Authentic A sailor makes a Dandy Funker on board the Housatonic (Recipe)

Gary Morgan

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Okay, I'm not 100% on the word Funker, (the penmanship was kind of sketchy) but it's my best guess as to what Fredric A. James called the dish that he and his mess mates on board the Housatonic in his November 22, 1863 letter home to his wife. As unaccustomed as he was to domestic skills such as cooking, it's kind of cute to see how excited he was over the successful concoction of what looks to be a kind of bread (hardtack?) pudding. Here's what he wrote:

Our mess had a rousing dandy funker (?) three pans, like your big roasting pans full or about as much as we wanted & I made it. Now I’ll tell you how it is done & you can make some & see how you like it. First I pounded to a powder about a peck of hard bread & let it soak in water. Then I put it into the mess kettle & put in 3 or 4 lbs or butter which we had laid up on purpose, then put in as much first rate molasses (sugar would have been better but we couldn’t spare it) as it would take without being too soft & spiced to suit the taste. A good baking did the rest & the mess pronounced it first rate.


I suspect that that much butter would probably make almost anything taste good.

Fred really seemed to enjoy his forays into the culinary arts, and later, while in Salisbury prison, when it was still a relatively nice place to be held and where he occasionally got packages from home, he wrote in his diary in February, 1864, " by the exercise of sundry dexterous feats in the culinary art, have concocted a variety of dishes not mentioned in the book of French cooks or Confederate Commissaries, but which were nevertheless somewhat savory and contributed much to our health".

Eventually, he ended up at Andersonville, writing obsessively in his diary about the food that he had. He died there on September 15, 1865, just five days before the order came that would have sent him home.
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
Thanks for posting this nugget!

"Dandy funk" was also known as "dunderfunk" and was an effort to turn hard bread/hard tack into something of a dessert:

Numerous shipboard recipes called for a quantity of biscuit. For breakfast, a sailor might warm his innards with a can of “Scotch [i.e. cheap or synthetic] coffee,” burnt bread boiled with water and sweetened with molasses or sugar.9​ Similarly, a mess with a desire for a sweet dish might make “dandy funk,” or “dunderfunk.” According to Melville, “Dunderfunk is made of hard biscuit, hashed and pounded, mixed with beef fat, molasses, and water, and baked brown in a pan. And to those who are beyond all reach of shore delicacies, this dunderfunk, in the feeling language of the Down Easter, is certainly ‘a cruel nice dish.’”10​ Biscuit also figured in other concoctions such as lobscouse and possibly duff. In 1813, however, David Porter “gave the strictist orders to the cook, not to permit any person to use the slush from the cask, for the purpose of frying their bread, &c., as this practice is very common among seaman:” he was afraid that the habit caused scurvy, “that dreadful scourge.”11​

https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/2014/07/16/some-notes-on-navy-biscui/

Really curious how a sailor on the Housatonic ended up in Andersonville - any details to share? ​
 

Gary Morgan

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Thanks for posting this nugget!

"Dandy funk" was also known as "dunderfunk" and was an effort to turn hard bread/hard tack into something of a dessert:

Numerous shipboard recipes called for a quantity of biscuit. For breakfast, a sailor might warm his innards with a can of “Scotch [i.e. cheap or synthetic] coffee,” burnt bread boiled with water and sweetened with molasses or sugar.9​ Similarly, a mess with a desire for a sweet dish might make “dandy funk,” or “dunderfunk.” According to Melville, “Dunderfunk is made of hard biscuit, hashed and pounded, mixed with beef fat, molasses, and water, and baked brown in a pan. And to those who are beyond all reach of shore delicacies, this dunderfunk, in the feeling language of the Down Easter, is certainly ‘a cruel nice dish.’”10​ Biscuit also figured in other concoctions such as lobscouse and possibly duff. In 1813, however, David Porter “gave the strictist orders to the cook, not to permit any person to use the slush from the cask, for the purpose of frying their bread, &c., as this practice is very common among seaman:” he was afraid that the habit caused scurvy, “that dreadful scourge.”11​

https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/2014/07/16/some-notes-on-navy-biscui/

Really curious how a sailor on the Housatonic ended up in Andersonville - any details to share? ​
About half of the sailors who were held at Andersonville were captured, as Fred was, at the Second Battle of Fort Sumter, an ill-conceived plan to "take back the fort" by landing sailors on the beach surrounding the fort. The battle, which happened on the night of Sept 8/9 1863, lasted about 20 minutes. Only about 1/4 of the attack force was actually able to land on the man made granite island, and they were forced to surrender in about 15-20 minutes. About 110 sailors were captured, and the majority went from Fort Sumter to Richland Jail, to the "Crewes" building on the campus of Libby prison (15 were sent to Salisbury as hostages), then on to Andersonville.

Other sailors at Andersonville were captured at the Battle of Plymouth, and others when the Water Witch was boarded by a Confederate Raiding party in Ossabaw Sound during the night of June 2, 1864. I believe that most, if not all, of the 40 or so marines held at Andersonville were captured along with the Navy POWs.

Fred's diary was published in 1973 under the title "Frederic Augustus James's Civil War Diary", Jefferson Hammer, editor. His letters home and the diary itself now reside at the Mass Historical Society. Fred knew that the Housatonic had been sunk, but was already a POW when it happened. He was told about it by some former shipmates - who survived the attack by the Hunley - when they were captured with the crew of the tug boat Daffodil a few months after the sinking of the Housatonic,
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
About half of the sailors who were held at Andersonville were captured, as Fred was, at the Second Battle of Fort Sumter, an ill-conceived plan to "take back the fort" by landing sailors on the beach surrounding the fort. The battle, which happened on the night of Sept 8/9 1863, lasted about 20 minutes. Only about 1/4 of the attack force was actually able to land on the man made granite island, and they were forced to surrender in about 15-20 minutes. About 110 sailors were captured, and the majority went from Fort Sumter to Richland Jail, to the "Crewes" building on the campus of Libby prison (15 were sent to Salisbury as hostages), then on to Andersonville.

Other sailors at Andersonville were captured at the Battle of Plymouth, and others when the Water Witch was boarded by a Confederate Raiding party in Ossabaw Sound during the night of June 2, 1864. I believe that most, if not all, of the 40 or so marines held at Andersonville were captured along with the Navy POWs.

Fred's diary was published in 1973 under the title "Frederic Augustus James's Civil War Diary", Jefferson Hammer, editor. His letters home and the diary itself now reside at the Mass Historical Society. Fred knew that the Housatonic had been sunk, but was already a POW when it happened. He was told about it by some former shipmates - who survived the attack by the Hunley - when they were captured with the crew of the tug boat Daffodil a few months after the sinking of the Housatonic,
Thank you, Gary!
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
I've made it. Had to use up some old hardtack I had... :sick: :yellowcarded::coffee:
I tried making it once at a reenactment - but my pard and I used Crisco instead of butter (big mistake from an authenticity perspective AND a culinary one) - and then, while it was simmering, we got called out on a detail and it SAT in that "funk" for over two hours.! We ultimately doused it with cinnamon and sugar and tried eating it, but the only result was . . . a'hem . . . many trips to the sinks!
 
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