This was a hard challenge to do. I thought of doing something from Vicksburg as it was falling around the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg was occurring in the north. However, as the meals were extremely meager in Vicksburg, I didn’t think that a rat or bit of mule would be appetizing in the least or fun to cook.
I was incredibly moved from reading accounts about the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg. Many are familiar with the 3 days of battle but what happened next is truly at the heart of the event. Women poured in from different parts of the country to administer aid and what they recorded was horrific. They noted the smell of rotting horses. The screams and cries of the wounded and family members wandering the fields in an attempt to find the bodies or graves of missing loved ones. They wrote of the many men that they met and the ones they cared for one day who were gone the next. There were over 27,000 wounded men after the battle, more than 7,000 killed and 10,000 missing. The magnitude of the battle is hard to fathom, it is harder still to imagine what remained after the armies left.
Farina was mentioned in many accounts from nurses and ladies of the Sanitary Commission. They were most likely just adding water or milk to the farina and heating it to make a gruel that would feed many, be nourishing and easy to eat and digest for the wounded. I chose to make a farina pudding as plain farina is so simple it doesn’t require a recipe. The recipe I used a farina pudding recipe that I found in a hospital manual.
Today in History June 29 – July 12
Make a dish based on or inspired by a momentous occasion that took place on the day you made it. Get creative – you would be surprised by all the interesting things that happened every single day!
The Date/Year and Region: 1861-1863 Pennsylvania
How Did You Make It:
-1/4 cup Farina (Cream of Wheat)
-3 cups Milk
-Sugar to Taste
Instructions: Add milk and farina to double boiler. Boil until it clumps together and pour it into a greased mold being careful as it is very hot. Cool the mold off in a large bowl full of ice. Once cool, turn over the mold to release the pudding and top with sugar.
Time to Complete: 15 Minutes
Total Cost: About $4.00
How Successful Was It?:The pudding did not turn out as smooth as I thought it would. It might have had a smoother appearance if I boiled it in the mold. It tasted good but a little bland as hospital food is known.
How Accurate Is It?: I forgot to use a double boiler so it only took a few minutes to cook instead of having to boil it for 45 minutes. Even using a double boiler, I don’t think it would take 45 minutes to cook.
An Excerpt from a letter to J. Huelings in Moorestown, New Jersey from a Nurse in Gettysburg on July 16, 1863:
“The atmosphere is truly horrible, and camphor and cologne or smelling salts are prime necessaries for most persons, certainly for the ladies. We think that diminutive bags of camphor, say an inch square, would be a great comfort to the soldiers, relieving them in some measure from the ever-present odors.
We rode in an ambulance to the hospital of the Second Corps. The sights and the sounds beggar description. There is great need of bandages. Almost every man has lost either an arm or a leg. The groans, the cries, the shrieks of anguish, are awful indeed to hear. We heard them all day in the field, and last night I buried my head in my pillow to shut out the sounds which reached us, from a church quite near, where the wounded are lying.
We could only try to hear as though we heard not, for it requires strong effort to be able to attend to thevarious calls for aid. The condensed milk is invaluable. The corn-starch, farina, and milk punch are eagerly partaken of, and a cup of chocolate is greatly relished. A poor fellow with a broken jaw seemed to appeal, though mutely, for special attention. I beat up quickly two or three eggs, adding a spoonful of brandy and a cup of scalding hot milk, which he managed to draw through his scarcely opened lips, and at once seemed revived. The Union soldiers and the rebels, so long at variance, are here quite friendly. They have fought their last battle, and vast numbers are going daily to meet the King of Terrors.”
By Stephanie Ann Farra