Leland Summers is a cook for the 12th South Carolina. He took a moment Saturday afternoon before preparing dinner to talk about Civil War cookery.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Find what you need in our Weekend Entertainment Guide newsletter.
"On the campaign, which was happening most of the time, most of the men, they'd be issued four days of rations, which was usually some bacon or salt pork, a little bit of flour, a little beans and stuff," Summers said. "And traditionally, what they would do was each one of them would get their rations, and they'd get together and they would cook about everything they had as soon as they got it. because they didn't know when they would eat next."
Hardtack was another staple of the Civil War diet.
"Hardtack was water and flour mixed together, formed into a little biscuit and baked real hard," he said. "It would last. It wouldn't spoil."
Hardtack was virtually inedible on its own, but creative cooks could adapt.
"If they (were) near a local farm, they would get a little bit of milk, a little egg, and so forth," Summers said. "They would actually take the hardtack, and take their bayonets, and beat it into a fine powder, and use it to make pancakes or stuff like that."
Armies were typically on the move, but in winter, there was less fighting. Armies set up a more permanent encampment. Food supplies became more dependable.
"In winter quarters, they would stay three or four months at a time,"Summers said. "You know they cooked in a big cast iron pot. They cooked a lot of soups and stews. And if they were passing through a farm, the farmer might give em a big slab of beef or a bunch of vegetables, and they'd cook a big stew."
Sometimes farmers and townspeople helped the army passing through. But sometimes an army swept through and took everything, leaving devastated families. These are the stories that catch Rush's attention.
"I really don't care which direction the general was facing when he rode his horse up the street, but I do care about how on Earth did a civilian survive if some raiding army took all his food," she said. "Sometimes you just can't recover from this — it's not the soldier, it's the host (who suffers)."