restricted access Honeybees
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  Honeybees 157 Private Galutia York, 114th New York Volunteer Infantry, in a letter to his parents on Feb. 25, 1863, from a quarantine station below New Orleans : “I understand that we start for the reg this week some time if nothing happens and I hope and pray that we shall go for I am tired of staying hear for it is a low wet hole inhabited by crockadiles frogs mosquitoes and rats.”7 Private Amos E. Stearns, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, at Newport News, Virginia, on March 12, 1864: “It was a very fine day and the frogs are peeping tonight. No letters today.”8 Private Nelson Stauffer, 63rd Illinois Infantry, near Pee Dee River, South Carolina: “The country looks miserably poor, almost too poor to furnish grub for the frogs and tadpoles.”9 Jedediah Hotchkiss, topographical engineer of the Army of Northern Virginia, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, on March 9, 1863: “It was quite pleasant; frogs and birds singing,—turtles crawling out in the sun.”10 Private William R. Stilwell, 53rd Georgia Volunteers, in a letter to his wife from near Richmond, Virginia, on July 22, 1862: “when the moon is up in the heavens and the gentle wind from the mountains sends forth its still rustlings among the aspen tree under which I stand while the thousands of rattles of the drums are all still and the frogs that sing in the swamp all around are sending forth their beautiful melody while I go from post to post with a little black box in my hand containing the moments of my soul with a little lock of golden braid.”11 • Frog—a looped leather scabbard for a sword or bayonet. • “Frog in the Well”—a Civil War fife and drum song. H o n ey b e e s For thousands of years humans have gathered honey from the hives of wild honeybees (Apis mellifera). People ate honey, concocted the alcoholic beverage mead, and made candles from beeswax. Honey and wax were also 158 Fauna used for medicinal purposes. None of this, however, happened in North America until Europeans arrived, because honeybees are not native to the Western Hemisphere. Records indicate that honeybees were shipped from England to the Colony of Virginia in 1622. Other shipments were made to Massachusetts around 1630. Swarms of these early colonies soon escaped and became the “wild” honeybees of North America.1 For centuries, colonies of honeybees have been kept in wooden boxes, straw skeps, and pottery containers. In America pioneers kept bees in “bee gums,” sections of hollow logs that were used as hives. The black gum tree was a favorite because of its tendency to form hollows. Collecting honey from any of these hive types usually resulted in the death of the bees and loss of the colony. A few years before the Civil War, a Pennsylvania minister patented a hive with movable frames that is still used today. It allowed collecting the honey without loss of the colony. C. P. Dadant, a French immigrant in western Illinois, began selling these modern beehives and frames to his neighbors in 1863.2 Still, during the Civil War period most honey was gathered by cutting bee trees and taking what honey was available , and by killing colonies and taking the honey from kept hives. Beeswax was an article of commerce soon after it became available in the colonies. Widely used for candles, the wax was melted, poured into molds, and transported to market. Confederate surgeon Francis Porcher in his Civil War treatise lists the following recipe for wartime candles: “take one pound of beeswax, and three-fourths of a pound of rosin, melt them together, then take about four threads of slack-twisted cotton for a wick, and draw it about three times through the melted wax and rosin, and wind it in a ball; pull the end up, and you have a good candle.”3 The demand for candles in the South during the war is recorded in the following passage: “Mr. B. Metcalf, of Montgomery, relates that he attended an [blockade runner’s] auction sale, at Mobile, on one occasion, and, arriving late, found the cargo all sold except cod-liver oil and bees wax, which he succeeded in purchasing. His two barrels of cod-liver oil and 600 pounds of bees-wax were immediately reshipped to Montgomery on the Alabama River. Filling every shape and size bottle to be found, and placing a judicious advertisement in the papers, he was...


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