Friday, May 11, 2018

Southern Belles, Southern Hospitality, and How Zulu Got His Nickname

So, there we were...**

Tired, sweaty, and hungry after the fierce fighting of the second (our first) day of battle. CK and KN2 had wandered off into the forest or something so the troops were at loose ends. Freiheit had been raised from the dead, and had ditched his silly hat, having apparently discovered "his" kepi. (At least he claimed it was his.) As it was getting late and the spectators had all departed, the concession stands (those purveying food and such) were all shut down. Not that we had all that much in the way of dinero cluttering up the pockets of our Big Yank clothing uniforms.

While you can fill up on water, after a while the body is no longer fooled, I mean, it makes you "offload" all that water eventually. And that garden hose left an odd rubbery test in one's mouth after imbibing from it. (I've noticed that these days garden hoses actually come with a warning not to drink from them. Again, I am astounded that I have managed to live this long without the constant intervention of the gubmint and their minions.)

So we began wandering about the campsites of the various units of the faux Army of the Potomac. I mean, we could smell food, we could see people eating food, perhaps someone might spare us a bowl of gruel, perhaps a stale heel of bread, maybe an apple core? Our fellow Yanks shooed us away as we were naught but young'uns dressed in odd blue clothing pretending to be reenactors. So...

We did the unthinkable, we wandered over to where the Army of Northern Virginia was encamped, I rather expected to hear banjos playing and jugs o' white lighting being passed around the campfires of our Southron adversaries. No, nothing of the sort, to my sadness, was to be heard or seen of banjos nor jugs of moonshine.

As we got closer we noticed that while our own army was cooking their provender on charcoal grills and the like, Bobby Lee's boys had actual campfires. They were also laughing and singing while the stolid (boring) blue-bellies all seemed like they were attending church or something. (And yes, I am exaggerating, a bit.)

As we cautiously approached one campfire, the lads sitting about looked up from their grub and gave us the evil eye. 'Twas then that I noticed the two comely lasses in period clothing who were attending to the lads clad in butternut and gray. (I do believe they were actually preparing the food the boys were dining on). Tentatively we sidled on over to the campfire.

"Wuhchoo fellers lookin' fer? 'Tain't no Yankees roun' cheer. We'ums hain't runnin' no dang kiddy-garden he-ah! Y'all git along now. GIT!" One of the grizzled infantrymen in gray said to us. (His accent was a bit hard to interpret, I have reproduced it here phonetically as I remember it. I believe that he was inquiring as to our presence and perhaps looked askance upon our boyish mien.)

As we hesitated, the Southron by the fire, gnawing on a most delicious-looking chicken leg, exhorted us to once again -


At that moment a raven-haired vision of loveliness moved into the firelight, dark eyes flashing...

"Y'all hush Billy-Bob Joe! These boys doan mean no harm. Jes lookit them all hungry and pathetic lookin'. You blue-bellies c'mon over he-ah, don't pay that heathen by the far no never mind."

Under the gimlet eye of Billy-Bob Joe (no, that wasn't really his name, just sounds really Southern to us cold-blooded Yankees) we followed, entranced, the lovely lady who beckoned us to her lovely side. I mean, the lady (all of 18 or 19 I'm betting) was a vision on that dark night, we would have defected to the Rebs at that very moment had she but asked.

Better yet, she gave us all a piece of fire-roasted chicken. As there were only five of us I recall (Robin, Freiheit, Johnny Mac, Nute, and Your Humble Scribe) who had wandered into the camp of what turned out to be a Virginia regiment, (the rest of our unit having no sense of adventure and, we suspect, a hidden cache of food, had stayed behind) there was enough chicken for the lovely Southern belle to share with us grubby Yanks.

As we wolfed down that chicken, the vision before us beckoned her friend over, a lissome blonde of as great a beauty as the raven-haired goddess who had given us succor in our time of desperate need.

"Cheryl Ann, jes look at these poh Yankee boys, they shore look pathetic and all. But I decla-ah, I jes couldn't resist giving them somethin' to eat."

"Well Mary Lou, they are kinda cute in a young, grubby looking kinda Northern way. But I think Billy-Bob Joe wants more chicken. Are those beans ready yet?"

As we stood and marveled at these two exemplars of Southern womanhood, damned near drooling we were, and it wasn't the chicken, the raven-haired lovely turned to us and said...

"Thank you boys for stoppin' by, now y'all run along now, ya he-ah? Scoot!"

I swear, if those ladies had asked, we would've turned our coats right then and there, started singing "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and bellowing "On to Washington!" But they didn't, so back to our own meager camp we went. For having sated (somewhat) our appetites, we needed sleep, for another day of battle lay before us on the morrow.

