Sunday, December 23, 2007

Plum Duff, Sea Pie, Porpoise Liver, Dandyfunk and Lobscouse

On October 5, 1849, Ezekial I. Barra was among 31 passengers aboard the "Samson" headed out of Philadelphia for the gold fields of California. In "Tale of Two Oceans," published in 1893, Barra recounts the lengthy journey around Cape Horn to San Francisco. It’s a remarkable telling of the adventure that vividly recounts life aboard a sailing ship in the mid 19th century. I was particularly curious about the meals provided to the crew and passengers.
First Dinner at Sea
Gliding down the Delaware river, Barra recounts: "At one o’clock the first dinner of the voyage was served. It consisted of roast beef, roast pork, boiled cabbage, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, stewed tomatoes and rice pudding. ... candor compels me to say that it was the last one we enjoyed of the kind during the voyage, for after that our fare consisted of salt beef, salt pork, beans, rice, codfish, mackerel, and potatoes while they lasted, which was about one month. Twice a week we had plum duff with raisins, the duff is composed of flour, lard, raisins, saleratus (baking soda) and water, with eggs mixed in when they can be had. When well mixed it is put into a canvas bag, wide at the top and very narrow at the bottom, boiled two hours and then turned into a platter and served with wine sauce when it can be had, or else with vinegar, butter, sugar and water boiled well together and thickened with flour and flavored with nutmeg. On other days we had boiled rice, with sugar, for dessert."
Making a Sea Pie
Later, following a three-day storm, Barra writes: " ... on this day, the cook exerted himself and prepared a sea pie for our dinner. A sea pie consists of onions fried brown, lean pork cut in small pieces, potatoes cut in quarters and the all simmered together; then make dough enough to cover all sides of the baking pan; and after the sides are covered, put in the filling to stew, season with tomato ketchup an pepper, sprinkle in a little dry flour to thicken it, and cover the pan with a thick crust and put it in the oven for two hours. In the absence of chicken or fresh beef, this is a very palatable dish. Beside the pie we had a large plum duff."
Porpoise Liver and Bacon
"November 15th. We are now having light winds, Lat. 18 12 No., Long 30 22 W., weather warm. We are daily approached by schools of porpoises and they would often sport around the ship and come right under her bows. We had a sailor that had once been on a whaling voyage in a schooner from Provincetown, Cape Cod, and he claimed to be a good harpooner. The chief mate caused a harpoon to be rigged and used a coil of rattling stuff for a line; it was placed in the waist, on the lee side, and the end passed outside the forerigging to the bow, and lashed to the harpoon. When everything was ready the whaleman, whose name was Amaziah Nickerson, took the harpoon, went out to the martingale and lashed himself to it, so as to have free use of his hands, and stand ready for a chance to strike a porpoise. The chance soon occurred, for a porpoise came within range and Amaziah threw the harpoon with such force and precision that it passed clear through the body of the monster. As soon as the porpoise was stuck the mate ordered the helm to be put hard down and eased up the head sheets. In the meantime the porpoise was struggling fiercely, but without avail. The struggle soon ceased and the porpoise was hauled alongside. Amaziah was placed in the bight of a rope and lowered over the side; he then placed a running bowline over the flukes of he monster and it was hoisted on board with a watch tackle. When it was stretched on deck all the passengers gathered around and all of them expressed unbounded wonder at the sight of the denizen of the mighty deep. Its weight reckoned to be about three hundred and fifty pounds. Sailors often call them sea hogs. The monster was immediately opened and its liver taken out. It was then 9:30 a.m. The captain ordered the cook to prepare the liver for a special luncheon for the ladies and have it ready by eleven o’clock.
The cook cut the liver into slices and washed it with salt and water, after which he wiped it dry, dredged it with dry flour and fried it with slices of bacon. The odor of the frying liver and bacon that issued from the galley carried the memory of the young passengers from the interior of Pennsylvania back to their father’s farm in hog killing time, and excited their gustatory organs to such a degree that it caused the saliva to exude from their mouths and trickle down their chins in tiny rivulets. The eight ladies on board enjoyed the novel dish of fried porpoise liver and bacon and declared it was the most delicious morsel that they had eaten in many a day. Then the body of the porpoise was stripped of blubber, which was tried out for oil for the forecastle lamps, and the meat was cut into strips, parboiled in salt and water and wiped dry. After this it was mixed with a small proportion of salt pork and chopped fine. It was then seasoned with dried sage and summer savory, pepper and salt and rolled into small balls, covered with dry flour and then fried in a pan of hot fat, and served piping hot. It must be said that to us it tasted as palatable as a dish of Fulton market sausage meat ever tasted to us when in New York. We all liked it so well that when the supply – which lasted two days – was exhausted we, like Oliver Twist, asked for more of the same kind. The French passengers were so well pleased that one of them sent a bottle of brandy, by the cabin boy, to Amaziah as a reward for his prowess. After this feast everything moved along in the old groove."
Fried mince turnovers
Following the visit of King Neptune and the initiation of 12 passengers into the Realm of the Sea, awarded to those who cross the equator for the first time, Barra writes:
"During the afternoon I noticed that the two cooks appeared to be extra busy. The steward told me that Stanwood had given him one of the four bottles of cognac, therefore he was gong to reciprocate by giving the sailors a treat of mince turnovers for their supper. Mince turnovers, on board of ship, are made of salt beef, chopped fine and mixed with three times the quantity of boiled dried apples, a little dried orange peel, allspice, and molasses to taste, and a taste of vinegar. Dough cut into small sections after it is rolled thin. Put one spoonful of the mince in each section, bringing the edges together, put each one in a frying pan, filled with hot fat, and fry them brown. When one side is fried, turn the pie over – hence the name "fried turnovers." In the absence of luxuries on board of a ship such simple dishes are a great boon to the sailor."
‘Dandyfunk:" Not a high-toned dish
On the last Thursday of November – Thanksgiving in some countries – the sailors "got one kit of beef, one kit of pork and one bake-pan full of dandyfunk."
Barra explains: "Dandyfunk is a dish composed of navy biscuit soaked in water, mashed with a pestle, mixed with fat taken from the coppers in which the meat is boiled, sweetened with molasses and flavored with allspice, then put into a pan and baked in the oven. It isn’t a very high-toned dish, but in the absence of something better, it is very palatable to a sailor."
Lobscouse: ‘Fit For the Gods’
After changing ships at Rio de Janeiro, Barra discuss the fare offered aboard the "Urania:"
"Our daily fare in the forecastle was passably good. As the captain had supplied a large stock of potatoes, we were enabled to have plenty of salt beef hash, as well as a good dish of lobscouse for breakfast.
"Lobscouse is a sea dish and is made of one onion cut and put into a gallon water, a dozen potatoes peeled and cut into quarters, four cakes of navy bread soaked and broken up. Boil for half an hour. Cut up salt beef into small square pieces equal to one-third of the whole mass, and boil again for half an hour. Then add pepper to taste and add, when about to be taken up, a half cupful of thickening. On a cold morning it is a dish ‘fit for the gods!’ Just try it."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A History of the Fourth U.S. Infantry 1796-1920

