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Another Civil War Innovation

Here’s another interesting fact from the book More Civil War Curiosities by Webb Garrison concerning advances made because of necessity during wartime.
Wanting to keep fighting soldiers provided with well-balanced meals, Commander Maxwell Woodhull of the USS Connecticut was faced with the problem of how to keep large quantities of fresh beef aboard ship.
On October 4, 1861, Woodhull contacted the U.S. Secretary of the Navy with an innovation developed aboard ship. “Doubtless you are aware the plan for preserving beef was a new and entirely untried one, on the grand scale attempted in this vessel. It consisted of what is called an ice and chill room, something in the style of a refrigerator on shore. I did not approve of it from the very first moment I saw it. I saw nothing but a great container of ice, without the corresponding amount of cold element promised from it. There were 400 quarters of beef hung on hooks and stowed together as close as possible. I did not believe that the cold air, even if ever so abundant, could penetrate the mass sufficiently to preserve it.”
Woodhull was amazed that the ice room worked to preserve the ship’s beef. And since the Connecticut was stationed in Florida waters, the experiment was deemed a success. Shortly afterward, refrigerated rooms were set up in Northern cities.




  1. OH WOW, so glad they kept the ice room. I bet those men were so much happier eating meat without bugs. Their tummies must have been a lot happier, too.

  2. I’m sure they were. I think a lot of the problems the Confederates had in keeping their men fed stemmed from lack of transportation and the means of preserving food. It’s hard to imagine living before refrigeration.

  3. Caroline Clemmons says:

    I didn’t realize they had refrigerated rooms, certainly not on a ship. As you said, it’s hard to imagine living before refrigeration. I thought they probably only had dried meat then for combat. I’ve seen smoke houses and cold rooms from the period, but couldn’t see how that would translate to forces on the move. Thanks for sharing.

  4. That’s what I thought too, Caroline! This is really an interesting and informative book of facts. And dismisses a lot of assumed notions about the time period.

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