So about this Civil War book here... More Civil War Curiosities by Webb Garrison (there is a companion book, just called Civil War Curiosites by the same author but I have not read that one). You wanna talk about a case of the misleading cover! The words "fascinating tales" are proudly emblazoned on the front cover but it wasn't so much fascinating as "well, I didn't know that before, but now that I do, I'm not sure I care". Don't get me wrong, I LOVE history, but a big peeve of mine is people killing the storytelling element that gives history its allure. If you make it all about statistics and facts without conveying the "WOW" element of the story, you inevitably fail to keep history alive because no one will care! One of the reasons I reached for this book in the first place is that I actually worked at a few of these Civil War Forts (namely Fort Pike in Louisiana and Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie in South Carolina) and my interest in the subject grew exponentially as I saw and touched the places where the fighting really happened. It seemed to me that Garrison started off with the intention of being entertaining and informative but got bogged down by the sheer number of facts he wanted to get into the book, thus killing the storytelling aspect. It wasn't a total waste of a read though! I did learn a few interesting tidbits that I may even be able to retain in my memory to dig up and impress others with at a later date! I offer you the same opportunity by sharing the trivia I strained out of this book below:
*"Stonewall" Jackson apparently had a crack in his foundation ~ during one battle, Jackson was hit in his left shoulder by a bullet from a North Carolina Union officer. The arm was amputated and it seemed as if he would make a full recovery but while he was being transported out of the makeshift hospital on his way back home, he contracted pneumonia and died a week later!
*Private John Long, suffering irreparable damage to his arm during battle and seemingly too impatient to wait for a doctor, managed to get himself the distinction of becoming the only soldier in the Civil war positively documented to have amputated his own arm with a pocketknife.
*The original Jesse James (there seems to be a number of celebrities trying to rock that name here lately) briefly fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side. During that time, he blew off one of his fingertips (the popular belief is that this happened during target practice with fellow soldiers - doesn't quite measure up to his legendary bad-ass rep though lol). The absence of said fingertip is what was later used to help identify James' body after his murder in 1880
*Mary Todd Lincoln was a shopping addict and hoarder but her husband, good ole Abe, was crazy frugal and even with Mary's shopping sprees, it was discovered after his assassination that he managed to squirrel away about $90,000 over the course of their marriage (while he was in office, Lincoln's salary was about $25,000 a year, most likely the highest salary of his lifetime, to give you an idea of what a feat this was). A few of Mary's dresses below:
*The paper money we use today came about primarily because war is expensive and during the Civil War, the government found they could not afford to continue the production of coins. The metal used to make coins had to be put towards making guns, ammo, that sort of thing so that's where the government said "Let's make paper money!" It was only meant to last until the war ended, but after the war, the government discovered that people actually preferred not to walk around with clunky, noisy, not to mention HEAVY coins all the time! Wild, huh! : - P This particular factoid had me thinking about how a few years back there was talk of bringing coin currency back (I think most of the talk was from the people secretly wanting to be pirates like Captain Jack... ) but since the recession, all that talk has been strangely absent from the news...
* I didn't read an explanation for this one, but this book says that in Civil War lingo, to have "seen the elephant" meant that someone had been in battle. Anyone know what the elephant is in reference to? Is it a political party thing?
For all you foodies out there, here's a couple interesting facts I gathered from my reading:
~ In 1856, Gail Borden patented canned condensed milk but it didn't really find a market until 1862 when the US government started sending cases of the stuff to troops in the fields (since most of the time they weren't anywhere near home cooked meals, making nutritional meals seldom and illness rampant). When soldiers returned home after the war, they introduced the condensed milk to their families. Over time, it was introduced to subsequent generations until it became the household cooking staple it is today.
Borden Inaugural Can
more modern Borden
Civil War soldiers enjoying condensed milk in the fields
Above: A condensed milk factory
~ Like coffee? Maybe not after this - Coffee in its natural bean form was too difficult for soldiers on the move to work with, so a method for easily transportable coffee was devised in which coffee beans were ground down into a fine powder and then mixed with sugar and milk to form a thick paste. ~Nothing was said about the milk in the paste not spoiling~ This paste was packed into any available container and mixed with hot water whenever troops set up camp. It wasn't know for its tastiness, but it did become the precursor to the instant coffee in today's supermarkets.
For some interesting backstories on the Civil War, check out the little known tales of these wild women:
Bridget Fury (real name Delia Swift) : hard knock life little girl turned bad-ass, take-no-crap French Quarter, New Orleans street hustler, thief, prostiute, and even in one instance, murderer. Her story kind of reminds me of a Civil War era, Aileen Wuornos (the real - life murdering prostitute Charlize Theron played in the movie Monster), someone that you initially respond to as "damn, that's evil" but then find yourself wondering how much of it is a result of them being a "victim of circumstance" or a "product of their environment". Makes for interesting reading while you try to figure that out! I read around a bit online and discovered she was described by one biographer as a "flaming redhead with a fondness for stabbing men". Bridget - Kudos for being a fellow redhead but I gotta give ya demerits for wanton stabbing! Bad form! Couldn't find a picture of her though :(
Loreta Janeta Velazquez : a Cuban-born woman who enlisted as "Harry Buford" with Confederate troops during the war, unbeknownst to her husband, and even served as a commanding officer, fighting in such legendary battlefields as Shiloh and Bull Run. She also served as a spy! The picture below shows Loreta as herself and as "Harry".
Rose O'Neal Greenhow: A woman, renowned for her beauty, who served as a Confederate spy, later drowned as she tried to escape capture by a Union boat - she was weighed down by nearly $2000 in gold pieces around her waist and could not fight her way through the choppy water.
Rose and her daughter