Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN


October 31, 2013

A few acorns and sweet potatoes?

Greensburg — Do you suppose the Chautauqua students will grind up acorns to mix with coffee or dry sweet potatoes to grind for coffee so we can see what it was like in the Civil War? No kidding, read on and I’ll tell you some people coped with little or no money.

The second day of the Chautauqua this year is about the Civil War. John Pratt said the theme shifts from music by some mighty impressive greats on November 5 to the Civil War on November 6. Pratt said there will be a lecture and a piano concert in the morning. In addition, the students will be hosting a community Civil War tour for three hours after that. He said they are also working in partnership with the museum on an exhibit to run at the same time: “Decatur County History in 100 Objects.” They asked us to loan their unique items for the first three weeks in November.

After reading in the “Military Times,” loaned to me by Tom Imel, about Gettysburg in particular and the Civil War in general I learned what soldiers earned during that war. Rick Maze wrote in the “Military Times” that the monthly pay for Privates in the Confederate Army was $ 11 but for the Union Private it was $13. When men on both sides became Corporals the pay was the same, that is, $13. In fact it was the same for Sergeant for both at $17, First Sergeant for both was $20. Monthly pay for Quarter Master Sergeant and Sergeant Major in both armies was $21.

Now, when a man got up to Second Lieutenant there was a more significant difference. Confederate Second Lieutenants received $80 – Union soldiers of the same rank got $105. A Confederate First Lieutenant received $90 and Union $105. There was no raise for a soldier going from Second to First Lieutenant.

It’s interesting that a Captain in the Confederate Army earned $130 per month while the Union Captain only earned $115. There was a jump from Captain to Major in both armies though. Confederates earned $150 while Union soldiers got $169. Lieutenant Colonel received $170 a month and a Union soldier got $181. The pay went on up as the men went up in rank until a Lieutenant General received $301 a month and a Union soldier with the same rank received $748 (no word on why the big difference.) The rank of four-star general wasn’t used by the Union Army during the Civil War but a Confederate General received $500 per month.

Navy recruits received $12, an ordinary Seaman $14, an Able Seaman $18, Third Class Petty Officer $20 and a Senior Petty Officer received $45. The Military Times states that Union soldiers were clamoring for a pay raise, but the War Department was having problems making the payroll it already had.

So with the money earned by soldiers and sailors in mind, how did they feed families? In various places in the south during 1863, bacon had gone up to $10 per pound. Sugar prices had increased 15 times and coffee 40 times. Salt sold for $45 a bag and turkeys at $50 each. A pound of butter cost $15 in much of the south and potatoes sold for $24 a bushel. A barrel of flour went for $250 and later became simply unavailable.

Prices going up that much encouraged hoarding, which drove prices up even more, stated the article. Salaries of soldiers didn’t rise fast enough and families went hungry. Farmers would often refuse to sell food to the military because they could get better prices elsewhere, which made stealing food commonplace.

An article in Military Times by Jon R. Anderson states that when coffee became scarce people were encouraged to “Try grinding up acorns and mixing in with the good stuff. The poor would find it equally a source of economy and a valuable remedy; and soldiers in camp would be less exposed to diarrhea. In order to prepare this coffee, the acorns must first be roasted in an oven. The hard outer shell is removed, and the kernel is preserved, which, after being roasted, is ground with ordinary coffee.”

Another recipe was to cut peeled sweet potatoes into pieces “about the size of the joint of your little finger” and then dry them either in the sun or by the fire. Then roast and grind the same as regular coffee.” Try it, not for its economy, but for its superiority over any coffee you ever tasted,” stated one paper.”

I love to hear from readers, please feel free to contact me at

Text Only
  • Thanks, Max

    Max Dickson has given the historical society a gift that many will enjoy for years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Lee H. Hamilon: Government As Innovator? You Bet! Five years ago, the federal government spent $169 billion to fund basic research and development. This fiscal year, it's down to $134 billion. People who believe in public belt-tightening applaud drops like that. I understand why: There are many reas

    April 17, 2014

  • How to deal with nuisance wild animals Most people enjoy watching wildlife and sometimes even interacting with critters on occasion. One of my favorite activities is keeping the bird feeder well supplied and seeing Hoosier song birds up close and personal. Sometimes there are situations w

    April 17, 2014

  • Self deposit box: Wolfsie takes a selfie of his check I love where I bank. It's a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 17, 2014

  • Alice Woodhull: Back on the job Well, this is Alice, and I am back on the job. It has been two months since I got my new shoulder, and so far it is working like it should. I have had a couple weeks of therapy, plus doing a lot with it on my own, and I'm hoping it will soon be as g

    April 16, 2014

  • Linda Hamer Kennett: The timeless beauty of wicker No matter what the day may bring, I can leave it all behind when I take my evening walk. Strolling through our historic neighborhood on Indy's south side is a multifaceted treat. It is good for my heart, it erases the cares of the day and it affords

    April 16, 2014

  • Dr. Michael Layne: Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1-11 is the Gospel passage that will be heard in many churches this Palm Sunday. Today, I want us to look at the last two verses: 10When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, "Who can this be?" 11The crowd a

    April 12, 2014

  • Jenni Hanna: Exploring the mystery of the bitcoin I've heard of a lot of synonyms for currency, but "bitcoins" was a new one to me. Although bitcoins (BTCs) have been around since 2009, they are something I've just recently learned about and am really struggling to understand. Bitcoins cannot be hel

    April 11, 2014

  • nws-gb041014-Spaulding headshot Jack Spaulding: A time not to adopt Springtime brings a host of new life into the outdoors. The fields, forest, and the nests and dens are full of new life and cute and cuddly baby critters as nature carries on procreation. Nature knows how to take care for her own, but unfortunately,

    April 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • Net tricks My wife and I went on a binge last week. If you think I'm talking about an eating binge, you've never seen how thin we both are. If you think I mean a shopping binge, you don't know how cheap we are. And if you think it was a cleaning binge, you've

    April 10, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.