Thursday, October 13, 2016

Diary of Sergeant George G. Smith: May 12, 1863

Rested here in a piney woods until [today]. These woods reminded me of the hunting scenes I had enjoyed in Texas before the war. I noticed we had been passing over ground for the last two days that I had passed over two years before on my way home from Texas. The Rapides Bayou, and it is not a bayou, takes its rise here in a large spring, which is peculiar from the fact that its waters divide, and part flows north and empties into Red River, and the other part flows south forming the Rapides Bayou and empties into Grand Lake, thence into the Gulf of Mexico.

[The] Army made an about face early in the morning, and commenced to retrace its steps towards Alexandra, arriving at 4 p. m. This was a severe march, making only one halt in twenty miles, and a hot day at that. But it often happens that severe trials work out for us blessings instead of afflictions. Our severe march proved to be a case in point. My larder, or rather haversack, I knew was running low, and the question arose as to what I was to have for dinner. My entire stock on hand consisted of a piece of boiled salt pork, a few pieces of hard tack and some coffee. Salt junk was all gone. Salt pork I could not, and hard tack I would not eat, and what was to be done? After a little reflection I said, “I am resolved what to do. I will soak my hard tack in some hot water and soften it up a little, and fry some of the salt pork in my tin plate and then fry the soaked hard tack in the gravy.” Very good! Why had not I thought of that before? But after a long time noon came, and the army halted for dinner in a wood where there was a brook, and I proceeded to put my plans in operation. A soldier noticed something unusual going on and stood watching me. As soon as he saw what I was going to do he wheeled on his heel and walked rapidly away. My plan was successful, and the dish was quite, and I may say, very palateable at least to me at that time. But I had builded better than I knew. I gave it no farther thought, only that I should repeat the process upon future occasions. So I did not mention it to anybody, but in less than a week I was surprised to see everybody frying soaked hard tack and salt pork. The officers' servants had caught the idea, and it was a prominent dish on every officer's table, from the General down to the lowest private. I had been in the Army of the Gulf almost two years, and I had never seen it done before. I had taken two unpalatable articles of food, forming a part of the soldiers' rations, and put them together, making one wholesome, palatable dish. But nobody knows who did it to this day, I suppose on account of my inability to blow a horn. But the idea must have been a saving of thousands of dollars to the subsistance department, for the pork ration was almost always discarded by the soldiers and thrown away, while the hard tack was a byword and a hissing. The original packages were marked “B. C.” I never knew exactly what it meant, but the soldiers said it meant “Before Christ,'” and judging from the hard and stale condition of some of it, I was not prepared to say it did not mean just that.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 52-5

No comments: