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  Willow 105 and have brought in lots of nuts. We hate for them to cut the trees. Shall stop it.”25 Private Isaac Jackson, 17th Ohio Battery, at Opelousas Prairie, Louisiana , on Oct. 20, 1863: “We gathered oranges as we went along by the sacks full, and pecan nuts as plenty as walnuts are at home.”26 W i l l ow Worldwide,severalhundredspeciesofwillows(Salixspp.)growmostoften on wet sites in the northern hemisphere. At least four species are found in the Civil War arena. Willows frequent the banks of streams and rivers, helping to prevent shoreline erosion while simultaneously providing food and shelter for beavers, rabbits, and deer. Bees make copious amounts of honey from willow nectar, and some species of butterflies and moths feed exclusively on willow leaves. The manufacture and marketing of baskets and other wicker ware from the young pliable stems of willow was once a moderate-sized industry in the United States. Products made from European species of willow were often preferred over native willows, resulting in an import trade. In the six years prior to the Civil War, $815,847 worth of basket ware and $236,842 worth of willow raw materials were imported, mainly through New York. Most commercial basket production in the United States was in the Northeast .1 Native willow products such as baskets and fish traps were undoubtedly made in the South, but a wartime embargo forced an increase in local production, as described by an Alabama woman: “Willow wickerwork came in as a new industry with us. We learned to weave willow twigs into baskets of many shapes and sizes. . . . The switches were gathered when the willows were flowering, and stripped of bark and leaves; what was not wanted for immediate use was put by in bundles, to be used in our leisure hours. When placed in warm water the withes were soon as flexible as if freshly gathered and peeled, and were as easily woven into varied kinds of wickerwork.” She also reported making dye from willow bark.2 Willow lumber is soft and light, but not durable, and was used to make boxes, toys, artificial limbs, cheap furniture, and boats. The medicinal values of willows have been recognized for centuries. Its bark contains salicylic acid, a precursor to aspirin, and was thought during the Civil War to yield an 106 Flora inferior substitute for quinine. Ground charcoal made from willow was considered a topical antiseptic, a laxative when taken in doses of ten to fifteen grains, and a prophylactic for yellow fever. The characteristics of willow charcoal, however, were most valued as a component of gunpowder. Georgia newspapers ran the following advertisement in 1862: “To Contractors —Willow wood wanted—Five hundred cords willow will be contracted for, to be delivered on the line of the canal, at the government powder factory, at Augusta, Ga., at the rate of not less than one hundred and fifty cords per month, commencing the 1st of December next. The willow may be of any size, the smaller branches being preferred; the larger sticks must be split into parts not larger than the arm. It must be cut into uniform lengths of three feet, and each cord will measure fourteen feet long, three feet high, and three feet broad, containing one hundred and twentysix cubic feet. The bark must be carefully peeled of at the time of cutting.”3 Submerged or overhanging willows could prove troublesome for stream navigation, piercing hulls and knocking down smokestacks. During the Yazoo River expedition, Union Admiral Porter wrote that his flagship Cincinnati ran into a six-hundred-yard bed of willows under a full head of steam, “and there she stuck; the willow wythes caught in the rough iron of her overhang, and held her as if in a vise.” Taking advantage of the situation , Confederates pounded the flotilla with an artillery cross fire, and only with the greatest efforts was the Cincinnati freed to make her escape and end the expedition in failure.4 Private Isaac Jackson, 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in front of Vicksburg on Jan. 30, 1863, describing recent action: “The place where the men crossed, there was a sand bar and a row of willows in the middle of the bayou. . . . The men would run through a shower of bullets, fall down behind the willows and then get up, run across and get behind the levee.”5 Private Van R. Willard, 3rd Wisconsin Volunteers, near Chickamauga Creek, Georgia, in May 1864: “The Chickamauga...

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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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