View Full Version : CS surgeon's food at Gettysburg

05-14-2008, 07:58 AM
I'm having trouble finding specifics on this, so maybe someone can point me in the right direction.

Like the title says, I'm looking for mention of specific food/rations eaten by Confederate surgeons on the march to and during the battle of Gettysburg. Not what was offered to patients in hospitals, but what the surgeons themselves ate. Specifically ANV, and I can be more specific than that, but right now I'd just be happy to find anything!

Hank Trent

05-15-2008, 10:26 AM
I have read several medical accounts of the trip to Gettysburg and the only one that mentioned food much at all was "Repairing the March of Mars". Apperson mentions that chickens were well used and one night he and one of the surgeons dine4d on oysters. Any other food reference was about paying merchants or foraging.

05-17-2008, 09:54 PM
Not exactly what they ate a G'burg but some first person insight into foodstuffs incountered in his duties as CS Medical Doctor in the ANV.

He also mentions eating in a restaurant in Hagerston prior to Gettysburg.

Memoirs of Archibald Atkinson, Jr., Doctor in the Confederate Army

I've had boys of 16, + fathers of 60 years lying side by side on straw beds placed on the floor all suffering from measles or some of its complications. We had the poorest commissary arrangements,+ all I could get for my men was salt + hard crackers. I made the convalescents shoot squirrels, ground hogs, pheasants, + turkeys with which to make soup for the men. I don't know how poor fellows fared who were sick in camp. I made all sorts of soups + stews for the men.

I remember one especially hot day in May when as we were marching, men dropped like sheep along the road, while others were just able to drag their weary feet: poor half starved creatures trying to fight upon food hardly fit to sustain life, whilst those they opposed were not only more numerous but got
their full quota of sleep, rest, rations, condensed milk, the best soup (which the French say makes the soldier) + frequently big dinners before battle

On Sewell Mt. one of the men of the Wise Legion fired as he supposed on the enemy, + the load went into the mouth of a Mr. Romaine of Capt. Phelp's Co. I kept the old man in the command, + we took him in a
buggy for 6 weeks. His tongue + cheeks + lower jaw were shot all to pieces. I kept him fed by the bowell with gruel, soups, egg + whiskey +c. He did well + in 6 months his tongue had healed + he could talk fairly well.

Col. Davis asked me to go + look for a breakfast supper, so I took Dr. Grimes + we went off behind the village towards the mountain + in about a half an hour came to a small house + asked for supper. The lady cooked 3 chickens, + a lot of biscuits. We ate ours there + as soon as all the remaining was cool we packed it in our haversacks for Col. Davis

As we slowly moved through the town there was a halt for a few minutes + I saw a hogs head of rain water upon the pavement. I rode the horse up to drink when a window in the house above opened + a Dutch man said, "I say mister just you let your horse drink all the water he pleases." I thanked him + said it was hard the horse should have all the good things, + the rider nothing; that the horse had had his breakfast." I told him I could eat for two days + for two men, -I had an eye for the Col.- So the old fellow came back with 4 big slices of Dutch oven bread +4 slices of bolona sausage just the size of the bread. He said "you come back here for dinner, + don't let them burn mine house." I told him I'd insure his house, + he felt safe. The Col. was most greatful for his bolona sandwiches.

I told him to build a fire leaving it to his good sense to build it away
from the wind. I got my leaves together, + kept them in place by laying two short poles at the head + two longer ones at the sides. Then I spread the oil cloths on the leaves + then a blanket. We ate our cold supper of biscuits + boiled beef left from breakfast + a drink of water was our greatest need just then. I went off to look for some, + finding the ditch we had crossed shortly before I filled our canteens having drunk what I wanted. In the morning we found a thick sediment of mud had deposited from the water in the canteens, + the remaining fluid too turbid to tempt us by day light, so I concluded that my thirst of the night before had induced me to swallow liquid mud.

We picketed there one night + at about 3 A.M. the Col. formed three companies, said they were going to head off some Yankees who had been tormenting the citizens a good deal. We got to a cross road near Summit
Point + divided. Strange to say just at the same time the two divisions came upon the enemy from opposite points, + bagged them like rabbits. They were laying around a fire + in the ashes were about 2 bushels of potatoes nicely roasted.

In cavalry we were on the go all the time, in front of our army, or way behind it. We would be ordered 4 or 6 days rations, + off we would go. Nothing melts like rations. I would frequently eat all I could, + give away the surplus, trusting to luck for the next days meals, rather than carry food packed in my haversack, or dragging on my shoulder strap. Then too I wanted the haversack for horse feed. It held nearly a gallon + whenever we stopped to clear the road or to wait for wagons or artillery to pass on I would feed my horse.

Dr. Love was regarded as Surgeon -in-Charge in Winchester. The people of the town were untiring in their attentions to our sick + wounded. They gave what they could, brought fruit, honey, preserves milk + other delicacies. I often found they really denied themselves for the comfort of the soldiers. Many a family there sat down to a breakfast of parched wheat as substitute for coffee + nothing besides, except bread and butter. A Mrs. Burns gave us a molassis stew. There were a number present of the most refined ladies of the town. The stewed molassis was poured into large yellow bowls containing many gallons + put upon a shelf in the yard to cool. The Yankees reached over the fence + gathered it all in, so we had no molasses pulling that night, but we had a good supper + a merry time all the same.

05-18-2008, 06:20 AM
Isaac White
Virginia Active Volunteer Forces
31st Virginia Infantry Regiment Asst Surg 9/62 - 12/62
29th Virginia Infantry Regiment - 5/63- 10/63
Acting assistant surgeon Montgomery White Sulphur Springs Hospital Va 1863
Assistant surgeon 62nd Virginia Regiment Mounted Infantry - remainder

Camp Near Dear Field Va
March 9th/64

My Dear Jinnie

I am very comfortably situated have a nice little tent with a good stove + a good bed + a boy you know to make fire. I could not ask for more in camp. I have bread + meat which you know are the substances of life have tried to get some vegetables; but but cannot. I can put up with the first very well + therefore shall not grumble but will return thanks for that. All I ask is that I may live to take care of you + my little boy outside of that life would have but few charms.

05-18-2008, 07:36 PM
Here is a link with more information on the Authentic Campaigner website.


06-11-2008, 06:54 PM
I've been reading The Gettysburg Diaries. Thomas Ware 15th GA, mentions in several entries eating cherries.

In his June 28th entry, he mentions while being encamped in the Chambersburg area of the men foraging and taking everything. Ware also speaks of the camps while near Chambersburg being full of chickens, butter, and milk. Several of his entries mention the lack of salt and soda used in preparing some biscuits. Another entry mentions the soldiers stealing from bee gums.

Sorry for the rambling, it's been a long day.

06-13-2008, 07:03 PM
Check "A Confederate Surgeon's Letters to His Wife" by Spencer Glasgow Welch. Pgs 56-60 he writes about the Gettysburg campaign and makes limited mention of food.

It's available on google books