By Capt. R.G. Emery (formerly of the 4th Division)
Published in the April 1942 issue of Esquire magazine

Colors Lost and Then Won
A colonel of the Fourth once married a lady with more erudition than insights into things military. At a post party one evening, she regaled the delighted ears of a number of officers of other regiments with the following tidbit gleaned from her research. “Did you know,” she swaggered, “that the Fourth is one of the very few of our regiments whose colors are on display in the Tower of London?”
That story caused more than one cracked noggin in garrison towns on a payday night. And it is still, by War Department order, a base calumny. A Fourth Regiment of Infantry did lose its colors to the British at Detroit in 1812 but not this one. That regiment, originated in 1808 , is now the Fifth. The present Fourth can claim battle streamers by the mile but none won before May 17, 1815.
An organization was mustered in Sept. 4, 1792, as “The Infantry of the Fourth Sub-Legion,” and fought at Miami Rapids in 1794. In 1796, it was re-designated the Fourth Regiment of Infantry but in 1802 ceased to exist. A new Fourth fought lustily for William Henry Harrison at Tippecanoe and, in 1812, was with General William Hull’s ill-fated army. At the culmination of this campaign, at Fort Detroit, Hull surrendered his entire command to an inferior force of British and Indians without pulling a trigger. President Monroe, mitigating the court-martial sentence that Hull be shot, ruled: “The rolls of the Army shall no longer be debased by having upon them the name of Brigadier-General Hull.” Still none of it could help the Fourth get back its colors, which found their resting place in the Tower of London.
But the remnants of that Fourth Infantry were combined after the war with those of five other regiments (9th, 13th, 21st, 40th and 46th) to form the Fifth. It was then that the War Department decreed that “the brilliant history of the Fourth Regiment from 1796 to 1815 “was to become the property of the Fifth. At about the same time, a few odds and ends of the 14th, 18th, 20th, 36th and 38th were lumped to form the new Fourth.

