Remembering A Swig of Applejack Near Manassas, 1862
by Gordon Thorsby
The Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry was a regiment that in 1862 was involved with guard work around Manassas and Washington City. After Second Bull Run, the Twelfth Cavalry ran patrols along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and other areas within the lines. It was during their duties that Captain W.A. McAliister recalled the following experience.
“…a sight greeted my eyes that I will never forget and I suppose that the other three comrades who saw it won’t forget it soon. It was this large limb that had been broken off a pine tree six or seven feet from the ground, leaving about four feet of branch on the tree, which formed a sharp snag, and on this limb hung a dead rebel cavalryman. The limb had entered his breast and come out of his back. It is supposed that he was going at full speed when he rode against the limb. This happened at the edge of a cornfield and close by this dead man was a wounded Confederate sitting against another tree, with his leg shattered by a piece of shell. He asked us to pull the man off the snag, which we did, but with great difficulty. The wounded man asked for a canteen of water, which was given to him. Then he gave us his canteen that was almost full of applejack. Two of my comrades were from Maine, the other from Ulster County, NY, and the wounded rebel was a Georgia man. If any of the four are living yet, I would like to hear from them; and as for the Johnny, I would like to trade him a canteen of water for one of applejack everyday in a week.”
In all this death, there was a brief moment shared with the most pleasant taste of applejack. A moment McCallister he wished to have again with the three Union soldiers and the one Confederate wounded soldier.
The 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry went on to serve in 1863 with the Department of the Susquehanna during the Gettysburg Campaign. In 1864 and ‘65 it would serve in the Army of the Shenandoah fighting.
Note: Photographers hated photograph taking that included horses. They rarely stood still for pictures.
Source: National Tribune 1886.