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"Ice was still scarce" How common was Ice in Union regiments?

Discussion in 'Foods of the Civil War' started by Pat Young, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    I am reading Luis Emilio's book about the 54th Mass. "A Brave Black Regiment." In describing the regiment's experiences in 1864 he writes "Ice was still scarce."

    It got me to wondering- How common was it for regiments to have access to ice brought from the North?
     
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  3. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Under battlefield wilderness conditions I don't see how it would be possible. Start out with a block and end up with a cube if you were lucky.
     
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  4. Drew

    Drew Captain

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    It was cut from frozen rivers and lakes in the North and shipped to the South, all wrapped up, a luxury.

    Forget about it on the battlefield, as previously stated.
     
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  5. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    There was quite a healthy ice industry in New England, and many plantations in Virginia and further south had ice houses. The ice blocks were shipped but during the Civil War the trade was suspended.

    P S
    That's how Washington brewed his beer - gotta have a cool place for that!
     
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  6. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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    That's interesting; I've never read any reference to ice before. I'd guess it wasn't common at all. I can say that at that time the Ohio River froze every winter and ice was harvested and stored in Cincinnati and Louisville and I'd guess some rivers in Tennessee also froze so I suppose it would have been technically possible to get ice at least into the upper south. However, it would require lots of insulation (hay and sawdust were commonly used in warehouses) and wagons and would have been bulky. I'll be curious to see if others who are more widely read than me can offer any info.
     
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  7. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Emilio brings up ice a few times in his book. Just to remind you, he commanded a company in the 54th and was acting commander on several occassions. The regiment spent most of its career in South Carolina.
     
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  8. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    I've read of a few instances when, after capturing a supply depot or a similar facility, Confederates would marvel about fish and oysters on ice.

    Ryan
     
  9. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Here is another reference to ice:

    "The Sanitary Commission furnished ice, raspberry vinegar, pickles, and other needed supplies; but there was a lack of fresh vegetables."
    Emilio, Captain Luis F.. A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1863-1865 (Kindle Locations 1953-1954). Azteca Books. Kindle Edition.
     
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  10. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Here is yet another reference:

    "The troops suffered from want of ice."

    Emilio, Captain Luis F.. A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1863-1865 (Kindle Location 2829). Azteca Books. Kindle Edition.
     
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  11. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    The ice trade was a major business in the 19th century. Ice houses were built beside large and small ponds and lakes all across the northern states, and teams would go out every winter to saw the ice into blocks, and pack them in straw and sawdust (they understood insulation), for shipment all around the world. By the mid 1850s, over 150,000 tons of ice was being shipped out of Boston alone, to scores of distant countries, including South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Japan, and China. A British merchant in Singapore in August, could sip a drink cooled by ice cut from a New Hampshire pond in January.

    The Civil War interrupted that trade somewhat, and production dipped during the 1860s. Shipments to the American South were among the most profitable during the antebellum years. But, ice still went south, largely to army camps and hospitals -- not in as large quantities, but a market was there. Military hospitals in Washington allowed patients one pound of ice per day during the summer months. [see: Medical Uses of Ice]

    A sense of the size of the trade is the following notice from the March 1903 issue of the trade journal Ice and Refrigeration:
    ice.png
    Seems like an interesting topic for further research.
     
  12. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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  13. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    The Navy needed it, too: ORN, ser. 1, vol. 15, p. 573:
    ice2.png
     
  14. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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    Well, golly shucks. Learn something new every now and then.
     
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  15. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    This is a postwar image from the Hudson River, but ice barges like this also plied the Mississippi by the 1850s, carrying 400 to 800 tons of ice, The masts are derricks for loading and unloading the 100-400 pound blocks. The bottom sketch details the windmill-powered bilge pump that controlled the melting ice water. Packed tight, and kept dry, the loss by melting could be kept to under 5%, even in the summer months.
     
  16. huskerblitz

    huskerblitz Captain Forum Host

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    I don't think I have read anything about ice either from soldier letters or remembrances. Hadn't given much thought to it until now.
     
  17. mofederal

    mofederal First Sergeant

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    An interesting topic, which shows the importance of such a simple thing to soldiers, especially the wounded, who needed it the most. I had read about the importance it packing it just right for shipping.
     
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  18. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Thanks for the info.
     
  19. 7thWisconsin

    7thWisconsin Sergeant

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    Ice was used in hospitals to control bleeding. So it was more important than just something to cool drinks or preserve food. I can imagine foraging parties scattered everywhere appropriating ice from local ice houses. But I've never seen an order for it specifically. (On a side note, when Empress Eugenie discovered that French troops in Mexico couldn't get ice for medical purposes, she banned ice in drinks at court to raise awarness.)
     
  20. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Pat great question. Very interesting about the ice. I knew that they were able to get some.
     
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  21. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    Thanks.
     
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