When “Stonewall” Jackson’s men captured supplies at Manassas at the end of August 1862, it was feasting time. In addition to storehouses, 100 train cars waited on the tracks, filled with supplies.
Jackson ordered bread to baked and directed the whiskey dumped on the ground. He seized 50,000 pounds of hardtack, 1,000 barrels of beef, 2,000 barrels of salt pork, and 2,000 barrels of flour, along with uniforms and medical supplies. Then, Jackson turned his head and allowed the soldiers to take advantage of the sutler supplies and food items for a few hours before ordering the remain plunder to be burned as Union force mobilized toward the area again.
According to Dr. James Robertson’s biography of Jackson, the soldiers:
“…helped themselves to anything and everything. Some soldiers danced around campfires, alternately eating lobster salad with one hand and drinking rhine wine with the other. Men strutted in new shoes and ‘store-clothes’. . . . Individuals wandered off carrying a box of candles, barrel of coffee, cases of pickled oysters, huge molds of cheese, packages of candy. Joh Worsham of the 21st Virginia saw one man take nothing but French mustard. ‘He filled his haversack with it and was so greedy that he put one more bottle in his pocket.'”
Working from this description, I wanted to recreate a “plunder picnic.” The coffee, smoked canned oysters, hard candy, and mustard were pretty easy to find at the grocery store. For cheese, I went with a slice of soft, custom made cheese wrapped in wax. Instead of Rhine wine, I opted for a sparkling grape juice which was a little more within budget for the experiment. The lobster salad was also problematic. Lobster was just way out of the week’s allowance, and there was no way I was going to obtain it by Confederate methods…so I opted for shrimp! (And I added crackers; though, not on the list, it seemed like a good addition with the seafood and mustard.)
This menu is a far cry from the typical hardtack and meat, and I can see why the soldiers had so much fun near the railroad tracks of Manassas in 1862 in the days before the serious battle.