Battles With the Creeks, Seminoles
The Creeks and the Seminoles were threatening disturbance in the South and the new regiment was bequeathed responsibility for the Southern frontier, then at some point now included in Georgia and Alabama. There they chased the elusive savages and died of choler with equal obstinacy. The death roll of one company for one year also includes casualties from five diagnosed types of fever. The same death roll has the entry “Intemperance” after two more of its names.
In orders No. 15, Western Army, August 28th, 1832, General Winfield Scott states: “The senior surgeon recommends the use of flannel shirts, flannel drawers and woollen stockings,” but the Commanding General, who has seen much of the disease (cholera) knows that it is intemperance which generates and spreads the calamity and that, when spread, good and temperate men are likely to be infected. He therefore peremptorily commands that "every soldier or ranger who shall be found drunk or sensibly intoxicated, after publication of this order, be compelled, as soon as his strength will permit, to dig a grave at a suitable burying place large enough for this own reception, as such grave cannot fail to be wanted for the drunken man himself or for one of his drunken companions." This order is given as well to serve as a punishment for drunkenness as to spare good and temperate men the labor of digging graves for their worthless companions.”
When not digging graves, the Fourth built posts along the border. A letter of General Lorenzo Thomas says: “Each company built its own double block of logs and a house of one story (logs) for officers’ quarters. The troops also sawed the boards for flooring, rived the pine shingles for roofs. In truth, the troops did the entire work, the quartermaster department only furnishing the few tools to work with, the nails and other hardware. Scarcely a nail was used to secure the shingles, they being hung on the rafters with wooden pegs. The spaces between the logs were chinked with moss and clay and afterward the whole was white-washed. This was the mode of creating quarters by the Infantry arm in those days, at scarcely any expense to the government.”

Outwitted by Osceola’s Braves

The Fourth did not get down to really serious business with the Indians until 1833. In December, the line of communication and supply to one of the boarder stations, Fort King, was cut by Osceola’s Seminoles. One hundred artillerymen from Fort Brooks under Major Gardner were ordered to re-establish contact. At the last moment, Major Gardner’s bride of a few weeks fell ill. Captain and Brevet-Major Francis Dade of the Fourth gallantly volunteered to go in his stead. Gallantly, because post gossip had it that it had been a fair wager as to whether the lady would becomes Mrs. Gardner or Mrs. Dade.
Major Dade’s offer was accepted and he joined the expedition with eleven men of B Company of the Fourth. The march was begun on the 20th of December. On the 28th, after a cheerless Christmas on the trail and still forty miles short of Fort King, Major Dade ran his little column into a trap of the wily Indian, Osceola, left. The only survivors of the affair were three badly wounded privates who reported the command had fought stubbornly from eight in the morning until five at night when, their ammunition exhausted, they went down, outnumbered and out-generalled, under Seminole hatchets.
As late as 1891, Colonel Granville Heller wrote a friend: "Since the unfortunate termination of Major Dade’s expedition it has been the custom of the Fourth Infantry not to volunteer for any service. The officers and men always have the readiness and willingness of any service required of them but all details, whether of a dangerous nature or in daily routine are allowed to be made from a roster in the office of the regimental adjutant.” Period.
The Regiment chased the Indians hither and yon with greatly increased enthusiasm after the Dade affair. By 1837, they had caught up with them and Osceola was on his way to the cell at Moultrie (South Carolina) in which he would remain until his death (Jan. 20, 1838).
That fall, the regiment was moved to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, to enjoy its first taste of garrison service. But in ‘44, the outfit moved again, by way of New Orleans, to join Zachary Taylor’s Army of Observation at Corpus Christi, Texas.

