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Not Forgotten "A Poor Dinner It Was": 1860 and the Politics of Barbecue The following letter was written by fourteen-year-old John Steele Henderson to his father, Archibald Henderson, reporting on a Whig political rally in piedmont North Carolina on the eve of the presidential election of 1860. The Hendersons were Democrats, and John didn't much like what he heard at the rally, but like a true connoisseur , he complained about the quality and quantity of the barbecue. The featured speakers at this raUy were prominent local Whigs. The presidential candidates they mentioned were John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, nominee of the prosecession southern Democrats, and John Bell of Tennessee, his Whig and unionist rival. Abraham Lincoln, the eventual winner, had no organized support in most of the South, including North Carolina. After the war John Steele Henderson became a Democratic congressman from North Carolina. We're indebted to Robert Tinkler of the Southern Historical Collection for spotting his letter. MeMUe N. C. Nov 3rd 1860 Whig doctrine, bad doctrine Dear Father I have taken this opportunity to write to you. This morning about seven o'clock, I with a good many other boys went to Graham to the whig large barbecue. I staid in Graham awhile, then I concluded I would go over to the Shops,1 where I saw cousin Edward and cousin Eliza Chapman and I staid there until the cars from the west arrived. Among the first passengers that I saw was Uncle Nat Boyden, who was on his way to the barbecue. Cousin Eliza went to the Barbecue, but cousin Edward did not. After the cars left, the few boys that were with me and myself took ourselves back to Graham. When I arrived there Judge Badger was speaking. He spoke mostly about civil war, now and then teUing anecdotes. He said that his friend Morehead who had, a city on the coast,2 had said all the commerce of South Carolina could be transported across the sea in a tolerably good sized dug out. But still he said South Carolina was complaining on all occassions about her not having fair play done her. He said that leaders of the Breckenridge party before they made speeches would say that they were as good union men as anybody , but still they would always be telling the people all the time how much better it would be if they were out of the union. 412Southern Cultures After his speech, the crowd went and took dinner, and a poor dinner it was, composed of beef, raw pork and bread that actually wasn't fit for dogs to eat. The crowd eat up all there was there in five or ten minutes, the bread excepted. After dinner the crowd assembled and the Hon[.] John M. Morehead was introduced . He commenced by calling all the Democratic leaders as avowed traitors to the union who would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven. He said the people would ask why one man could do so much harm, well he said he would tell them. He said that Fort Macon3 was garrisoned by only one man, a sergeant who not long ago was not married but that he had heard he had got married since then who was very polite in showing strangers the Fort, which by the by had a plenty of cannon balls powder and everything necessary for a fort. He said suppose a half a dozzen disunionists would go there and get the sergeant to show them around through the Fort and while he was doing it get possession of the keys and when he was done showing them all that could be seen, they would tell him they had no more use for his services, he would say why gentlemen what do you mean, they would say why we mean that this fort is in our possession, the sergeant would then be obliged to leave. He then said that if an army was sent against them the Fort was so situated that there was only one place by which it could be approached, and that if an army should attempt to take them they could...


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