Mary Anne Bickerdyke or Martha Stewart?

71M24PVFGFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.gifThe book I am reading is Civil War Medicine: Care & Comfort of the Wounded, by Robert E. Denney. Denny is a pretty interesting read, interspersing letters and official correspondence with a running commentary of the war. He is also a fan of Mary Ann Bickerdyke. I am quickly becoming a fan as well.

I am planning a wedding, set for July 4 of this year (Yikes!) It was pointed out to me very early on that I needed something called a “hydration station,” so people would not fall out and need to be carried to the rear by their friends for possible transport to a division hospital during my short morning wedding.


I am not a fan of those plastic bottles, so I did some research and came up with the idea of fruit infused water being available in large glass containers with spigots. No, this is not an original idea, but I thought it was a good answer to the problem nevertheless. Plus they are pretty cool looking.


A very young Mary Ann Bickerdyke
A very young Mary Ann Bickerdyke

Apparently fruit-infused water is nothing new. In July 1864, Major General William T. Sherman’s forces skirmished with those of Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston at a place called Nickajack Creek near Atlanta, Georgia. Mrs. Bickerdyke was with Sherman, and had her capable hands full, as usual. She was running out of hospital tents.

Sherman sent to Nashville for more, and received several large tents once used for religious revival meetings. They held about one hundred beds, and the hospital encampment was soon being called Mother Bickerdyke’s “circus.”

Charles Grandison Finney's Revival Tent
Charles Grandison Finney’s Revival Tent

Ms. Bickerdyke went along with the theme. She got lemons and lemon extract from the Sanitary Commission dispensary and made lemonade for “her boys.” Then she added raspberries and raspberry juice, creating fruit-infused deliciousness now called Raspberry Lemonade. It became so popular that it became standard fare at the hospital.




The recipe, according to, is simple:

1 C. rinsed fresh raspberries

2/3 C. sugar

1 C. lemon juice

2 C. water

In a small bowl, with a potato masher or spoon, mash 1 cup rinsed fresh raspberries (6 oz.) with 2/3 cup sugar. Let stand 10 minutes. Press through a fine strainer into a pitcher (at least 1 1/2 qt.); discard seeds. Stir in 1 cup lemon juice and 2 cups water. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Pour into tall, ice-filled glasses.


Rehydrate, and enjoy Mother Bickerdyke’s fruit-infused water at all your summer gatherings. Serve it at reenactments and know you are authentic! Its lovely red color will brighten 4th of July tables! Just remember, for a few seconds, how good it must have tasted to sick, wounded, even dying soldiers in July, 1864.


Perhaps we should serve it at the 2015 August 7-9 Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge? Hmmmmm.






3 Responses to Mary Anne Bickerdyke or Martha Stewart?

  1. Great article! Your perspective on this historical detail was such fun to read. Hope your wedding planning goes well and no guests have to be “evacuated.” 😉

  2. There have been some comments made about an incorrect image of Ms. Bickerdyke used in an earlier post. Mea culpa on that, and thanks so much for pointing it out. Poor Ms. B was, alas, not a physically attractive person as she aged. In that we are similar! Her heart and sense of humor and rightness was so beautiful that, I believe, no one saw her outside for more than a few moments.

    Nevertheless, in a world obsessed by keeping up with a variety of Kardashians, I have tried to find pictures of Mary Ann that were flattering–hence the youthful one above. She was a beautiful old lady in her later years. Alas, the image most have of her is not one of great physical loveliness, but of a rather hatchet faced matron made more of iron than cotton.

    One of the things I struggle with as a historian is keeping in mind that these folks of whom we write are dead now, and have been for many years. When one lives with them daily because they figure so much in what is being written–well–I sometimes forget they are not my neighbors. So I fall into the trap of judging them by today’s standards, more or less.

    That being said, I also judge my world by theirs, and oftentimes find it wanting. I think we could do with a lot more patriotism, mixed in with a little religious idealism and a greater reverence for the past. The world could do with worse heroes than Abe Lincoln or, indeed, Mary Ann Bickerdyke.

    These are my opinions only, so please–no kerfluffles.

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