One of my favorite stories comes from Miller’s Photographic History, but I never knew its source.
…until recently. In The Grayjackets: and How They Lived, Fought and Died for Dixie (Richmond, 1867), by “a Confederate” [James Dabney McCabe] I have found the yarn.
I’ll tell it the way you see it in Miller’s.
In May 1862, when John B. Magruder’s force was holding the lower Peninsula against McClellan’s army, the general and his staff stopped at a lady’s house and asked if they could be served dinner. She obliged.
Then a private from Louisiana chanced by the same house and also asked for a meal. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “but as I am preparing dinner for General Magruder and staff, and have not room at my table for more, you will have to wait for a second table.”
“Very well, ma’am,” The grateful soldier answered. “Thank you.” He then took a seat near the dining room. When her servants had laid down several fine dishes, the lady proceeded to invite the officers in from the parlor. This gave the Louisiana private his chance: he entered the dining room, seated himself at the table, and started digging in.
A surprised Magruder rather haughtily declared, “This dinner was engaged, sir.”
“That’s all right,” the private responded. “Sit down; there’s plenty for all of us, I daresay.”
“Perhaps, young man, you don’t know whom you are talking to,” Magruder said, growing more perturbed.
Said the private: “Don’t worry about that, general. I used to be particular who I ate with before this war, but now I don’t care, so long as the victuals are clean.”
Try saying that to your boss at the next company luncheon!