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 →

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