Sunday, October 12, 2014

Civil War Sunday - Gardening During the Civil War

Studying the United States Civil War isn't just learning about battles.  For me, some of my interest is in the way people used to live in the time period of the war, 1861-1865.

As someone who loves to grow things, married 40 years to a devoted gardener, I've often wondered how people gardened during the Civil War.

For many of us in the modern United States, gardening is not a matter of life and death.  There are stores, there are farmers market, if we run out of food.

For many people in the United States during the war, gardening was a subsistence activity.

The home garden fed the family, and animals.  It provided both food and medicine, through medicinal herbs, and dyes for homespun wool.
Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown, NY
This may have been one example of a mid 19th century garden, perhaps not exactly from the Civil War era.  But you can see sunflowers, amaranth, and corn, among other plants.

Pumpkin Patch, Farmer's Museum

Pumpkins were also grown in the Civil War era garden, along with beets, onions, tomatoes, beans, cabbage and potatoes.  Food from the garden and available livestock was supplemented by hunting.

Especially in the Confederacy, as the war continued and food became both scarce and expensive, growing your own food became more and more a necessity.
I suspect this is a chicken breed that existed at the time of the war
You may have seen a rooster like this one, roaming free.

Next week, I will return to the war itself, possibly blogging about a battle in Kansas - another in my series about the "neglected West" of the Civil War.


  1. I have one studying the Civil War now and one who will do it next year. This is a great idea to research lives in that time period as well. I'll be returning for sure!

  2. My kids and I have been studying the Civil War during the past two months, and I never knew how fascinating this time period was. Now you've enlightened me about gardening during the Civil War time period, too. It makes sense that people needed to grow their own food, especially because of shortages during the war.

  3. What a fantastic angle to use to look at the Civil War (or any historical time period)! We homeschool and homestead and I love to learn about what kinds of food were grown when it really mattered.

  4. Here in the Shenandoah Valley there wasn't much left to eat on this day 150 years ago! All the crops along all the main roads were burnt. Many people left the valley to live with relatives for the winter as there was very little to eat.

  5. It's an interesting subject about how people survived during past wars. In England, everyone was encouraged to grow food on allotments. I remember in the novel Gone With the Wind, how wealthy women labored in the fields without any experience of doing so. Hard times for all.

  6. Gosh!
    Yes, as Francene said; people relied on their own crops/ vegetable gardens during the second world war as rashoning meant that people did not get enough to eat!


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