New Year’s Eve Civil War Style

The turn of the year from old to new has long been celebrated in a variety of ways sometimes with frivolity and sometimes with spirituality, and sadly, sometimes on the battlefield. This is true of the Civil War period also. Celebrating with Frivolity According to Alexis McCrossen, writing for We’re History, men and women belonging... Continue Reading →

Who Wore What: A Book Review

` Who Wore What?: Women's Wear, 1861-1865 by Juanita Leisch My rating: 5 of 5 stars There is plenty of useful information in Who Wore What by Juanita Leisch. However, as she admits, the sample of photographs she worked with, although carefully dated, were not random and were not identified as to location. So her... Continue Reading →

Desiccated Vegetables Civil War Style

Today when we want fresh vegetables in the middle of the winter we need go no further than our local grocery. During the Civil War, it wasn't so easy. In the next series of posts, I will be examining how foods were preserved in the 1860s. Drying Air and heat drying is one of the... Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

Beneficient Ladies of New York

If you were a well-to-do lady living in New York in April 1864 and a member of the Union League Club House, you might have found yourself deep in preparations for the Metropolitan  Fair. Impressed by the successes of the Sanitary Fairs in Chicago and Boston in raising money for the care of wounded soldiers, New... Continue Reading →

Games for Girls from the 1862 American Girls’ Book

While the boys were outside building snow forts and giant men, the girls were inside putting on plays, playing games, or amusing themselves with paper and cardboard and cloth following the directions in the 1862 American Girl's Book by Miss Leslie, a volume intended as an "unpretending manual of light and exhilarating amusements; most of... Continue Reading →

Fun in the Snow 1860s Style

It snowed today and a white Christmas is predicted for my region. Time to have fun in the snow! Despite the war, children during the Civil War period loved snow as much as children do today. Indeed, the 1864 American Boy's Book of Sports and Games included snow play among its many healthful activities for American boys.... Continue Reading →

Sleigh Rides in the 1860s

  Why do parties choose a moonlit night for sleigh rides? Because they are pleasanter than dark nights. "Proceedings of the Farmers' Club" in the  Annual Report of the City of New York 1864 p. 165. Here it is December 15, and no snow, no snowmen, and no sleds. I am looking  out my window... Continue Reading →

A Civil War Christmas Story

There are but few children, in this matter-of-fact age, who have real faith in the jolly little man with mouse-skins and reindeer...  No this wasn't written in 2012. This is taken from the children's book  Keep a Good Heart: A Story for Christmas Time by Cousin Carrie 1864 p. 78.  What can children's books tell... Continue Reading →

Almanacs: Time, Tides, and Government Officials

Today November 11th I picked broccoli in my garden, an unheard of event in the time I have lived here on the Allegany Plateau of central New York. Usually by now successive nights in the 20s would have done even those hardy plants in. If I were to believe the Old Farmer's Almanac 2013, instead of... Continue Reading →

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