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‘For the want of Yankee butter’: Rare Imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Posted on 12/01/2017

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For this month’s highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society, we have selected two rare works: a Southern almanac and an imprint on the plight of Union veterans made deaf consequent to their service.

Historical Register and Confederates Assistant to National Independence: Containing a discovery for the preservation of Butter, together with other valuable Recipes, and important information for the Soldier, and the People in general throughout the Confederate States of America (1862)

By H.W.R. Jackson

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Mr. Jackson authored several books in passionate defense of the Confederate States of America, all of which portrayed the genteel but aggressive determination of the Southerners to triumph over the corrupt, lawless Yankees. The inclusion of the making butter in his title reflects his whole point that the South need no longer depend on the products of the North in order to prosper even in wartime. The imprint is structured somewhat like an almanac presenting statistics and accounts of the war intermixed with recipes, remedies, and agricultural advice.

To demonstrate our ability as a self-sustaining people. Let us commence our work of reformation and experimenting in the dairy, and extend it to the garden and the field. With a little attention in this direction, we shall not be at a loss for the want of Yankee butter. But with a united effort and determination on the part of the people of the South, we shall soon be enabled to supply the markets of the whole Confederacy with an article of good butter, at rates equally as cheap as has usually been paid for an inferior article imported from the land of wooden nutmegs and bass-wood hams.

It was said that unscrupulous Yankees pawned off nutmegs carved from wood and hams made from wood of the bass trees. This is just the first of a barrage of insults the author levels against the enemy. In presenting a statement of the “killed, wounded, and captured” in 1861, he states:

Of course, we can only guess at the loss of the enemy. The Northern papers seldom publish the official reports of the Federal Generals, and the latter have generally proved themselves such monstrous falsifiers, that but little confidence can be placed in their reports when they are published….the opinions of the Confederate officers commanding, who are gentlemen, and upon whose statements perfect reliance may be placed...


Jackson delights in all reports of financial turmoil, social unrest, and loss of foreign trade.

Their attempt to subjugate the south has plunged them into the vortex of ruin—already the war debt amount to within a fraction of 1,000,000,000 of dollars, and scarce a year has elapsed since hostilities commenced; this is independent of the above mentioned failures, general loss of foreign trade, and stagnation of business among themselves.

He presents a number of articles and editorials from Northern newspapers which depict the internal troubles in remaining Union. One example is from the Chicago Tribune (“the leading Abolition paper of the North-west”):

We find…a startling but not overdrawn contrast between the former prosperity of the North, when supported by the statesmanship and wealth of the South, and ruin which has now so completely engulphed the “Yankee Nation.”

From the New York Day Book:

A Dying Nation. – The New York Day Book says: “A merchant of this city, whose opinion is entitled to credit, both from his experience and his sagacity, says that ‘it is useless to deny that a complete financial wreck of the whole North is inevitable, unless something is done when Congress meets to bring about an honorable peace.’ It is a sad business to walk out in the streets. One can scarcely persuade himself that he is not in Bedlam. Such faces! Some blazing with fiendish passions; others, sad, sorrowful, and despairing; but not one pleasant and joyous countenance in the whole city. There is something in every man’s face which seems to say ‘a nation is dying!’”

And from a Chicago Tribune reporter:

The Scenes of a Yankee March

A short time previous to the final attack on Fort Henry, the Yankees, several thousand strong, marched out to make a reconnoisance [sic] in force in that direction. They went within a few miles of Fort Henry and then returned….

The march has been, I am sorry to say, a most disgraceful one. Pillage, arson, murder, have been its accompaniments. The population have fled precipitately before the approach of the column, and their houses have been stripped of everything portable – useful or otherwise – and that which was not portable has been destroyed.

The author also includes examples of alleged stealing and sale of slaves by the Yankees.

The Yankees Selling Negroes. – Some weeks ago a portion of General Mitchel’s command was stationed at Larkinsville, a small town in Jackson county, Ala., on the Memphis Railroad, while they pillaged the country as they were accustomed to do everywhere, and of course took and employed contrabands as they wanted, and kept them as long as they pleased.

