We have all read the stories of bloody battles, and the brave men who gave all they had for their country. But the story below exemplifies what it is to “give all you have” in another way. It’s not on a battle field, no cannons firing, No men yelling in pain. No one dying in agony! It’s just two men having dinner, it’s a wonderful story, I hope you enjoy.
A Fresh Egg
By Carlton McCarthy
Another incident, that I can vouch for, showing the strenuous time the whole army had about food that winter: One day Major-Quartermaster John Ludlow, of Norfolk, met a Captain of Artillery from his own town of Norfolk—Capt. Charles Grandy, of the Norfolk Light Artillery Blues. The Major invited the Captain to dine with him on a certain day. He did not expect anything very much, but there was a seductive sound in the word “dining” and he accepted. Grandy told the story of his experience on that festive occasion.
He walked two miles to Major Ludlow’s quarters, and was met with friendly cordiality by his old fellow-townsman, and ushered into his hut where a bright fire was burning. After a time spent in conversation, the Major began to prepare for dinner. He reached up on a shelf, and took down a cake of bread, cut it into two pieces, and put them in a frying pan on the fire to heat. Then he reached up on the shelf and got down a piece of bacon—not very large—cut it into two pieces, and put them in another pan on the fire to fry. Down in the ashes by the fire was a tin cup covered over—its contents not visible.
The dining table was an old door, taken from some barn and set up on skids. When the bread and meat were ready, the Major put it on the table and with a courtly wave of his hand said, “D-d-draw up, Charley.” They seated themselves. The Major gave a piece of bread and a piece of bacon to his guest, and took the other piece, of each, for himself. After he had eaten a while—the Major got up, went to the fireplace and took up the tin cup. He poured off the water, and, behold, one egg came to view. This egg, the Major put on a plate and, coming to the table, handed it to Grandy—“Ch-Ch-Charley, take an egg,” as if there were a dish full. Charley, having been brought up to think it not good manners to take the last thing on the dish, declined to take the only egg in sight—said he didn’t care specially for eggs! though he said he would have given a heap for that egg, as he hadn’t tasted one since he had been in the army. “But,” urged the Major, “Ch-Ch-Charley, I insist that you take an egg. You must take one—there is going to be plenty—do take it.” Under this encouragement, Grandy took the egg
While he was greatly enjoying it, suddenly there was a flutter in the corner of the hut. An old hen flew up from behind a box in the corner, lit on the side of the box and began to cackle loudly. The Major turned to Grandy and said, “I-I t-t-told you there was going to be a plenty. I invited you to dinner today because this was the day for the hen to lay.” He went over and got the fresh egg from behind the box, cooked and ate it. So each of the diners had an egg.
The incident was suggestive of the situation. Here was a Quartermaster appointing a day for dining a friend— depending for part of the feast on his confidence that his hen would come to time. The picture of that formal dinner in the winter quarters on the Rapidan is worth drawing. It was a fair sign of the times, and of life in the Army of Northern Virginia; when it came to a Quartermaster giving to an honored, and specially invited guest, a dinner like that—it indicates a general scarceness.