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32 Flora • The dense growth of cane provided cover and hiding places for soldiers and citizens alike. Kate Stone at Brokenburn Plantation, across the river from Vicksburg near Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on Dec. 29, 1862: “I am so afraid they [Union soldiers] will get my horse Wonka. . . . Webster has him in charge, hidden in the canebrake.”16 BrigadierGeneralN.B.Buford,U.S.7thCorps,atHelena,Arkansas,on May 20, 1864: “The flat county, the narrow roads, the impenetrable thickets of brush and cane afford concealment for guerrillas at every step.”17 Private Harvey Reid, 22nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, near Brentwood , Tennessee, in February 1863, writing of the recent battle of Spring Hill: “Between 50 and 60 [of the 22nd Wisconsin] took refuge in the cane-brake, . . . but a threat to sweep the brake with canister shot forced their surrender.”18 Lieutenant John P. Sheffey, 8th Virginia Cavalry, in a letter to his future wife from Greenbrier County, Virginia, on Sept. 16, 1861: “The enemy crowded a cane-patch pretty full about 3 or 400 yards in front of the center , but a few rounds of grape from our central battery slew them and the cane too.”19 Major John W. Rabb, 2nd Missouri Artillery, at New Madrid, Missouri, on April 10, 1864: “I send you copies of several papers captured by Captain Preuitt, on the dead body of the guerrilla Captain Williams. . . .You will notice that one of the inclosed orders is dated at the Blue Cane. This is a dense canebrake, in the center of which is one of the rebel camps. They here have a store supplied with stolen goods, a distillery, several houses, and a large amount of stock.”20 C h e st n u t a n d C h i n q ua p i n The greatest loss to the ecological integrity of eastern forests since the Civil War has been the loss of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) trees.   Chestnut and Chinquapin 33 During the conflict this majestic hardwood species, which towered to 120 feet tall, comprised as much as 50 percent of upland forests from Maine to Alabama.1 In 1904 a parasitic fungus (chestnut blight) was unwittingly introduced into the United States on imported Chinese chestnuts (C. mollissima ) and resulted in the decimation of the nonresistant American species .2 At the time of the Civil War chestnut was the keystone species in eastern forests, producing immense volumes of mast in the form of edible nuts that supported a wide diversity of native birds and mammals and domestic livestock. Chinquapins (Castanea spp.) consist of several species of small trees closely related to chestnuts. Usually less than thirty feet in height, they closely resemble chestnuts and produce similar but smaller edible nuts. Chinquapins suffer from chestnut blight but still manage to thrive in many areas of the east and south. Utilitarian values of chestnuts and chinquapins during the Civil War were similar. The wood of both species is rot resistant and was desirable for posts and railroad crossties.3 The larger chestnuts were a prime source of building lumber and also used in the manufacture of boxes, musical instruments , tool handles, barrel staves, and caskets.4 The bark of both species was a valuable source of tannin for the leather industry. Medicinally, a tea made from the roots was recommended to treat diarrhea in soldiers and as a substitute for quinine. Farmers depended on the fruits to fatten their herds of free-roaming hogs. Humans, too, relished the nuts of both species, parched, boiled, or raw.5 Chestnuts and chinquapins were the most common wild flora mentioned as food by Confederate soldiers (see table in the chapter “The Civil War Setting”). Jedediah Hotchkiss, topographical engineer of the Army of Northern Virginia, in winter quarters near Fredericksburg, Virginia, on Jan. 3, 1863: “In the evening took the Gen. [Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson] some apples and chestnuts and then read him the news,—the confirmation of the victory at Murfreesboro.”6 Major-General W. T. Sherman, USA, in a letter to General Halleck from Summerville, Georgia, on Oct. 19, 1864: “when the rich planters of the Oconee and Savannah see their fences and corn and hogs and sheep vanish before their eyes they will have something more than a mean opinion of the ‘Yanks.’ Even now our poor mules laugh at the fine corn-fields, and our soldiers riot on chestnuts, sweet potatoes, pigs, chickens, &c.”7 34 Flora Private William R. Stilwell, 53rd Georgia Volunteers, in a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780807137994
Related ISBN
9780807136881
MARC Record
OCLC
680039323
Pages
280
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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