restricted access Huckleberry
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52 Flora A. L. Peel, Adjuntant, 19th Mississippi Regiment, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, on May 8, 1863: “I walked about over fields today looking for my horse, could not find him. Gathered some wild onions for dinner.”26 Private William R. Stilwell, 53rd Georgia Volunteers, in a letter to his wife from near Fredericksburg, Virginia, on April 21, 1863: “I still have to complain of not much to eat. Now that spring has come I want some vegetables and can get none except the wild shallots which grow here in abundance. We fry them and they eat finely. Southern people were never made to starve. We can lie in the woods and whip Yankees.”27 H u c k l e b e r ry The term huckleberry is a catchall used to identify about two dozen species of similar shrubby plants known for their edible fruits. Huckleberries (Vaccinium spp. and Gaylussacia spp.) are usually differentiated from blueberries by having more seeds, although laymen of the Civil War era didn’t bother with the distinction. The numerous species are adapted to a variety of habitats, with many preferring acidic soils. A tea made from the bark, roots, and leaves of one type was used to treat diarrhea and “sore mouth.” The bark was used for tanning leather.1 Huckleberries are important wildlife foods, and foraging soldiers competed with songbirds, bears, and mice for the nutritious fruits. Second in importance only to blackberries as a source of wild fruit, huckleberries were gathered at every opportunity by soldiers of both sides. Private James H. Avery, 5th Michigan Cavalry, near Smithsburg, Virginia , on July 24, 1863: “We were in a field of brush and timber in which grew plenty of huckleberries, nice and ripe, and as we advanced, we would pick berries and then fire at the rebs, spite of the shells, which came pretty thick, we were not going past our berries without eating a share.”2 Private William R. Stilwell, 53rd Georgia Volunteers, in a letter to his wife from near Richmond, Virginia, on July 22, 1862: “I have a great deal of playtime. I can go anywhere when I am not on guard. The other day my messmate and I, for I have but one, went huckleberry hunting. We had the good luck to get a good many. We had some sugar that we drew and we   Juniper 53 concluded we would have some pies. So we set to work and made some five or six and they were splendid too, just such as are sold to the boys for fifty cents.”3 Private Nelson Stauffer, 63rd Illinois Infantry, near Kingston, Georgia, on July 11, 1864: “Went huckleberrying. On fatigue loading corn sacks.”4 Sergeant Alexander Chisholm, 116th Pennsylvania Volunteers, in a letter to his father from near Petersburg, Virginia, on Aug. 30, 1864: “Huckleberries were ripe and plenty, I ate my fill as we passed through the woods.”5 Sergeant John Q. A. Campbell, 5th Iowa Infantry, near Boonville, Missouri , on June 4, 1862: “I gathered a cup of huckleberries and had a good stew for dinner.”6 Private Wilbur Fisk, 2nd Vermont Volunteers, near Richmond, Virginia , in a letter to his hometown newspaper on May 20, 1862: “To-night we are encamped in an oak woods, whose rich foliage protects us overhead while huckle and blue berries just in full bloom make a beautiful carpet underneath.”7 J u n i p e r The tree referred to most often as “cedar” during the Civil War was not a cedar at all but rather a juniper, confusingly known today as eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana). An evergreen with fragrant needles and small cones, eastern redcedar is found throughout the eastern United States. This species prefers limestone regions but is common on many poorer soils. The heartwood is aromatic, very resistant to rot, and repels insects, making it desirable for shingles, posts, barrel staves, and boat building. Easy to work, soldiers used it for buckets, and Confederates carried cedar canteens on the Gettysburg battlefield.1 As a medicinal, various decoctions of “cedar” shavings, berries, and leaves were used to treat rheumatic pains, joint swelling, and blisters. Even a fungus commonly found on the tree was employed in the eradication of internal parasites.2 ...


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