Though some of those boys above look to be about the right age that we were in '66, we were not nearly so nattily attired.
Dawn of the third day of battle (our second) dawned. The plan was for some skirmishing on our left flank, followed by the grand finale, a recreation of Pickett's Charge, on a vastly smaller scale, of course. We fell in, came to attention and paid no attention as Lardwell Jackass***, er, KN2 harangued as to what he expected of us on this fine, though terribly hot, day.

In mid-harangue, CK stumbled into our presence, all bleary-eyed and reeking of something, we weren't sure what, and told KN2 to "shut yer pie hole" and drew his sword. (Yeah, I actually remember him having a sword. No doubt of the wrong make but we thought it was cool. I mean a sword is a sword, am I right?) With a bellowed "Le-eft... HACE!, for'ard... HARCH!" the Ninth Vermont went forth to war.

Now I don't remember much about Pickett's Charge other than that we had been moved to the center of the line and told that the hour of destiny was at hand. Or words to that effect. I believe a Vermont regiment had given valuable service at the center of the Union line when Pickett's Charge broke apart under Union shot and shell. My brother Ye Olde Vermonter, an avid reenactor, could verify that, and he just might as he does comment from time to time over on the Book of Face. When he has a mind to.

Like I said, of the ultimate moment of our reenacted Battle of Gettysburg I have but little memory. I think we were ordered to lie down while the two Confederate cannon present on the field "bombarded" our position, which had indeed happened prior to the real Pickett's Charge, but the Rebs had a lot more than two cannon on the Third of July back in 1863. Still and all, we thought it was pretty cool.

I remember us standing our ground, firing off a lot of black powder while the Johnnies hooted and hollered and eventually, grudgingly yielded the field to the manly HUZZAHS of the Union soldiery.

My best memory of that day was the skirmishing out on our left flank. It's when and where Johnny Mac got his nickname, what we'd probably call his callsign these days. (At least here at The Chant we'd call it that, us having our aviation orientation.)

We were ordered forward to drive off some annoying skirmishers clad in homespun who were popping off at us with their desultory musketry. Johnny Mac was our standard bearer that day, yes, yes, boys and girls we had a standard, Old Glory it was. (Probably with 50 stars knowing the keen eye for historicity of CK and KN2, should've had 34 to be historically correct.)

As we marched forth, banner held aloft by Johnny Mac, we were suddenly assailed by a howling mob of Southerners keening their piercing battle cry and looking for all the world like they wanted to wipe us off the face of the map. I daresay it was that selfsame Virginia regiment whose chicken we had partaken of the evening prior.

We were hesitant and looked to be shortly taking to our heels, when one of the Rebs yelled out...

"Seize that flag boys, death to the Union!"

At that point Johnny Mac entered legend, he became damned near mythological in an Achilles fighting Hector kind of way, I still get all misty-eyed about it, 'lo these many years later.

With a frightening howl, Johnny Mac went full berserker on the Rebs. Swinging that banner he smote the Rebs to either side of him, the gray-backs began to falter as he struck them down. Until one Confederate officer stepped forward to try and calm our Johnny Mac, and was almost run through for his trouble by the spear point shaped tip of the flag pole. As Johnny screeched like the very banshees of his ancestors' fair green isle across the sea.

Someone, it might have been Robin, it might have been Nute, bellowed out...


Thus a legend was born, thus a minor bit of history (at least in my old circles) was made. It was glorious, it was breathtaking, and it almost got us frog-marched off the field in ignominy by the reenactment organizers.

But cooler heads prevailed, the Virginians, to their immortal credit, claimed that it was all part of a plan we had concocted the night before, over fire-roasted chicken I might add, and that they were sure sorry that they'd forgotten to notify the organizers. Probably a staff mix-up back at headquarters or something.

Thus mollified, the organizers allowed us to take our place on the field for Pickett's Charge later in the day. But we might want to leave the flag back on the bus, m'kay?

Which we did.

Some few years later, fondly recalling Southern hospitality and graciousness, not to mention the loveliness of Southern ladies, we, as a unit, well, most of us anyway (not CK and KN2, they having been cashiered, so to speak) decided to change sides.

Which is how the Ninth Vermont Infantry morphed into the 10th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry, said outfit you might remember from this post. But that story is for another day. Maybe tomorrow if the mood strikes me, and I think it will.

Patience, me lads and lassies.

*The source of the middle photo, the left and right illustrations are both public domain.
** Modified SJC
*** I see all a bear! (Snort, chuckle.)


  1. LOL.......Our unit did both sides.... we represented a Union Headquarters, but were all southerners. We always had plenty of leftovers at breakfast and dinner, so we were always sharing our goodies with others. The most memorable was a young man who had just returned from active duty overseas that very week. Most of our unit were ex marines, army, navy, various intelligence and one Foreign legion, so a lot of time was spent with this young man. I think he found the comaradarie he had missed...I sure hope so.

