Sleigh-Riding Civil War Style

Brr. It's January and the snow is falling at least in some parts of the world. Are you looking out your window right now? Are you lucky enough to see expanses of white snow and to be dreaming of riding with your beau in a one-horse sleigh? How romantic you might be thinking. However, Jennie... Continue Reading →

Christmas Poems and Pictures Civil War Style

The 1864 Christmas Poems and Pictures: A Collection of Songs, Carols, and Descriptive Poems relating to the Festival of Christmas is typical of the Christmas books popular during the Civil War period. Published in New York by James J. Gregory it contains old English Christmas carols such as "A Carol for the Wassail Bowl", religious... Continue Reading →

Elevators Civil War Style

Yes, there were elevators in use during the Civil War. In fact, elevators actually have a very long history. Elevators or hoists to lift supplies to the top floors of buildings or to lower men and equipment into mines using pulleys can be dated back to the third century. These simple platforms were raised by... Continue Reading →

Becoming a Woman Doctor During the Civil War period

There is a contemporary perception that women could not become doctors during the Civil War period because they were banned from medical college. But while their paths were not "strewn with flowers", at the time of the Civil War, there were places women could go to study medicine. The Boston (later New England) Female Medical College was founded... Continue Reading →

Simplifying the Wash, Civil War Style

Oak tubs, washboards, iron pots, fire grates, homemade soap, bluing, and plenty of back-breaking work were the basic things needed to get clothes clean mid-century. This 1861 drawing of two hard-working entrepreneurs gives a good idea of the basics. However, Robert Kemp Phillip in The Family Save-All (1861) suggests numerous ways to make the process "easier."... Continue Reading →

Maple Sugaring Civil War Style

Away! Away to the maple grove! Come hither my boys and girls, thither let us rove. "The Sugar-Camp" by Harry in Merry's Museum 1862 p. 80 Isaac Hurlburt lived not too very far down the same road I live on today. His farming round was also much like our own, except we only raised sheep... Continue Reading →

The Sewing Machine and the Civil War

The elegance, speed, noiselessness and simplicity of the machine; the beauty and strength of the stitch:...impossible to ravel, and leaving no chain or ridge on the under side; the economy of thread and adaptability to the thickest or thinnest fabrics, have rendered this the most successful and popular sewing machine made. (Advertisement for a Weber... Continue Reading →

A Coat of Shoddy

I Wish I Had a Fat Contract to the tune of Barbara Allen But if I had a fat contract To make clothes for de solders De army coats and striped pants, I wouldn't use no shoddy Nor no oder stuff that's rotten; But I'd use the very best of cloth, Widout a bit of... Continue Reading →

Valentine’s Day Civil War Style

"...this is the day on which those charming little missives, ycelped* Valentines, cross and inter-cross at every street and turning. The weary and all forespent twopenny postman sinks below a load of delicate embarrassments, not his own." Valentine's Day in Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb 1860 (*called) Valentine's Day was a well-established holiday by the... Continue Reading →

Mailing a Letter Civil War Style

During wartime communicating with loved ones becomes an overwhelming concern. In the Civil War period many soldiers and families wrote letters to each other almost daily. Postage was cheap by our standards 3 cents per half ounce which was lowered to 2 cents in October of 1863. But for people who earned an average salary of $20 a month... Continue Reading →

The Christmas Tree Civil War Style

When we think of magic, probably one of the most magical things of the Christmas season are brilliantly lit Christmas trees. Although decking the house with boughs of pine was a traditional Christmas practice [the pine scent was believed to clean the air and prevent disease], Christmas trees were uncommon in early America. The custom,... Continue Reading →

Turkey Civil War Style

While soldiers in the field were waiting for their turkeys to arrive packed in crates filled with straw and kept cold, hopefully, by winter weather, at home women were preparing to roast their turkeys. Roasting a turkey in the 1800s meant cooking it on a spit inside a tin oven. Catherine Esther Beecher in her 1859... Continue Reading →

Thanksgiving during the Civil War

Thanksgiving had been celebrated in America from the time of the Puritans, and soldiers had taken the tradition with them when they went to war. In 1863 President Lincoln declared November 26 as a national day of "thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens" in response to a letter from... Continue Reading →

Henry Ward Beecher on Pumpkins

As much as the pumpkin is used as a term of ridicule, who ever saw a pumpkin that seemed to quail or look sheepish? Henry Ward BeecherHenry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn. He is best known for his break with his father's hell and brimstone Calvinism to a belief in... Continue Reading →

They Wore Printed Calicos

Visit any Civil War re-enactment event and you will find women sporting dresses in colorful calicos - those small floral or geometric all-over patterns that sometimes make your eyes spin. All that color can't be you might think. But, in fact, calicos were a featured item in dry good ads in period newspapers and adorned Civil War ladies... Continue Reading →

They Wore Cotton

In 1860 cotton was the United States' largest export. Produced cheaply through slave labor, the American cotton trade provided most of the world's supply. Sixty-four percent of slaves lived on cotton plantations. While ardent abolitionists refused to buy slave-produced cotton and in 1838 established the American Free Produce Association, the boycott had little effect, probably, because the... Continue Reading →

A Civil War Boy’s Diary

In my last post I referred to the diary of Lucy James Stoughton of Castle Creek. I came across another local diary in my files. This one by a boy of about the same age as Lucy. Diary of a Binghamton Boy of the 1860s was edited and explained by Marjory Barnun Hinman and published in... Continue Reading →

The Ladies of Castle Creek’s “World’s Fare”

While the beneficent ladies of New York City waited until 1864 to stage their extravaganza to raise thousands of dollars for the Sanitary Commission and the care of the wounded, other women were doing their part from early on. In the winter of 1861 when it was becoming apparent the war was going to be long and... Continue Reading →

Civil War Medical Books for the Home

"Medical works are generally a heterogeneous compound of vague ideas and jaw-breaking words, in which the dead languages are largely employed to treat of living subjects. Orthodoxy in medicine consists in walking in the beaten paths of Esculapian ancestors, and looking with grave contempt on all who essay to cut out new paths for themselves.... Continue Reading →

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