU.S. a drink resembling coffee, made from roasted rye” (citations as early as 1766)]

Dec. 16, 1861:  I wish you would send me some ry or barly for coffy our coffy is getting scarse. (Daniel Cushwa, Cushwa Papers VHS) Berkeley County, WV

Jan. 12, 1862:  we are going down to wilmington  I think we will fare beter thare then we do hear for we fare but midling at this plase  I will tell you what we have to eat  beef and bread an Rhy Coffee   some time a few molasses an some none. (James Keever, Keever Papers Duke) Lincoln County, NC

July 14, 1862:  buef [= beef] lite bred for super & breckfus ry coffe & bred. (Thomas Woodham, Woodham Papers UGA) Stewart County, GA

Jan. 17, 1864:  we dont get bread anuf  we draw bread loof So mucha day  wee:get half a pound of meet a day it is So Stinkin I cant go it and ry coffe  that is our ras [= ration]. (R. C. Caldwell, Caldwell Collection ECU) Cabarrus County, NC

 

sad bread  noun  Bread that is heavy, dense, or soggy. [DSME sad, adjective; DARE chiefly Midland, South]

Nov. 7, 1861:  the living is so hard that I am nerly Starved owt on it  ole bacon mene beef and Sad bread. (C. F. Mills, Mills Papers Duke) Iredell County, NC

 

saleratus  noun  Baking soda (sodium bicabonate). [DARE  chiefly North, especially North East]

Dec. 24, 1862:  Please send some black peper and saliratus when you send a box and send some in letters before if you dont send the box prety soon. (Albert Carter, CW Document Coll. MHI) Worcester County, MA

 


‘Salt horse’ was mainly a Northeastern term.

salt horse  noun   Beef which has been preserved with salt. [DARE  especially New England]

April 25, 1862:  we shal not starve very quick for we draw what we want to eat such as it is  it is not the best that ever was some times it is salt horse and split peas. (Alfred Holcomb, CW Document Coll. MHI) Hampden County, MA 

Oct. 25, 1862:  I haint bin home sick yet  I dont no but I shall but I am good courage for we get hard bread and salt horse the boys call it. (Elisha Turner, Elisha Turner Papers MHI) Cumberland County, ME

Nov. 27, 1862:  it is Thanksgiving to day and I think it seams a good deall like it to  good salt horse for supper [a] little bread and tea is good a nuff for eny man  it will fat a man more than enything he can eat. (Jairus Hammond, CW Document Coll. MHI) Franklin County, MA

Jan. 30, 1864:  you wanted to know what Salt horse was  it is beef Salted down maby a year old & maby older  it is what the boys calls Salt horse. (William Pedrick, Pedrick Papers Duke) Fulton County, NY 

April 19, 1863:  you wanted to know our fair  we have salt horse rice hominy beans Coffee hard bred pork tea potatoes and fresh meat and soft bred when we can get them. (James Lovering, CW Document Coll. MHI) Middlesex County, MA

 

salt junk  noun  Meat preserved in salt; see Lockwood citation in the sea biscuit entry. [OED junk, noun2, 3. “transf. orig. Naut. The salt meat used as food on long voyages, compared to pieces of rope”]

Sept. 7, 1862:  i got a little hard bread and a little salt junk which i Left behind. (James Pratt, Pratt Papers MHI) Norfolk County, MA 

April 5, 1863:  we have to eat now nothing but hard Bread and salt junck. we had a few Potatoes yesterday and they tasted good I tell you. (Edwin Lane, CW Document Coll. MHI) Bristol County, MA

June 18, 1865:  we got a Plenty of Blackberys and Plums now and they fill up the inner man better than Salt Junk. (Joseph Barlow, Barlow Papers MHI) Essex County, MA

 

sea biscuit  noun  A hard square of dry bread eaten by sailors; see hard tack.

