Everyone comes for Civil War battle re-enactments — the smoke, the noise, the advancing lines of men and horses.
But who stays for dinner after the battle?
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As spectators dribbled out of the grounds after Saturday's "Maryland, My Maryland" re-enactment of the Battle of South Mountain, Sharon Jackson poked the fire at the 27th Virginia Company C encampment. Jackson is from Pennsylvania, but she's with the 4th Texas Company B. But on Saturday, her unit was on campaign, so she was adopted as a cook by the 27th Virginia.
As Jackson prepared to cook dinner, a dozen men in gray and butternut uniforms loitered around half-dozen tents surrounding the fire, cleaning guns, chatting, hanging their shirts to dry, trying to stay out of the afternoon's on-again-off-again drizzle.
Over the fire stood a foldable grill, its legs driven deep in the dirt. A large tin coffee pot sat on the grill.
Jackson, in an olive green dress, said September was a perfect time for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to lead his troops across the Potomac River toward the North.
"In September, you would have had a lot of your root vegetables coming ready — carrots and beets and things," she said. "You would have late-summer vegetables. This is the best time to be feeding an army, because there was so much produce available. And there was so much to forage."
Foraging for foods
Ah, yes, foraging. What "self-serve buffet" is to modern Americans, "foraging" was to Civil War soldiers.
Hagerstown resident Rebecca Rush co-organized a living history event on Sept. 8 and 9 called Our Taste of History: The Civil War in Buckeystown, Md. The event featured living historians preparing foods as Civil War soldiers and nearby civilians would have. She talked about foraging.
Rush said the were upwards of 80,000 Union and Confederate soldiers in Frederick County, Md., in September 1862. Which leads to an obvious question, she said.
"So think about how do you feed an army?" Rush said. "And not just what did they eat, but what were the civilians eating that the Confederates or the Union army stole?"
Rush said both sides in the conflict took food from the surrounding countryside — forests, fiields and farms.
"Part of the reason they came here was their own provisions were so scarce," she said. "Frederick County has been known for several hundred years as a kind of a breadbasket with great farms and great food. And they felt they could just stock up."
Lee directed his troops to pay for what they wanted, but there was a problem.
"The soldiers were trying to pay for things with Confederate currency," Rush said, "They were trying to be gentlemanly, but Northern supporters were like, 'I don't want that crap. What am I going to do with it?'"
She said in September 1862, troops scoured the countryside for supplies. Confederate troops took 1,000 barrels of flour from a mill. Union troops also foraged for food, taking fruit and peaches from surrounding orchards.
"Farms, families and business in this region were from time to time devastated by the damage caused to crops due to encampments or battles or by directly supplying thousands of hungry soldiers," she said.