It’s difficult to comprehend what Southerners must have been feeling the day after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. Yesterday was the anniversary of this event which, in both cases, happened on Palm Sunday. I imagine they were saddened by loss, and yet, relieved the war was finally over. They probably held out hope that, somehow, the South might still emerge triumphant, or they could have been enraged by the outcome and felt helplessness with the result. Some certainly were fearful about what the future had in store. Whatever each individual felt, I’m sure the majority were hoping for reconciliation and prosperity.
One thing many Southerners, especially soldiers, learned to do without during the war was coffee. Both armies, north and south, loved the drink. The following article describes their passion for it.
For the Union, coffee was a big deal.
In fact, the word “coffee” shows up in Union letters and diaries more often than any other word-including words like “war,” “bullet,” “Lincoln,” and “mother.”
For Union troops, Coffee was a more regular part of soldier life than fighting. Every soldier was given a ration of 16 kilograms (36 lb) of coffee per year, and they drank it every morning.
Since most Union troops only fought two weeks per year, the coffee grinder ended up being used more than the bullets.
The Confederates, on the other hand, hardly had any coffee.
Union blockades kept the Confederates from getting their daily caffeine fix.
Some Confederate soldiers were so desperate for a java fix that they would brew potatoes and rye until they turned black, just to have a caffeine-free, bitter drink that the soldiers could pretend was coffee.
Caffeine may have actually made a strategic difference in the war. Union generals would time attacks based on when their men were most buzzed on caffeine, convinced that the extra rush from coffee gave their men a fighting advantage.
(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, March 31, 2017 ed.)