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  Cottonwood 41 Private Amos E. Stearns, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, at Newport News, Virginia, on Jan. 20, 1864: “I went up to the hospital and got some quinine three times today.”30 C ot to n w o o d To speak of shoes, it’s boots not here; Our Q.M’s [Quartermasters] wise and good, Give cotton calf-skins twice a year With soles of cottonwood. —Hart and Stevens, The Romance of the Civil War Wood from both species of cottonwood (Populus deltoides and P. heterophylla ) found in the eastern United States was used in the manufacture of shoes duringtheCivilWar. Cottonwoodthrivesinrichalluvialsoilsofwetlands and is especially abundant along the Mississippi River and its tributaries . Camp Steele, named in honor of Union General Frederick Steele, was located in an area cleared of dense cottonwoods on the east bank of the Mississippi River opposite Helena, Arkansas.1 An invader with windblown seeds, cottonwood is an early succession stage plant that is often the first to colonize sandbars and abandoned riparian fields. Rabbits, beaver, and deer relish the twigs and bark of this fast-growing tree. As steamboat fuel, cottonwood “burned readily when seasoned but did not give a lasting fire, and though widely used for want of something better it was not esteemed .”2 Gunpowder-grade charcoal was made from cottonwood in Alabama and Georgia,3 and a tea made from cottonwood bark was used to treat chills and fever.4 Cottonwood lumber is of poor quality and subject to rot but was used when available to build provisional log cabins for winter quarters. Private Isaac Jackson, 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at the mouth of the White River in Arkansas, on Nov. 16, 1864: “There are four of us who stay together, we have a regular ‘log cabin.’ It is about 5 by 10, made of small cottonwood poles and covered with shelter tents.”5 Corporal Ephraim Anderson, 1st Missouri Brigade, during the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, exact date unknown: “A large poplar [cottonwood ], over four feet through, which must have been struck from top to 42 Flora bottom by more that two hundred cannon balls, had finally given way and fallen: it was almost entirely severed in a number of places, and shells were buried and still remained in its huge trunk. . . . A party of the Twenty-Seventh Louisiana built up a fire against this tree one morning, and several of them were stooped over and around it, frying their meat for breakfast in the blaze, when a shell buried in the wood was ignited, and exploded in their midst. . . . It was a very remarkable incident, that a shell should explode in the center of a large group of men, and in the very faces of some, without killing any, and only wounding one dangerously.”6 D o gw o o d The snowy blooms of flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) are a sure sign of spring from the Atlantic coastal states to east Texas. Several species of dogwoods grow in this area, but none are as well known as flowering dogwood . The actual flowers on this plant are only one-eighth inch in diameter and are surrounded by four large, white, attractive bracts, not petals as many suppose. Flowering dogwood is usually a small understory tree less than thirty feet tall that grows best on well-drained soils. During the Civil War, a decoction of powdered dogwood bark was used as a substitute for quinine in the South “as it can be easily and abundantly procured” when that valuable drug became scarce. Fevers, especially those associated with malaria, were often treated with dogwood.1 The wood of flowering dogwood trees is one of the hardest in North America. One author states that at least ninety percent of the dogwood cut during the nineteenth century was used to make shuttles for the textile industry .2 Other uses of the dense wood during the Civil War included charcoal , engraving, mallets, tool handles, wedges, plane stock, harrow teeth, hames, horse collars, ox yokes, wheel hubs, barrel hoops, machinery bearings , and cogs in various types of gears.3 Sarah Wadley, daughter of the supervisor of Confederate railroads, near Trenton, Louisiana, on April 9, 1864: “we . . . felt quite happy as we drove slowly along in the bright sunshine, admiring at every step some new beauty in the opening springs, now it was the bright green beech trees, now the brilliant white dogwoods or some fragrant clump of honeysuckle ...

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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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