Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eating Possum by the Pound in Pensacola!

Fort Barrancas at Pensacola Bay
On January 22, 1862 (150 years ago today), the Memphis, Tennessee, Daily Appeal printed a letter from an Alabama soldier stationed near Fort Barrancas on Pensacola Bay.
The account is fascinating because it includes a detailed listing of what the Confederate soldiers in the Army of Pensacola were eating and how much they were paying for it. My favorite item on the menu was 'possum (or opossum, to use the corrent spelling), which was selling for as much as or more than duck!

Possum Monument
Wausau, Florida
...We are living better now than ever before. There is a daily cart trade from Pensacola, which brings us a good supply of edibles. We get chickens, turkeys, ducks, fresh port, country-made sausages, “in the dab” and “in the link,” eggs, butter, oysters, potatoes, opposums, “and so forth. Do you know what the trite phrase contained in the last three words of the previous sentence means? I f you don’t, inquire of the man who, when asked what he had for dinner on a certain occasion, replied that he had “mutton and so forth. What had he besides the mutton? I bought to-day a saddle of venison, fresh from the country, at two bits a pound. Would you like to know our market prices current? Fresh pork 25 cents per pound; eggs, 50 cents per dozen; butter 75 cents; turkeys $2.25 for gobblers; ducks, $1.50 a pair; chickens, $5 a dozen; sausages, 35 to 40 cents per pound; sweet potatoes, 1.50 per bushel; Irish potatoes, $5 per bushel; opossums 75 cents to $1.25 each. - Anonymous Letter, dated January 17, 1862.

Possum Monument
Wausau, Florida
Even considering their taste for "possum and taters," the soldiers at Pensacola were eating very well compared to many of the men in the Confederate army. This would change, of course, as they left the routine of garrison life at Pensacola Bay for the hardships of the active fronts and it is certain that many would look back on their time (and food) in Florida with longing.

Possum was a common food in the Panhandle of Florida on up into the 20th century. Some still enjoy it even today. This fact is commemorated in the annual Possum Festival and Fun Day in Wausau, Florida. Held on the first Saturday of August each year, which has been designated by the Florida Legislature as "Possum Day" in the Sunshine State.

Wausau is also home to the famed Possum Monument, which stands on a landscaped plot by State Highway 77.  To read more about the Possum Monument, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/possummonument.

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