The Civil War in Cereal (III): Empty Bowl Awaiting Milk

January 12, 2008

Early in the war, both the North and the South thought it would be a quick affair. Soldiers rushed to enlist, fretting that, were they too slow, they might not experience the glory of combat. Senators pushed for combat. But some military leaders knew better. The first commander of the Union army, Irvin McDowell, was one of these leaders. Privately, he complained to Lincoln:

“[Our inexperienced soldiers] do not know how to pour cereal.”

As this indicates, some of the more competent leaders already recognized the inferiority of the milk-first pouring method so common to the northern states. But it would take time to train them otherwise. Lincoln, facing political pressure, didn’t have that time; he responded to McDowell’s complaint:

“You do not know not how to pour cereal, it is true, but they do not know how to pour cereal also; you all don’t know how to pour cereal alike.”

In this, he was tragically mistaken. Some Confederate leaders recognized the necessity of pouring cereal before milk, and rigorously trained their troops with this in mind. These leaders, lifetime military men, included Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Jackson was a deeply religious man who always poured his cereal first, and whose no-nonsense approach to command dramatically altered the course of the war.