March 2001 - Humor in the Civil War


We all know the horrors of the war, the disease, the wounds and the killing, so this month I thought I'd share with you some of the humorous stories.  Some I'm sure are just that, stories.  Stories that have been passed down through the generations and others are said to be true.  You be the judge which is which.

One story sent to me recently involved some Union artillerymen from Co. D, of the 3rd Rhode Island.  They got $15 together and one soldier snuck past the guards and headed for the nearest sutler.  The only thing the sutler had were some unmarked canned goods which the soldier bought and headed back to camp.  Their hopes for a great meal were quickly dashed as the cans were found to contain asparagus, and that asparagus was rotten!  So that it would not be a total waste, the cans were put in the cannons and fired over the enemy in an opening volley. 

Then there is the story of the 154th NY, called the "hard tack regiment."  They traded coffee to the Germans of the 11th Corps  for hardtack.  The only thing the Germans didn't realize was...  the coffee had already been used.

We've all heard stories about how much the soldiers "loved" the sutlers (she says tongue in cheek).  One of the sutlers was selling cider to the men and had the barrel against the back of his tent.  A couple of the soldiers kept him busy "up front" while others were busily tapping the keg from the back.  There was free cider for all!

At http://www2.froggernet.com/Captain/cwhumor.html I found many tidbits you might want to check out, but one of my favorite is about the Bugle: "In the winter one of the favorite tricks that the soldiers would play on the bugler was to put water in his bugle at night and let it freeze.  The next morning the bugler would be unable to blow reveille until he thawed out his bugle."

Just a few days before the Battle of Fredricksburg it had snowed.  The soldiers formed regiments and had a huge snowball fight.

For St. Patrick's Day, the Irish Brigade had a huge party.  They did all kinds of crazy things.  One of the activities included burying one end of a long pole in the ground and putting a $20 gold piece on the top as a reward to the successful climber.  Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  Well it wasn't easy at all, a few feet from the top the pole was well greased.  No one ever got the coin, but it sure wasn't from a lack of trying.

There's also a story of some Confederate soldiers who were on the march and came upon a stream where they stripped down and went for a swim.  Soon a young boy on horseback came riding up looking for the officer in charge.  Asked what the problem was, the boy said the lady who owns the farm house "over yonder" can see them.  The officer sees the house is off quite a distance.  Seems the lady must have had a pair of field glasses and was watching them!

As we all know field hospitals were always marked.  The Spangler family, of Gettysburg, returning home after the battle, could see something flying from a pole raised on the barn roof but weren't able to make out just what it was.  Apparently the doctor couldn't find their hospital flag and ordered a private to go into the home to find something that could be used to mark the barn as a hospital.  Mrs. Spangler, the lady of the house, was a large German woman.  Can you see where this is going here?  The private had found a pair of Mrs. Spangler's bloomers and they are what was used as a flag.  It's been told they could be seen for miles around.

On the Confederates' march to Gettysburg, General Longstreet had issued orders that no one was to take personal stuff.  One soldier was taken before the General for killing a pig.  He asked why he had killed the pig, hadn't he understood the order?  The young soldier said he had understood and proceeded to tell the General that they had been moving along and crossed into the Yankee land when all of a sudden this pig started to oink and attacked some of the men and "since we were under attack, I had no choice but to bayonet the pig."  Longstreet inquired as to the whereabouts of the pig.  The soldier said it depended on how one looked at it, and needless, to say was asked to explain his answer.  The soldier said "Well, sir, the men were hungry, so we roasted him."  "You roasted him?" said Longstreet and the soldier replied "Yes sir, General Hill said it was the best pork he had eaten in a long time." to which the General replied "Dismissed private."

I saved my favorite story till last.  It, too, is from the website I mentioned above.  "Biggest man;  The tallest man in the Union's Army was David Van Buskirk of the 27th Indiana Regiment who stood 6 feet 11 inches and weighed 380 pounds.  He was captured in 1862 and was sent to a Richmond Prison were a Confederate entrepreneur put him on exhibit.  Eve Confederate President Jeff Dave came to see him and was astounded when the impish Van Buskirk claimed that back home in Bloomington, Indiana "When I was at the train station with my company, my six sisters came to say goodbye.  As I was standing there, with my company, they all came up to me, leaned down, and kissed me on the top of the head."  True??  You decide.

I guess that's about it for now, I hear the bugler in the distance, so it's time to post the pickets and blow out the candles

Links
Civil War Humor
http://home.valstar.net/~jcraig/humor.htm

Humor - Civil War Era
http://www2.froggernet.com/captain/cwhumor.html



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