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eHistory's Civil War Newsletter - Volume 02 Issue 23

Date: 11/15/2001 Issue: Volume 02 Issue 23 Author: Alethea Sayers
*************** HEAD WOUND FROM A CANNON BALL *****************

Captain Joe Desha was born in Harrison County, Kentucky, May 22, 1833, and died May 8, 1902. He raised the first company in Kentucky for the Confederacy that was raised in the "neutral" state. They went by the L&N railroad to Nashville, from there to Virginia and became part of the First Kentucky Regiment.

In an engagement at Drainesville, Virginia, he was severely wounded in the shoulder, his left arm crushed below the elbow, rendering it almost useless the rest of his life; but the most remarkable of his many wounds was one in the head at Murfreesboro by a cannon ball, which left him apparently dead.

While being carried from the field as dead he sat upright on the litter and said: "What does this mean, boys? What's the matter?" Some of his men about him cried with joy, and said: "Captain, we thought you were dead!" He stood up and felt himself, and said: "I am all right I believe," and went back to the line.

Afterwards, while in Richmond and passing the residence of President Davis, the President and his private secretary, Col. William Preston Johnson, saw the officer, and the latter mentioned that it was Captain Desha, of Kentucky, when the President said: "Call him back; I want to see him." He was introduced to President Davis, who said: "Captain, I wanted to see the only man ever struck in the head with a cannon ball and not killed!"

The President asked him about the effects of it and Desha replied: "I believe about the only bad effects I sustained by it was the loss of a fine pistol dropped from my belt when the boys were carrying me off the field."

Mr. Davis excused himself for a few minutes, and returned with a new pistol in his hand, making it a gift to replace the lost weapon.

*** Read about more interesting personal stories in our "Regimental" section at: http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/regimental/index.cfm

********************* FINGERED AT LAST ************************

The notorious Jesse James, who fought briefly as a Confederate partisan, managed to dodge Federal bullets and survive the war. However, at some point, he did lose the end of one of his fingers, probably clipped off during target practice.

Though the body part involved was tiny, it eventually proved to be important. That missing fingertip was vital to indentification of James's body when he was murdered in 1880.

********** INSTANT COFFEE DURING THE CIVIL WAR? ***************

Coffee was high on the list of supplies most in demand by soldiers. Many Confederates were quickly forced to adopt crude substitutes, but Union soldiers insisted on the real thing.

Northern stockpiles of coffee beans were usually adequate to meet the demand, but many commanders balked at letting their men carry the bulky commodity. Wholesale merchants in a major port city, probably Philadelphia, devised what they considered to be a solution to the coffee problem.

Beans were ground to a fine powder, then mixed with sugar and milk to form a thick paste. Easily portable and not prone to spoilage, a spoonful of paste and a cup of hot water generated a cup of coffee that a thirsty soldier would drink eagerly. Few civilians would today willingly down the brew, but it was this paste that presaged all modern forms of instant - or dehydrated - coffee.



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