But the hypocritical cant of the enemy was most glaringly exhibited, in that, after they were done with the negroes, instead of sending them to their owner or taking them away, they put them up at auction and sold them. The Yankees bid on them, but they were careful to let them be knocked off to residents, who generally were the former owners or the friends of the former owners. Thus these men whose conscience hurt them so much that they could not remain in the Union with slaveholders, have become slave thieves and dealers through malice and greedy of gain. Of what worth are all their loud-mouthed, empty professions?

As the title of this almanac promises we are provided with lengthy direction for making butter as well as recipes for making soap, tomato catsup, and starch which “will be as good an article as that which comes from Yankeedoodledom.” Most of the recipes are designed to compensate for the loss of goods from the North and to help the Southern ladies to stretch or substitute ingredients. These include adding mushed rice to flour when making bread, drying sweet corn, and ersatz coffee replacements.

A good substitute for coffee is sweet potatoes prepared according to the following directions:

Cut the potato in slices after peeling and washing; dried, burnt, and ground like ordinary coffee.

The common garden beet is also a good substitute, may be prepared in the same way as the sweet potato.

There are also a number of concoctions for treating physical ailments.

Soothing Drink for a Cough…Take two ounces of figs, and the same of raisins and pearl barley. Boil them together in a pint and a half of water, with half an ounce of liquorice [sic] root and the same of flax-seed, sweeten if desired, and take from one to four table-spoonfuls [sic] as often as the severity of the cough requires.

Other remedies include potions for snake bites, hydrophobia, and lockjaw.

To Cure a Cancer…Make a lotion of eight grains of white arsenic, eight grains of carbonate of potash, dissolved in four ounces of water, and wash the part with it.

There are many more ideas for insect control, tonics and potions, and agriculture.

The Deaf Soldier: A brief synopsis of one hundred and two cases of deafness, prepared for the consideration of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States (1890)

By Wallace Foster

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This sad and disquieting imprint was presented to Congress by “Wallace Foster, Late Captain 13th Indiana Infantry, Secretary and Treasurer Silent Army Deaf Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.”

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Each synopsis, presented by the veterans in their own words, is deeply affecting. These men suffered terribly. It is noteworthy that many of them expressed their wish that they been blinded or had one or more limbs amputated rather than having been made deaf. They experienced unemployment and social isolation to an extreme degree. Most of them told about the awful noises in their heads which drove them to distraction and sometimes suicide.

Each personal account includes the cause of deafness many of which occurred when shells exploded too near to them or from head injuries. Sunstroke is also blamed in a number of instances as well as disease and exposure. Here we will present excerpts from some of these testimonies.

After my discharge from the service followed my trade (plasterer) and three years ago I had to give up my trade in consequence of my growing deafness and defective sight, and am now without means of support. I am constantly troubled with dizziness, noises in my ears like the running of saws, buzzing of bees, roaring of water, ringing of bells, sounds that I am unable to describe, and leaves me all worn out from nervous prostrations.


I am wholly unable to obtain employment in any capacity on account of my total disability….I have roaring, cracking sounds, and rushing of blood to my head. I am never called upon to converse with anyone unless they have something very special. I simply live in a world of my own, looking and expecting something that never comes, and my life is a burden.

And another:

I have dizziness and roaring, rumbling and hissing noises in my head and ears, like a swarm of a million grasshoppers, that almost sets me wild…


My lack of hearing is a great hindrance. Deprived of all pleasure and social enjoyment with my family or friends, I am doomed to live a life of my own, imprisoned from the joyful and sweet sounds of Nature.


I suffer very much from vertigo, causing nausea and sometimes vomiting; also, noise in my head, which is a perpetual whirr of disagreeable sounds, occasional snapping, like explosions; also, loss of memory and bad health. I have no trade. My deafness has completely ruined all my prospects in life. I have nothing to look to; no end in view. All expectations of success, pleasure or profit are gone. All ambition is useless.


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For more information about The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact

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