Scavenging: tents into clothes, and food for bullets


From John Hennessy

I came across these two accounts recently, calculated to make relic hunters weep and remind us all just how difficult things were in this part of the world by 1864.

Debris.jpg

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch, July 25, 1864

“We noticed at the Central Depot on Saturday six cars loaded with arms, knapsacks, cartridge boxes, sabres, &c., together with a large lot of pig lead, the spoils of the battle-fields of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania. The balls are collected on the battle-field by the people living in the vicinity, brought to an established depot, and melted into pigs. In this way they are forwarded to the laboratory here. As lead is at this time in demand, it will be very acceptable. In this lot there is not less than 16,000 pounds; and about 8000 or 9000 stand of arms, which, with slight repairs, will be very serviceable. Lieut. Louis Zimmer, Assistant to Chief of Ordnance, has charge of that department. In return for lead and arms, he issues to the people corn meal and flour. There are many poor families in this neighborhood who have been despoiled by the Yankees of all they had, and this is of great assistance to them, as provisions are more important to them than money.”

From Nannie Brown Doherty, “Recollections of the Civil War—King George County,” Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine, December 1978, pp.3178-3190

“Many of our under-clothes were made from the duck tents which were gotten from the Yankee camps when they moved.  They always left a great deal behind, and the people found supplies of every kind….The best ladies of the land formed parties to invade the deserted camps and supply their very impoverished homes.  Sometimes old horses were left behind and became very useful as farm horses.”

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6 thoughts on “Scavenging: tents into clothes, and food for bullets

  1. The act of war is by its very nature wasteful. I think it very appropriate that the civilian survivors who lived on the land recently fought over were able to find some use of the discarded refuse of war.

  2. I am writing a novel partially set in the Chancellorsville area during the war. Your analysis, the pictures, and the original documents have been invaluable to me. Thank you for all the work you do. It is very much appreciated. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to forward some of the sections about this area when they are complete. Thanks, Robin

  3. Fascinating find. I also never realized there was an organized effort to clean up battlefields — especially during wartime. I just assumed this type of activity took place in the immediate years after the war. Not two months after the battles.

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