General Lee’s Chicken, Lincoln’s Wallet, and Other Things We Don’t Know About the Civil War.

Guns. Blood. Bullets. Chaos. War.

 

There is no doubt that these things are perhaps the most common and reminiscent images of the Civil War. Our understanding of one of the most devastating war in history is often painted by the accounts in textbooks. While we let war strewn images muddle our brain, we often overlook the oddities, bizarre, and very strange occurrences that took plac. While war is no laughing matter, it is important to recognize some unknown, eccentric, and utterly human stories which are less told. While these facts may not give the central idea behind the war, it may provide some personality to people many recognize as rather stoic.

 

Take for example General Lee.

We know him as a tactical military general, crushing even the best of opponents. He is often mythologized as the passionate, affectionate General whose men looked at him with silence. In reality he may not have been the romantic leader of his troops who rode the sunsetted hills of the South on his majestic horse. History, in fact, paints him gray. He isn’t so interesting when we read actual historical sources on his personality. From his demeanor to his horse or even his uniform- he was kind of gray, colorless. Now what would happen if I were to tell you that this stone hearted man had a pet chicken.

 

General Lee’s Chicken

1.   It just so happened to be that a nice plump hen arriving around 1862, was one of the chickens in a shipment of food sent to the Army of Northern Virginia.  This chicken was nothing like the others, a true one of a kind, she was dark feathered beauty who could lay one heck of a egg. Sensing that there was no good in just sticking around with the other chickens she thought better for herself and fled to a nearby tree to make a roost. This tree happened to be over a certain General’s tent. Yes, Lee happened to have his tent right underneath the tree and took a liking towards her when she started laying eggs everyday under Lee’s cot. He named the chicken “Nellie” and did as far as to  keep his tent flap open so Nellie could come and go as she pleased in the tent. One day Lee invited a group of generals to dine with him, his slave cook not being able to secure enough food for the dinner captured, killed, stuffed, and cooked the hen.(He stuffed it with bread stuffing and butter..in case you are curious.) The meal is said to have been quite delicious, but General Lee got increasingly suspicious of the origin of the bird. It was later revealed to him that the plump, juicy chicken he ate was his very own Nellie.

 

Dear Nellie,

When the cook came to get you

You should have hid

But You fought to the finish

Like General Lee did.

She’s a beauty, ain’t she?

2. The Civil War’s Siamese Twins

Chang and Eng Bunkers were natives from modern day Thailand who, interestingly, joined at the sternum. They traveled with a traveling museum exhibition. They later married two sisters and settled on 110 acres of land. The brothers became naturalized citizens and loyal confederates . When the fight for the confederate cause was losing manpower Union General George Stoneman raided and drafted some of the names of the locals in a lottery. Eng’s name was drawn but this was obviously an issue because the 2 brother’s were joined at the liver. George Stonewall couldn’t do anything about the issue so neither one of them served in the army. Their eldest sons served in the army instead.

 

3.Lincolns Wallet

What would he have in his wallet? Abraham Lincoln, when he was shot in April 15th,1865 out of all things that could have been in his pocket, pulled up…

 

 

a Confederate $5 bill. With Jefferson Davis’ face on it. (*WHAT*) Who would have ever thought?

 

4. The Hypocrite named Grant

Many of us might recognize Ulysses S. Grant as the war General who fought on the Union side. The Union side- as in the slave abolishing, emancipation proclamation guys. It may surprise you that he himself had slaves. His wife Julia Dent Grant came from a slave holding family and often brought up to 4 slaves with her to camps. Its perhaps more intriguing to know that he became President- the figure that represented the literal combat against the Confederacy and  slavery itself, but kept slaves of his own- a President!