    1. Things seemed a lot less organized back in my day.

      Wow, you never know where someone who served in the Legion might turn up!

    2. He was a character, and boy! did he haves some stories to tell! We used to laugh when our IC reenactors would get calls on their cells....they would all walk off so as not to be overheard, and were the only guys allowed to have their cell phones on them during events. I don't recall the time frame (hubby will I am sure) but one event, all the IC guys got phone calls at the same time......when they packed up and left the event, we knew something big was going down.

    3. One can learn a lot paying attention to the actions of the intel types.

    4. Same thing happened at Pennsic War (SCA war between the Middle and East kingdoms, loser gets Pittsburg) in 2002, I heard. A bunch of Marine Rec guys got picked up pronto for duty right there and then. Made quite a stir amongst the scadians.

    5. Hahaha! "Loser gets Pittsburgh..."

      Love it.

    6. What can I say, those Midrealmers and Easterners are weird, man. And, seriously, would you want Pittsburg?

      Okay, in all seriousness, there has to be a reason for war, right?

    7. I remember the weekend following 9/11...we were doing a living history for a site right next to a power plant in Virginia. Not only were the armed guards somewhat disturbing....but in the mid afternoon some fully armed aircraft buzzed low over the event. I have never seen a whole crowd go utterly silent and still as that day. It was eerie. Mind you, I did wonder why the armed guards patted down and searched everyone coming onto the grounds with the exception of we hoop skirted ladies......I was just stunned that no-one searched we you have any idea how much ordinance you could fit under one of those hoop skirts? Although, being attacked by ladies in hoops is not very likely these days I would imagine.

    8. That must have been unsettling.

      Besides which, how do you pat down a lady in hoops?

    9. How do you pat down a lady in hoops? Carefully, sirrah, very carefully.

      Well, actually, you lift up the hoops and go at it in a normal fashion. (How do I know? Well, see, my lady wife and I were retainers to the king and queen, and he wouldn't listen to me and she wouldn't listen to my lady, but they'd listen to the opposite, so I got to learn how to dress a lady in full Elizabethan, which includes hoop skirts (but not as voluminous as CivWar hoopies.)

    10. そ です か (Sodesu ka) - I see!

  2. Excellent story. Being fed when nearly dead from starvation by a belle is intoxicating. There was a Tetly Tea commercial on the toob back when we had one. This southern belle was talking and I became a mouth breather near instantaneously. My wife hit me on the arm to break her spell... hit me HARD. I have a genetic propensity to be swept off my feet by that accent. Pretty or homely, it really doesn't matter. Kryptonite, I tell ya! Man alive!!!!

    1. There is a certain something about that accent coming from a lady. Captivating it is.

    2. The accent is fine in moderation. But goes a tad bit too far when some lady in full Elizabethan dress says her 4 syllable name and it sounds like 7 or 8 syllables, stretched out to the length of a full sentence. (Much tittering can occur at said moments, too.)

    3. Heh, he said "tittering."

      Oh wait...

    4. Yeah, I never realized that the correct pronunciation of the word "Cute" here in the South involves 16 syllables. 1 for the C, 10 for the U, 4 for the T and 1 for the E. But only if spoken by a female, from Texas.

    5. Oh, after a long day of bashing skulls, and during a gentle rain after a hot day, some grand lady processes up to the thrones and says, "Haaaaiiiiii, I'm syllable-syllable-syllable-syllable-syllable-syllable-syllable-syllable, Queen of Mer-i-di-a-y-e-eeeeeeeeesss" in a seriously southern Georgian (the state, not country) accent (Translation: "Hi, I'm (three syllable name), Queen of Meridies."

      Or the guy, in 15th century full plate, right from the War of the Roses, after hitting someone and watching armor go 'spring' and fall off, say, "That aiiiiinn't quaite raaaight!" in a deep Tennessee hillbilly accent. (Then he took off his helm, and the first thing that came to my mind was, "Oh, God, please put the helm back on." Which I actually verbalized, much to the merriment of the merry men around me, as it suddenly got rather hot around me. "Heh," said the troll, "Ah laik Ewe, Yaour naixt!" (the only thing missing was a big dollop of tabakky jeuice to make it over the top and summon banjo players...

    6. As to "tittering", well, she did have huge tracts of land...

      I like my women to have the ability to float or survive minor famines, if you get my drift.

    7. Ah, the knights of the hills of Tennessee.

    8. "Some day lad, all this will be yours."

      "What, the curtains?"

      Quote Python to me and you've got my attention.

  3. Woo-Hoo, a four parter! We ain't had one of dem in a LOOWWNNNNGGG time!

    1. Well, the memories just sort of popped into my head as I lay in my sick bed last weekend. Felt it was time to commit them to "paper," so to speak. (And no, I'm not sure why I am suddenly enamored of the phrase, "so to speak.")

