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  Cane 29 to be plentiful. Fresh fruit with our rations will lighten our work.” On June 2 he wrote from the same location, “I went out about a half mile from camp to pick blackberries, and I picked a gallon of them and sold them to the hospital steward for $1.25.”21 President Abraham Lincoln in a letter from Washington, D.C., to Richard Yates and William Butler on April 10, 1862: “I fully appreciate Gen. Pope’s splendid achievements with their invaluable results; but you must know that Major Generalships in the Regular Army, are not as plenty as blackberries.”22 • Blackberry Picker—“A Straggler, i.e. one who leaves his line under the pretext of gathering foodstuffs, preferring the risk of imprisonment to that of being maimed or killed in an engagement.”23 Ca n e President Theodore Roosevelt aptly described a Louisiana canebrake: “The canebrakes stretch along the slight rises of ground, often extending for miles, forming one of the most striking and interesting features of the country. They choke out other growths, the feathery graceful canes standing in ranks, tall, slender, serried, each but a few inches from his brother, and springing to a height of fifteen or twenty feet. They look like bamboos; they are well-nigh impenetrable to a man on horseback; even on foot they make difficult walking unless free use is made of the heavy bush-knife. It is impossible to see through them for more than fifteen or twenty paces, and often for not half that distance. Bears make their lairs in them, and they are the refuge for hunted things.”1 Canebrakes are thickets of America’s only species of native bamboo, a member of the grass family. Cane (Arundinaria gigantea), also known as switchcane, grows throughout much of the southeastern United States in a variety of habitats but thrives best in alluvial floodplains. Large historical canebrakes may have developed in fields abandoned by Native Americans decimated by European diseases. Settlers often chose land blanketed in cane because it was high, fertile ground, easy to clear for agriculture, and excellent forage for livestock. A journalist describing Louisiana wrote in 1803: “This reed only grows on land that is never (or almost never) flooded. 30 Flora . . . These cane brakes, on account of the large amount of humus that they deposit, make the soil very fertile, and the farmers regard their cane brakes as the best possible land; in fact, they judge the quality of the soil by the thickness of the cane.”2 During the Civil War era, cane was more common than in President Roosevelt’s day, and the extensive canebrakes on a scale described by early Europeans have disappeared today. Cane is hollow, light in weight, and when split makes excellent chair bottoms. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee sat in “a cane-seated armchair beside a square marble-topped table” during the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.3 Soldiers often used it as a building material when available. The swamps and hills in and near Vicksburg, Mississippi, during the 1863 siege provided a particularly abundant source. Major William J. Bolton, 51st Pennsylvania Volunteers, near Vicksburg, Mississippi, on June 20, 1863: “The bluffs are covered with cane-brakes, blackberry bushes and any amount of underbrush and filled with all kinds of venomous reptiles.”4 Assistant Commissary John G. Earnest, 79th Tennessee Infantry, at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Feb. 22, 1863: “From our position, running in a curve to the right was a range of sharp crested hills, shooting up almost perpendicularly to the height of two hundred feet, their sides beautifully shaded with over hanging cane and small trees.”5 Captain Charles B. Haydon, 2nd Michigan Infantry, near Vicksburg, Mississippi, on June 20, 1863: “Canebrakes such as we buy at home for fish poles are very abundant & are used by the men for almost everything.”6 Lieutenant John Q. A. Campbell, 5th Iowa Infantry, at Vicksburg, Mississippi , on June 9, 1863: “Today I built myself a bunk with cane, and wrote a letter to the Des Moines Register.”7 Captain Gabriel Killgore, 17th Louisiana Infantry, at Vicksburg, Mississippi , on June 26, 1863: “A heavy fire was Kept up all night on part of the lines and is going on this morning—8 o’clock a Minnie ball has just struck the cane mattress on which I am lying opposite my shoulder—10 o’clock a Negro Killed in camp.”8   Cane 31...


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