Sept. 12, 1861:  Sea Biscuit Salt Junk an coffe twice a day and that dealt out in regular rations and that is our regular Fare. (George Lockwood, Wilder Family Corr. WHS) Jefferson County, WI

Nov. 27, 1862:  last year I had a thanksgiving supper out to sea on board of the Constitution and a grand supper it wase to  about the same as this one will bee  gess then we had some nice sea biscuit and salt horse and Coffee. (Jairus Hammond, CW Document Coll. MHI) Franklin County, MA

 

scrapple  noun  A mixture of minced pork scraps with spices and flour or meal, then boiled and when cooled, formed into congealed loaves before being sliced and fried. Cf. pudding, souse.  [DARE  scattered, but chiefly Midl, esp PA, MD, C Atl]

Feb. 5, 1863:  I had a good home maid Brekfast this morning  some fride scraple and good bread and butter. (William A. Smith, Smith Letters MHI) Chester County, PA

 

sheetiron crackers  noun  Hardtack.

March 27, 1862:  our living is hard  Sheet iron crackers fat meet and coffee is all the go hear. (Louis Skinner, Skinner Letter FHS) Adams County, OH

Sept. 21, 1862:  the boys hade agoode Shade to Sleape in and eate thair Sheate iron Crackers and meate. (Isaac Liston, Liston Letters IHS) Vigo County, IN

March 1, 1863:  I want some of them infernal sympathisers that is comforting the south to have to come down and fill up our Regiment  I will take some pleasure in seeing them eat sheetiron crackers and sleep on brush beds. (Isaac Marsh, Marsh Papers Duke) Lucas County, IA

 

skillygalee  noun  A stew or hash consisting of hardtack which has been soaked and chopped and  then cooked with various ingrediants including bacon grease or chopped fried pork and often with sugar or molasses. See bull pudding. [OED skilligalee, noun, 1.]

Oct. 14, 1862:  We get a cup of coffee & crackers for dinner we get a cup of skilleygerlle for supper we get a nother cup of coffee & 4 crackers in the morning. (Jacob Blackington, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Norfolk County, MA

 

skipper  noun  A kind of maggot that infests poorly-preserved meat. [OED skipper, noun1, 2.d; DARE  chiefly South, South Midland]

June 3, 1862:  I examined your meet about two weaks ago and fond a planty bugs and skipers, I took it all out of the barrel and put alittle ashe over it to prevent them. (Rachel Jefcoat, Jefcoat Papers Duke) Orangeburg District, SC

Sept. 1, 1862:  we have good beef to eat and bacon a plenty  I have not seen a scipper since I come here. (J. A. McMurtrey, McMurtrey Letters Emory) Fulton County, GA

March 16, 1863:  I must let you no what we git to eat and how mutch we git  a pound of flour thats a loud for us and some times we dont git more than three quarters of a lb a day and a quarter of a pound of rotten Baken and that old and rank and some of hit nairly eat up with the skippers. (Noah Wike, Setzer Papers Duke) Catawba County, NC

 

slapjack, slapjack cake  noun  A pancake made with cornmeal. [DARE  slapjack, noun, 1; scattered, but chiefly North, North Midland]

Dec. 5, 1861:  I baked a scillet ful of Slap jacks for dinner. (Henry Huffer, Huffer Letters MHI) Bartholomew County, IN 

Feb. 19, 1862:  plenty water not much to eat but slapjacks. (W. H. Bradford, Bradford Letters SRNB) Hancock County, OH

Sept. 21, 1862:  we get nothin to eat escepting fresh beef and slapjack cakes. (C. A. Hege, Hege Papers MHI) Davidson County, NC

 

sliced potato pie  noun  See citations.