 

5. Stonewall and his Lemons

Stonewall Jackson was allegedly a lifelong believer in that one of his arms is longer than the other. He was often found raising his longer arm up to equalize blood circulation. There has been research done that suggests he suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, he was known to have hearing loss and experienced symptoms of dyspepsia. Many have described him to be an ailing man. Jackson supposedly had a love for lemons to alleviate digestive problems. Richard Taylor, son of Zachary Taylor , wrote a passage about Jackson eating lemons: “Where Jackson got his lemons ‘no fellow could find out,’ but he was rarely without one.” People  to this day, remember him by placing lemons at the ‘grave’ of his infamous arm.

 

Who would have ever thought that Mr.Lee would fall soft for a chicken? Or that Stonewall had an obsession with… lemons? History, too, has its fair share of odd people and events, but we either fail to recognize them or are just too submissive to textbook definition. If you learned about something you previously didn’t know, my job is done.This goes to show how many more Civil War stories there are yet to be told.

 

image source: http://www.deerrunmercantile.com/images/products/detail/t33fivedol26435F.jpg- $5 Bill

http://emergingcivilwardotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/general-lees-hen.gif- Nellie Hen

 

  1. http://mentalfloss.com/article/21936/7-civil-war-stories-you-didnt-learn-high-school

  2. http://facts.randomhistory.com/civil-war-facts.html

  3. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/children_civilwar/child_soldiers.cf

  4. http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2011/11/the-civil-war-8-strange-and-obscure-facts-you-didnt-know/
  5. http://mentalfloss.com/article/31326/5-medical-innovations-civil-war

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7 thoughts on “General Lee’s Chicken, Lincoln’s Wallet, and Other Things We Don’t Know About the Civil War.

  1. Interesting post! It’s clear you did a lot of research here. I can totally agree that textbooks tend to romanticize a lot of the notable figures that we learn about. Perhaps textbooks could have a similar “random fact” section outside of the margins? Anyway, I enjoyed reading about General Lee’s chicken and Jackson’s lemons. Nice job!

  2. This was a really fun article to read! It’s so nice to read posts like this that show us the funny side of history… Like the Mexican President who served for 15-50 mins (that’s a little more than a half-block class).

  3. I learned a lot from this post! It is so interesting to learn about all of the weird quirks that even great historical leaders had. I think what possibly surprised me the most was that Lincoln had a CONFEDERATE $5 bill in his wallet when he died. It almost makes him seem like a traitor, but then again, it’s just money, does it really matter which side your money is from? I still think it’s really funny though. The other facts in here were also really interesting. I don’t think I had known any of them before reading this.

  4. This was not only really fun and cool to read, it also had some really interesting facts and showed different ideas I never would have even thought about otherwise. It really is amazing how much we think we know about history compared to what we still can learn. I found the siamese twins that one was drafted really cool and it really shows they didn’t really care who they were drafting because if they knew anything about the people they probably would’ve known that they were conjoined at the liver.

  5. I really enjoyed this post – not only was it a fun read, it was also quite educational. I actually never knew about the existence of the famed Siamese twins before reading this! History does have a tendency to hide other aspects of historical figures – like General Lee’s pet chicken. I love how you took a different approach to the Civil War and decided to write your blog post on the unusual, eccentric, and sometimes rather strange side of history that many choose to overlook. It was a fresh take on a blog post, and all of the research you did for this blog post was great!

  6. What a fun read! A unique post that tells some of the well kept “oddities” that occurred throughout the Civil War. I had never heard about the drafting of the Siamese twins before and interestingly enough, their position was replaced by the eldest son. I would have thought that regardless of their situation, they would still be drafted. I had also never heard of the liking Stonewall had for lemons, until now. But what happened to the cook after General Lee realized he had eaten his beloved Nellie? I was very shocked to read about the confederate bill found in Lincoln wallet. It is a well written post and you can see you researched these topics extensively.

  7. This was so entertaining to read. It’s like a gossip magazine showing that the famous are just as normal as we are. I thought the chicken one was the most interesting. Your style of writing was also intriguing, and you added color to our image of the people you talked about. The textbook definition of people sticks with important facts, but these small everyday-life things you brought up might tell us more than we realize about the decision they took, and what kind of people they truly were.

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