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60 Flora the sugar made from sap collected in the spring by tapping trees. Maple sugar was the most common sweetener in the country, being more available and less expensive than cane sugar from the Deep South. In the years leading up to and during the war, some northerners considered it unpatriotic to use cane sugar produced with slave labor. As sugar maple grew primarily in northern states, Union soldiers benefited most from a food source that did not spoil during shipment and storage.2 In addition to musical instruments, maple wood was used in gunstocks, saddle trees, shoe lasts, woodenware, shipbuilding, farm tools, furniture, flooring, charcoal production, and as fuel.3 One Civil War doctor reported that a decoction of red maple (A. rubrum) bark administered as a wash improved eye disorders .4 General Robert E. Lee in a letter to his daughters from Valley Mountain , Virginia, on Aug. 29, 1861: “The mountains are magnificent. The sugar-maples are beginning to turn already, and the grass is luxuriant.”5 Captain Theodore A. Dodge, 101st New York Volunteers, near Stafford, Virginia, on Jan. 15, 1863: “The orders say the teamsters are to cut leaves and limbs of the maple, elm, and other soft trees, which furnish a good substitute for hay. Where I wonder are we to get these in a section of country which only produces fir and pine. Rather a precarious footing our poor horses will stand on.”6 Private Isaac Jackson, 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, near Paris, Kentucky , on Oct. 21, 1862: “The scenery is very beautiful. . . . There are plenty of sugar [maples] & Hickory trees here. Our camp was in a nice sugar grove, and on one side of us at the foot of the hill is another nice sugar grove that looks very much like Godley’s Grove used to.”7 • Maple Leaf—a Union troop transport ship. In 1863 a group of Confederate prisoners of war on the vessel escaped after overpowering their guards and taking control of the ship.8 M i st l eto e To the Druids, mistletoe (Phoradendron spp. et al.) appeared to spring from thin air. Equally strange, it seemed to defy nature by living its entire   Mistletoe 61 life high in the branches of trees, never descending to earth, a plant’s natural habitat. For these reasons they declared mistletoe and the oak trees on which it grew to be sacred. More than twenty species of mistletoe grow in North America, with most of those in the Civil War arena living on broadleaved hardwood trees. Mistletoe is parasitic on its host tree, deriving most of its water and nutrients in the form of minerals from the branches to which it is attached. Although a heavy growth of mistletoe may contribute to the decline of a tree with other ailments, it doesn’t usually kill its host. Fruitivorous songbirds such as bluebirds and cedar waxwings relish the white berries that form in late autumn. Mistletoe was once used to treat “fits” of epilepsy but is now considered toxic to humans.1 The tradition of kissing under a mistletoe sprig during the holidays had apparently evolved by the Civil War. Dr. Francis Bacon, Union physician, in a letter to his wife from Tybee Island, South Carolina, on Dec. 24, 1861: “We have all the foliage orthodox for Christmas here, including holly and mistletoe with berries of scarlet and white wax. The jungly unscarred forest of this island is superb.”2 Kate Stone, Brokenburn Plantation near Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on Dec. 29, 1862, writing of her preparations for Christmas: “Johnny and I gathered a lot of mistletoe and crimson casino berries, and we decorated the parlor and hall prettily next day.”3 Sergeant Lycurgus Remley, 22nd Iowa Volunteers, in a letter to his father from Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on April 11, 1863: “This flowerless, black looking specimen of vegetation is a cutting from a mistletoe, a parasite very common down here.”4 John M. Follett, 33rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, at Pitman’s Ferry, Arkansas , in a letter to his wife on April 25, 1862: “You spoke in one of your letters about my sending you a sprig of mistletoe. I wrote you that I did not know what it was, but there is lots of it here. I will send you some.”5 Colonel Thomas W. Higginson, 1st South Carolina [African American] Volunteers, near Beaufort, South Carolina, on Feb. 23, 1863: “Spring advances , grass grows green, yellow and fragrant jasmines...


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