Period Improved Method for Boiling Coffee: 44th New York Infantry

lelliott19

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#1
Boiling Coffee.JPG

"It occurs to me that the little details of our camp life are are fading away, and that they are well worth sketching for the present generation, which knows not war; for this year's voter was born after the war was over." ~ Charles Ezra Sprague, Company E, 44th New York Infantry

During the Civil War, Charles Sprague served in the ranks of the 44th New York Infantry. In 1886, he was serving as secretary of the Union Dime Savings Bank in New York when he wrote memoirs, detailing his recollections of what one soldier saw and experienced. His memoirs provide insight into day-to-day life, in camp and on the march.

Coffee was a great sustainer -- the prime necessity at any halt. The most approved way of boiling was by suspending the cup by its bail at the end of a stick, and thus, as it were, fishing for coffee. This was found a great improvement over balancing your cup on an unsteady stick of wood, which was likely to give way just at the critical moment of the boil, and demonstrate that hot coffee will put out a fire just as soon as cold water.

Source: The Austin Weekly Statesman. (Austin, TX), July 08, 1886, Page 3.
 
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lelliott19

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I believe he is implying that they would balance the cup in the fire on one of the logs "stick of wood" but the improved method was to suspend the cup by the handle "bail" over the fire and thus avoid the possibility that the motion resulting from boiling might overturn the cup or dislodge the log it was resting upon.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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#5
It's a little silly but have always wondered about what on earth men did, away from the morning coffee pot. Talking to someone who would be locked up in a big hurry, deprived of it. Of all blockaded goods, coffee must have been in the top 5 reasons to swear at Yankees.

You can see where some of the hard feelings over the war have lasted 150 years. I'd stay mad for a century and a half if anyone interfered with my coffee.
 

Polloco

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#8
He lost me with" bail". It's not in my vocabulary. Gotta start with good water, no doubt there.
On an old episode of Bonanza a character went down to the crik (creek) for a hatful of water to make the coffee. I would think most hats back then would have been too leaky!
 
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#9
I was in the Army a pretty good while, and we always referred to coffee as "Lifer Juice".
All us Lifers LIVED on coffee.
Used to put the instant coffee from C-Rats inside our lip (like a dip of Skoal) at night.
Hey....somebody has to be awake to check the perimeter!
 

unicornforge

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#10
Bail is a stiff wire that can be attached to a cup or mucket either when it was made or by someone punching two holes in the sides of a cup.

Soldiers learned that the less they carried the easier it was to walk long distances. From what I have read coffee pots were quickly discarded as being too much weight to carry. Instead a mucket or cup would serve as an all-purpose cooking, eating and drinking utensil.
Photo is of a mucket.


civil-war-mucket-stainless-steel-closed.jpg
 

byron ed

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#11
Can someone explain the method that Sprague is describing here? It sounds like he's saying the troops originally balanced on the cup (kettle? cup?) on the stick, and then took to hanging it by the handle on the stick, but I'm not sure.
He certainly meant the type of "cup" that had a bail (a attached wire arcing from one side of the top rim to the other side of the top rim), what we call a boiler or mucket. They were also common.
 
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#15
I've forgotten where I heard this story, but after the surrender at Appomattox the Union troops shared their rations with the starving Confederates. One soldier hosted two Rebs, frying up bacon and handing out hardtack which was much appreciated. Then he boiled two cups of genuine coffee. As the Rebs finished their coffee one of them looked up and remarked "Yank, If we'uns had had coffee like this we could have beat ya'll with sticks!"
 

ucvrelics

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#16
The CW gave us poor old Southerner's chicory coffee due to shortages but today no trip to NO after a night in the Quarter is complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde for an ordered of beignets and chicory coffee.

But during the American Civil War, Louisianans looked to adding chicory root to their coffee when Union naval blockades cut off the port of New Orleans. With shipments coming to a halt, desperate New Orleanians looking for their coffee fix began mixing things with coffee to stretch out the supply. Acorns or beets also did the trick. Though chicory alone is devoid of the alkaloid that gives you a caffeine buzz, the grounds taste similar and can be sold at a lower rate.
 



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