  4. There have been many a time at War when the lovely Mistress Andrew and I have, in our encampment, been cooking a most fulsome and aromatic meal, and seen callow youths collect just out of range like moths to a flame. And we have done the same. One night, okay. Two nights, hrmmmm. Three nights? Pay up. You're either part of the solution or part of the dinner (payment can come in the form of drudgery, much drudgery.)

    The last time we did a camp kitchen, Mistress Andrew (and various drudges) cooked for 35 people, over fire and an lp stove. What fun!

    1. We relied heavily on the kindness of strangers...

    2. Strange kindness is the best kindness, as it is unexpected kindness. But that is the chivalry and courtesy we as Gentlemen and Gentleladies are supposed to exude, and, too often, don't.

    3. Ah, the manners of yore would heal many of the ills of the world today.

    4. Drudgery will work...there is always wood to be split and carried, water to be gotten and the occasional bacon stretcher to be found. And bless the person who has coffee ready for the cook at will be well fed all weekend..>LOL

    5. Sound wisdom on coffee for the cook.

    6. Well, the manners of yore were often backed up by steel or lead, so extract the politeness of a well-armed society vs the pit of smucks we live in today.

    7. Oh, and keeping the cook happy has always been one of my main goals. There's a reason for my rotundity.

    8. I get the whole rotundity thing. I too live in what is apparently an expanding universe.

    9. "Drudgery will work...there is always wood to be split and carried, water to be gotten "

      One of my pet peeves - lack of wood and lack of water. Wood pile near the euphemism (privy, loo, head, necessary, etc.), a place everyone visited. Did anyone think to bring a few pieces of wood after a visit? NO!

      Or leaving 1/8 inch of water in the bucket and not taking it and filling it because "There's still water in it!"

      My "Coffee Story." One year at Duncan's Mills (rolling hills of Coastal CA along the Russian River) I had set up on Friday night, one of the first there. Fixed my supper near sunset, was making my coffee, when a young man came up. He had worked a graveyard shift in Bakersfield, gone home, loaded up, and drove up to Sonoma County for the event. Dog tired he was. Smelled the coffee and asked if I had extra. Now, I brewed my coffee in a briki, put in a sufficientcy of coffee, some water, and set it on the coals. Let it come to a boil, take it off. Set it back, boil, take it off. And do it one more time. Add a spoonful of cold water to settle the grounds and then pour the Nectar of the Gods. So, taking pity on the tired young man I made a cup for him. Even grated a little piloncillo into it for him. His first sip and his eyes almost popped out of his head. "That's STRONG!" I took the cup from him, sipped, and found that it was .... just normal coffee. I don't think the lad had ever had a non-frufru coffee. So, I dug into my haversack and came up with my special evening treat - a disk of Mexican chocolate, of which I shaved about 1/4 into his coffee.

    10. Strong coffee, gotta have it.

  5. Southern hospitality is wonderful thing, but it can vary based on circumstances. I am sitting exactly one mile west of where Thomas Jonathan Jackson, late a Lieutenant General of the Army of Northern Virginia, awaited the arrival of John Pope and his Army of Norther Aggression who came marching down the Warrenton Pike. Pope had a very inflated opinion of his own abilities and fully intended to crush the Confederacy in a single blow. Unfortunately, at least for John Pope, he quickly learned that he was not the smartest general on the field that day, nor even the second, or third, or whatever. The result of the warm, indeed very, very warm greeting that Jackson and his men extended to Pope's column was that Stonewall's fame was enhanced and John Pope was relegated to obscurity.

    1. John Who?

      Yup, dumped on the trash heap of history, whereas Jackson went on to glory.

  6. I have to do this every time...
    Northern brethren, "y'all" is plural. End, period, full stop. No Southerner would ever call a single person "y'all" unless the speaker were so drunk that he or she were seeing multiples where none existed. The way I usually get it to relate is to ask the Yankee to pretend it's "youse guys". If a New Yorker wouldn't say "youse guys" to one person, you shouldn't use "y'all".
    Singular = "you", or, if you prefer, "yew"(actually depends on which accent, & there are many variations in the South).
    Plural = "y'all", or if speaking of legions, perhaps "all y'all".
    Off soapbox now; sorry, but the misuse of "y'all" just grates on my nerves.
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. Tennessee Budd:

      Y'all are overwrought.

      Paul L. Quandt

    2. Tennessee, in my mind's eye there were multiple Johnnies around that campfire, the lady was giving all of them the business. She just singled out one of them by name, probably the ringleader. Perhaps next time I can make that clearly. From my extensive travels I do know that "y'all" is plural.

      And I think it's Philly that says "youse guys."

    3. Paul - overwrought irony perhaps...


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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