GENERAL GRANT AND THE PUMPKIN PIE
From Stories, Anecdotes and Humor from the Civil War
When General Grant was a brigadier in southeast Missouri, he commanded an expedition against the rebels under Jeff Thompson, in northern Arkansas. The supposed rendezvous of the rebels was about one hundred and ten miles, and the greater portion of the route lay through a howling wilderness. The imaginary suffering that our soldiers endured during the first two days of their march was enormous. It was impossible to steal or "confiscate" uncultivated real estate, and not a hog, or a chicken, or an ear of corn was anywhere to be seen.
On the third day, however, affairs looked more hopeful, for a few small specks of ground, in a state of partial cultivation, were here and there visible. On that day, Lieutentant Watson, of an Indiana cavalry regiment, commanded the advance-guard, consisting of eight mounted men. About noon he came up to a small farm-house, from the outward appearance of which he judged there might be something fit to eat inside. He halted his company, dismounted, and with two second lieutentants entered the dwelling.
He knew that Grant's incipient fame had already gone out through all the country, and it occurred to him that by representing himself to be the general he might obtain the best the house afforded. So assuming a very imperative demeanor, he accosted the inmates of the house, and told them he must have something for himself and staff to eat. They desired to know who he was, and he told them that he was Brigadier-General Grant. At the sound of that name they flew around with alarming alacrity, and served up all they had in the house, taking great pains all the while to make loud professions of loyalty. The lieutenants ate as much as they could of the not over sumptuous meal, but which was, nevertheless, good for that country, and demanded what was to pay. "Nothing." And they went on their way rejoicing.
In the meantime General Grant, who had halted his army a few miles further back, for a brief resting spell, came in sight of, and was rather favorably impressed with, the appearance of this same house. Riding up to the fence in front of the door, he desired to know if they would cook him a meal.
"NO!" said a female, in a gruff voice; "General Grant and his staff have just been here and eaten everything in the house except one pumpkin pie."
"Humph," murmured Grant; "what is your name?"
"Selvidge," replied the woman.
Casting a half-dollar in at the door, he asked if she would keep the pie till he sent an officer for it, to which she replied that she would.
That evening, after the camping-ground had been selected, the various regiments were notified that there would be a grand parade at half-past six for orders. Officers would see that their men all turned out, etc.
In five minutes the camp was in a perfect uproar, and filled with ail sorts of rumors; some thought the enemy were upon them, it being so unusual to have parades when on a march.
At half-past six, the parade was formed, ten columns deep, and nearly a quarter of a mile in length.
After the usual routine of ceremonies the acting assistant adjutant-general read the following order:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY IN THE FIELD. SPECIAL ORDER
No. . Lieutenant Watson, of the Indiana Cavalry, having on this day eaten everything in Mrs. Selvidge's house, at the crossing of the Ironton and Pocahontas and Black River and Cape Girardeau Roads, except one pumpkin pie, the said Lieutenant Watson is here-by ordered to return with an escort of one hundred cavalry and eat that pie also.—U.S. Grant, Brigadier-General Commanding.
Grant's orders were law, and no soldier ever attempted to evade them. At seven o'clock the lieutenant filed out of camp with his hundred men, amid the cheers of the entire army. The escort concurred in stating that he devoured the whole of the pie, and seemed to relish it.