From ‘Observers’ to Fighters
The Army of Observation very soon became the Army of Occupation. It was a very good army. The officers were regulars who had spent practically all of their professional lives on active service and the enlisted men, drawing a base pay of seven dollars of month, were in ranks either because they were patriots or because they just liked it.
And old “Rough and Ready” was not the man to let a bright sword rust. Grant later remarked: “I do not believe that a more efficient army, for its numbers and armament, ever fought a battle than that commanded by General Taylor in his first two fights on Mexican soil.”
Later, at Monterey, the regimental band of the Fourth found their role of spectators no longer supportable and, throwing away their instruments, they rushed a Mexican light battery, seized it, and swung it up their fleeing enemy. According to the official citation, the breast cord of honor given them and their successors was made red, the Artillery’s color “ . . . to show that they were as expert artillerymen as infantrymen.”

Lieutenant U.S. Grant, left, was with Taylor’s army that winter after Monterey. He did not join the 4th itself (as Quartermaster) until the next November. During the months of inaction at Victoria in early 1847 – while Taylor was staying as far away as he could from his political rival Winfield Scott – some of the officers of the army formed a theatrical society. The young Grant, not yet quite so "beavery," it is hoped, played most of the principal feminine roles. His leading man was usually Captain Robert E. Lee of the Engineers.
After the Mexican War, the regiment was ordered to the West Coast, crossed the isthmus of Panama, on the way and finding that two weeks of Isthmian cholera and Chagres fever were more disastrous than two years in the field. Of the 1,100 officers, men and camp followers who sailed from new York on the “Ohio” on July 5, 1852, 107 died in route.
In the West, the regiment scattered and put again into practice “the mode of erecting quarters by the Infantry arm.” The list of posts they built and campaigns they fought is as long as the history of the West. However, the company journal and correspondence book of G Company, sill in G’s possession, shows that company administration during those glamorous years was principally concerned with the quality of tobacco ration and unhallowed liaisons between lonesome soldiers and the regimental laundresses.

The San Juan Imbroglio
There was one incident of the fifties which is illustrative of these pre-blitz days. It rose from the so-called San Juan Imbroglio. In 1859, General Harney ordered the occupation of San Juan Island as a part of the territory of the United States. Three companies of the Fourth and one of the Ninth did the occupying. The British commander, fortified by five men-of-war and 2,000 soldiers and marines, disagreed with General Harvey’s geography. One hundred sixty-seven British guns aboard the five ships were trained upon the Fourth Infantry camp when, in the lull before the first gunner’s match was lighted, an officer of the Fourth was invited to an official party of courtesy aboard the flagship. During the casual professional conversation around the punch bowl, the American made a remark concerning a battle in the war between the Austrians and Napoleon III’s Franco-Sardinians, which was then in progress. The British admiral heard it. “I presume,” he asked, “that you refer to the battle of Magenta, Major?”
“No, sir. I spoke of the second engagement of the campaign, some weeks after Magenta.”
“Hmm. And how have such late advices reached you?”
“By courier from our Department of State, sir.”
It was then September, 1859. Magenta had been fought June 4th. To the British, the conclusion was obvious and upsetting. Evidently, news which reached the Americans from Washington was considerably fresher than that which England could furnish her Pacific fleet. With the memory of Pakenham’s bloody losses at New Orleans, in a battle fought after the war was ended, fresh in their minds, the British decided to wait.
As it happened, the English commander was really the best informed man on the scene, as the subsequent arrival of General Scott with orders which vetoed Harney’s decision provided. The San Juan troops were quietly withdrawn, but without bloodshed. If the Fourth Infantryman had felt that he needed any further poetic justification, it was given him by news which finally came from Italy that there had been another battle after Magenta.

Adding To Its Civil War Colors
Of course, the Regiment took time out from its pioneering to add twenty or so Civil War battle streamers to its colors. It saved Wood’s and Tidball’s batteries at Gaines’ Mill; held Sharpsburg bridge at Antietam, and it was rear guard at Chancellorsville. By the time they fought through the Wilderness to the breastworks at Petersburg, a lieutenant, George Randall, was commanding as senior officer still present for duty.
The phrase is reminiscent of another Civil War experience of the Fourth worth repeating, only because of the manner in which it was recorded. Major Delezior Davidson commanded at Gaines’ Mill but the task of officially reporting the engagement fell to Captain Joseph Collins, who writes briefly, even daily: “... at eleven o’clock Major Davidson retired to the rear and has not been seen since.” However, the major was seen again – at his court martial, which cashiered him.
After Appomattox, the Fourth returned to the West, now to Fort Laramie, Wyo., in 1869; the 30th Infantry, organized in 1866, was consolidated with the Fourth and the regiment retained the designation, Fourth. At one time in ‘71 it went back to Louisville to be split into small detachments to chivvy moonshiners about the Kentucky hills for a year. It was West again in time to serve under General George Crooks on the Rosebud. (The Battle of the Rosebud in June 1876 pitted the Lakota Indians in Montana vs the US Army.) And in ‘92 and ‘93, Colonel Robert Hall led it out to escort Jacob Coxey’s Army through Washington and Idaho. Rather, to stand guard over railway rolling stock until Coxey’s Army had gone by. (“Coxey’s Army” was actually a large group of unemployed railroad workers protesting governmental policies following the economic panic of 1893.