Oct. 4, 1863:  John is gone to the cook fire to make a slise potato pies. (James Booker, Booker Coll. UVA) Pittsylvania County, VA

March 31, 1864:  if you could hav seen or eat som of the slice tator pyes that I made the other day you would give me the praise. (Harrison Hanes,  Hanes Papers Duke) Davie County, NC

 


‘Sowbelly’ became a widespread term among Union soldiers from the West Midland.

sow belly  noun  Bacon, salted or smoked meat from the side of a hog. This word is limited in to Union soldiers from Ohio westward. See Map. [earliest OED citation from 1867; earliest in DARE from 1862 (same as the Shifflet citation below)]

Nov. 8, 1862:  it wold do you good to see me eat beenes  you had better bet thare good wen we get tierd of Sow belly. (James Stuart, Stuart Letter FHS) Champaign County, OH

Dec. 7, 1862:  we are now living on half rations wich is three crackers and a peas of sow belly as we call it  it is Side meat. (David Peck, Peck Letters FHS) Seneca County, OH

Dec. 10, 1862:  You can hardly immagin how tired a soldier gets of his rations which are allways the same that is hard bread and sow bellie coffee beans sugar. (Edwin Milroy, Milroy Letter IHS) LaPorte County, IN

Dec. 22, 1862:  I will hav to take Sow belly and hard Crackers for my chrismas dinner  I hav eat so menny hard crackers and fat Sow belly that my teeth is all wore out. (Hillory Shifflet, Shifflet Letters GLC) Madison County, KY

Dec. 24, 1862:  I should like to be at home to morrow very well and help to eat good Christmas Dinner but I cannot be thare and will have to content myself with hard tack and sow Belly. (W. J. Helsley, Helsley Papers FHS) Trumbull County, OH

Jan. 20, 1863:  we have whole rations of coffee and sugar. and some times Molasses. we also have hard crackers or hard tack as we call them, and Bacon or Sow Belly. (Israel Atkins, Atkins Papers MHC) Shiawassee County, MI 

May 6, 1863:  I think they intend keepeing me hear and pay me thirteen dollrs amonth eating Onckles   [= Uncle Sam’s] roten sow belley. (Levi Rice, Levi Rice Letters SRNB) Kankakee County, IL 

June 16, 1863:  We are now living on hard tack and sow belly. (Thomas Murray, T. Murray Corr. WHM-R) Scott County, IA

Jan. 12, 1864:  a few minits ago I finished my dinner  it consisting of bean soop Sowbelly & hard tack. (John Rhoades, Lewis Leigh Coll. MHI) Miami County, OH

May 25, 1864:  we eat most all of our sow belley raw. (Thomas LaRue, LaRue Papers MHI) Benton County, IA

 

speck  noun  Fat pork or bacon. [DARE speck, noun2; chiefly in Ger, esp PaGer, settlement areas]

Dec. 14, 1862:  i heard that youns dont get any thing to eat down at Harrisburg but old speck and Crackers. (Susanna Spire, Spire Letters MHI) Dauphin County, PA

 

spider  noun  A cast iron cooking vessel with legs to set over coals. See also bake oven, oven. [DARE  chiefly North; also Midland and South Atlantic]

May 25, 1862:  we buy our own soda and beat our doe well, and I tell you it rises beautiful  we have Aspider to bake them [= biscuits] in. (Jasper Gillespie, Gillespie Papers GDAH) Monroe County, GA

June 7, 1862:  the wagoners broak my Spider a coming up hear & I went 5 miles to a furnes & baught me a littel oven to bake in. (Henry Robinson, Robinson Letters Emory) Jackson County, GA

 

spider cake noun  A pancake baked in a spider. [DARE spider bread, noun, “Also spider cake;” chiefly New England]

Jan. 1, 1863: I have just bin to dinner had flippers good to[o] had spider Cake yesterday. (James Pratt, Pratt Papers MHI) Norfolk County, MA

 

wheat coffee  noun  A coffee substitute made from roasted, ground wheat.  See also Confederate coffee, rye coffee.

Nov. 5, 1863:  if you Get a Chance to Send me any thing Send me Some Wheat Cofee. (Joseph Templeton, Templeton Letters USC) York District, SC

 

NEXT: Bushwhackers and Copperheads

Get in touch

  • Department of History
    220 LeConte Hall, Baldwin Street
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602-1602
  • 706-542-2053
  • history@uga.edu

eHistory was founded at the University of Georgia in 2011 by historians Claudio Saunt and Stephen Berry

Learn More about eHistory