By Mel Tharp © 1996
Issue: Spring, 1996
After the surrender of Vicksburg there was a "Bill of Fare" found in one of the Confederate compounds. There is some uncertainty surrounding its origin. If it is the work of a Confederate soldier it reflects the soul of a man who was able to keep his sense of humor despite almost unendurable hardships. If it was done by a Yankee prankster, he had to be a man familiar with conditions behind the Confederate lines.
Alexander St. Clair Abrams, a reporter at the scene, confirms the basis of such a menu in his description of conditions at Vicksburg in the weeks preceding the surrender. "Many families of wealth had eaten the last mouthful of food in their possession, and the poor class of non-combatants were on the verge of starvation... Starvation, in its worst forms, now confronted the inhabitants, and had the siege lasted two weeks longer, the consequences would have been terrible. All the beef in the city was exhausted by this time, and mules were soon brought in to requisition, and their meat sold readily at one dollar per pound, the citizens being as anxious to get it, as they were before the investment to purchase the delicacies of the season. It was also distributed among the soldiers to those who desired it, although it was not given out under the name of rations. A great many of them, however, accepted it in preferences to doing without any meat, and the flesh of mules was found equal to the best venison. The author of this work partook of mule meat for three or four days and found the flesh tender and nutritious, and under the peculiar circumstances, a most desirable description of food."
Southern Punch copied the "Bill of Fare" from the Chicago Tribune so that all Confederates might read it.
"The Chicago Tribune publishes the following Bill of Fare found in one of the camps at Vicksburg. It is surrounded by an engraving of a mule's head, behind which is a hand brandishing what may be a bowie, or may be a carving knife. The Tribune thinks it is a melancholy burlesque. The most melancholy thing about it is the reflection which it must suggest to a thoughtful Yankee - if there be such an animal - on the prospect of conquering the men who can live and jest on such fare."
Hotel De Vicksburg
Bill of Fare for July, 1863
Mule bacon with poke greens.
Mule ham canvassed.
Mule rump stuffed with rice.
Peas and rice.
Mule head stuffed a-la-mode.
Mule beef jerked a-la-Mexicana.
Mule ears fricassee a-la-gotch.
Mule side stewed, new style, hair on.
Mule spare ribs plain.
Mule liver, hashed.
Mule hoof soused.
Mule brains a-la-omelette.
Mule kidney stuffed with peas.
Mule tripe fried in pea meal batter.
Mule tongue cold a-la-Bray.
Pea meal pudding, blackberry sauce.
Cotton-wood berry pies.
China Berry tart.
Blackberry leaf tea.
Genuine Confederate Coffee.
Mississippi water, vintage of 1848, superior, $3.00.
Limestone water, late importation, very fine, $2.75.
Spring water, Vicksburg brand, $1.50.
Meals at all hours. Gentlemen to wait upon themselves. Any inattention on the part of servants will be promptly reported at the office.
Jeff. Davis & Co., Proprietors
Card - The proprietors of the justly celebrated Hotel are now prepared to accommodate all who may favor them with a call. Parties arriving by the river, on Grant's inland route, will find Grape, Canister & Co.'s, carriages at the landing, or any depot on the line of entrenchments. Buck, Ball & Co., take charge of all baggage. No effort will be spared to make the visit of all as interesting as possible.