A Return to Cuba
Then someone blew up the “Maine” and the Fourth shouldered its muskets again. It was at El Caney and at Santiago. It learned again that fever was worse than bullets, disease decimating it for the third time in its history. There was still trouble in the Philippines and the regiment was shortly on its way “by way of the Suez Canal,” except for some artillery which assisted the Navy in our Algerian difficulty. The Fourth believes it is the first Army regiment to cross the Atlantic.
Civilizing the Insurrectos with a Krag and bringing the heathen light in one way or another, plus two brief stations at home kept the outfit busy until 1914. ‘Fourteen caught it on this side of the Pacific and handy to join Major General Frederick Funston on the Vera Cruz expedition. The coconut trees around Los Coces station might have been the same ones under which the regiment had bivouacked when Winfield Scott placed it in that selfsame spot 67 years before. The Vera Cruz expedition returned the and the Fourth went to the 3rd Division in ‘17 in time to make its second trip across the Atlantic. It was blooded at Chateau Thierry and fought on the Marne and at St. Mihiel. Afterward, it added the crossing of the Rhine and a winter in Germany to its historical itinerary.

Remembering the Fourth
The Fourth is not our oldest regiment – the third Infantry Regiment being the oldest – but its list of battles is the longest. (The unit is credited with participation in 45 campaigns.) The decorations on its colors show that they have been planted upon the ramparts of the nation, and taken up with honor, more times than any others. Grant stood beneath those colors, and Sheridan and Taylor. It is those battle streamers and the men who gained them that make the soul of a regiment. And the soul of a regiment is not at all an intangible thing.
Some youngster of the Fourth one day will feel a pretty solid presence around him when he needs it the most. Colonel Bill Foster, who held the hummock at Okeechobee, will be there; and Lieutenant Johnny Gore, who climbed the wall at Chapultepec; Captain Hiram Dryer, who stood to fire three volleys at thirty yards into a Confederate brigade at Second Bull Run, will be somewhere close, and so will Captain Frank Andrus who called his shots at Santiago from the top of the parapet.They were men who never gave up a battlefield. And they won’t be there to see it begun in our time.

For the most comprehensive history of the regiment’s early days (from 1796 to 187), read “Organization and Movements of the 4th Regiment of Infantry” by Capt. William Powell and published in 1871. It can be seen on

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Antiseptic Baby (?)

I often buy boxes or folders crammed with old paper stuff -- maps, letters, photos, postcards, advertisements, programs. My initial examination is rather cursory but when I get the material home, a closer look often yields some fascinating stuff. And some is just plain weird. Take for instance, the four-page mimeographed folder of nine songs. The one that caught my eye is labeled "The Antiseptic Baby." I have no idea of its origin or meaning and Google was no help. I leave it to you to help me out. Here it is.
(My original post, copied from an old folded mimeograph sheet, had some errors which were brought to my attention by an alert reader. This is the correct version, with the proper title.)

"Strictly Germ-Proof"
(aka: "The Antiseptic Baby" )

The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when a Bunny gamboled up;
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised; -
It wasn't Disinfected and it wasn't Sterilized.

They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
and washed it in permanganate and carbolated soap.

In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
and 'lected him a member of the Fumigated Band.

There's not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
And each imbibes his daily rations from a Hygienic Cup -
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

Prophylactic: disease preventing
Permanganate: a salt of permanganic acid
Carbolated soap: a salt of carbolic acid
Micrococcus: Spherical bacterium usually found on the skin of animals
Iodoform: compound of iodine used as an antiseptic.