Saturday, June 23, 2012

Biscotti, Coffee and Custer & the 7th Calvery

     The other day I had the opportunity to get a first hand look at the Way-it-Was.

The Custer House
I was out at Ft Lincoln and was given 'The Tour' by the fabulous actors Nora and Al. Both were dressed in full costume. She as the Laundress, and Al as a Sargeant  (I think). I had look at the house, the enlisted men's barracks and commissary. I have to say that I was impressed! I have been to a number of Living History Museums around the country and this is among the finest. A must see.
        I really got a sense of Who these people were and What they 
                              were doing there.
                                                   A Little History:
 In 1872 a military post was built on former site of a Mandan Indian village. This became home the Colonel Custer & his wife Libbie (Elizebeth) and the 7th Calvary.
   It was a very busy place! There was barracks for 9 (yes, nine) full Companies, 7 officers quarters, stables for all, an entire section for the camp laundresses, hospital, post office, bakery, storehouse, and much more.
Libbie & G. Custer
       Every day the soldiers would drink Gallons of Coffee. Legend says it was so stout you could stand your spoon up in it! Today at the Ft Lincoln Commissary, You can drink a coffee roasted especially for them! "Like It Was! " This is made by MoJo Roast, Inc in Westhope, ND. If you'd like some for your home, it is only available from Ft. Lincoln! Did I mention that today's coffee is fabulous??
      History tells us that the Battle of Little Bighorn, better known as Custer's Last Stand, took place on June 25th and 26th 1876.  I am certain they fought valiantly against the Indians. However the Indians were masters of guerrilla warfare.
  There is also much speculation as to why Custer was NOT scalped. Some say it was because he was not recognised. Some say it was out of respect. One interesting theory I heard a number years ago~ Custer was not scalped because he killed himself. The Cheyenne (they were there too) would not scalp a coward or a madman. I got this from a Cheyenne gentleman who had it handed down through his family lore. It was stated that his direct relative was a participant in the Battle of Little Big Horn.
     Libbie Custer was the 'First Lady' of Ft Lincoln. Beautiful, smart and vivacious, Libbie set the tone for the social events. I myself admire the fact the she followed her man everywhere he was stationed!
My Guide Nora
  An interesting fact is that a Laundress with Army had more 'clout' that any other woman on a frontier post. They were even paid a WAGE by the US Army. The laundresses were considered the unsung heroes. Can you believe that initially there were only 4 laundresses per 100 men? Later that would change to a 1:20 ratio.  These women were also allotted housing and rations.
This is AL
   Along with their Coffee, The soldiers regularly ate HARDTACK. It often meant the difference between life and death on the trail. Hardtack is a biscuit that will hold forever. It is rock solid. To soften it up, it would be soaked in Coffee or water. It would not go bad. It traveled well. Didn't take up any space and had enough nutrients to keep you alive.  AL, the other interpreter at Ft Lincoln, regularly makes Authentic hardtack as part of his demonstration. You can also try a soft tack  version at the Commissary. A real taste of history!
You can also make your own at home with this simple recipe:
                                    2 Cup flour
                                    1 Cup water
                                   =/- 6 pinches of salt
                      That's it! mix together until a stiff dough forms. Roll out to about 1/4" thick. Using a fork, poke holes in the pieces (like a cracker) front and back. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes. Viola! Your very own piece of history.

    And by now I know you must be wondering What does Biscotti have to do with Ft Lincoln??? I make a number of the goodies for sale in the Commissary. Including the Soft Tack... and Biscotti.
                  Want to know more? Check out or or
 Come on down to Ft Lincoln! It's a great Stay-Cation! ...Fishing, camping, history....Memories.


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