Sutlers of Note: Ragged Soldier Sutlery

2015-12-28-1451320310-2051748-1hotchocolate5of5620x414Why this post, and why now? One–it is cold and I want something warm to drink, and Two–I love to shop small, wonderful sources when checking off my holiday list. Huzzah, and read on!

There are two types of sutlers: those that have just about everything necessary for a good, basic Civil War impression and those that specialize in small batches of hard-to-find items that really fill out and personalize a re-enactor’s kit. Ragged Soldier Sutlery is one of the latter.

I first came upon Michael and Virginia’s business when I was searching for reproductions whhajournal310010of Civil War newspapers such as Harper’s Weekly or Frank Leslie’s to use for lining the lunch boxes at a boxed lunch social event. Virginia was very helpful, and even sent extra newspapers when I started assembling my project and found that–my goodness!–several of the papers had information about the Fire Zouaves and Elmer Ellsworth contained within their pages (and on their covers)!

One of the wonderful little tidbits Ragged Soldier offers is especially nice for the winter holidays. Some of our blog posts have been sharing ideas for bringing the Civil War along for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so here is my 2¢s worth–a recipe for Civil War era hot chocolate, a source for some pretty original looking chocolate to go with it, and some “authentification” of same!

The recipe itself is from The Housekeepers Encyclopedia, by Mrs. E. F. Haskell (1861):

“Four large table-spoons of the best chocolate grated fine, two quarts rich milk added gradually to the chocolate, the whites of four and yolks of two eggs beaten light, but not separated; add one gill of cold milk to the eggs, beat well; add gradually a coffee-cup of the chocolate to the milk and egg while hot, beating constantly. Take the chocolate to the milk and egg while hot, beating constantly. Take the chocolate from the fire, keep it hot but not boiling, and add the egg and milk gradually; stir constantly, or it will curdle; flavor with nutmeg, vanilla, or cinnamon, as desired; sugar it to suit the taste. The Germans use no sugar. The egg is to be added just before serving This makes a very delicious drink. Serve in chocolate bowls.”


In more modern terminology, heat four large tablespoons of grated chocolate with two quarts of milk. While that is heating, beat the whites of four eggs with the yolks of two and add about 1/2 C of milk.  When the chocolate mixture is hot enough, remove from the fire and slowly mix in the egg/milk mixture, stirring the whole time to prevent curdling. Add vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg and serve in mugs.

You might notice there was no sugar added to this drink . . . it is fairly bitter without it, so I might be tempted to add “Sugar to taste” as a final instruction. The whole effect is sort of like a chocolate pudding latte.

According to Craig L. Berry, from the blog CivilWarTalk:

The Union had hot chocolate: February 22nd 1863.Sabbath, a severe rain with wind and consequently quite dreary without. Lay in tent all day, not going out but once and then to make some chocolate. (Diary of Sgt Henry Tisdale, 35th Mass Inf)

The Johnnies did, too: Sept. 14, 1864– upon capturing a rebel supply depot, we were quite surprised to find what our enemy subsisted upon. aside from similar particulars including hard tack and smoked meats, it appears our southern brethren quite prefer the taste of peaches, a canned version of what appears to be bologna links, and milk sweetened by what appears to be chocolate. no sooner had we found these peculiar rations than we were fired upon by a rebel ambush. two men were wounded, and the only remaining container of the milk was punctured by a minie ball.

“Of course soldiers hoped for that elusive package (from home), it was their biggest thrill…in one case the soldier was happy with the contents but said all it lacked was a little gin. The nurse replied, “Well if it had, the entire contents would have been been confiscated.” Unpreterbed the soldier said, “Confiscated indeed? What am I, one of your cream and chocolate men?” (Rhode Island’s Civil War Hospital: Life and Death at Portsmouth Grove, 1862-1865 By Frank L. Grzyb).campfire

CivilWarTalk has quite a number of other sources concerning chocolate and other warming beverages–check them out as well!

And finally, where to get the chocolate itself? From Ragged Soldier Sutlery, of course! Check out some of the wonderful, magical things they have at their site to add to your impression, or to just add to the casual Civil War clutter of your home.  The image below shows just one of Ragged Soldier’s assortment of chocolate products.


“Drink UP!” I say, and purchase from small businesses whenever possible.



Note: as I was checking sources for this blog post, and gathering links to websites, I found that Ms. Virginia Mescher, who had helped so kindly with my boxed lunch project, had passed away from “complications due to pneumonia,” in February of 2016. She had apparently spent a great deal of her adult life contributing in a variety of meaningful ways to the understanding of women during the Civil War era as a re-enactor, and as a writer and speaker. May she rest peacefully.


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