Tag Archives: Cincinnati

Green Tomato Pie for a Civil War Soldier

In the first letter we have from Civil War soldier Erasmus Anderson, he effuses about the food served by the women of Cincinnati when he is stationed there. I have tried to imagine what those ladies in Cincinnati were serving the Union Soldiers, and decided Green Tomato Pie might be on the menu.

Green tomato pie

It is easy to understand why they were so friendly and cooperative in Cincinnati. The city sits on the northern side of the Ohio River, which was looked upon as the last big barrier for escaping slaves. The Underground Railroad was active there, and although there were dissenters,  most citizens were united behind the Union.

Unlike the residents of the South, where the first year of the war had already decimated food supplies, Cincinnati was well connected by railroad and river to trade to the East and North.  And the state of Ohio continued to produce ample food during the Civil War. Here is what I can surmise about the food that might have been available when Erasmus was stationed there.

German Influence: Cincinnati itself was heavily populated with Germans , so the food would have been German-influenced. Camp Dennison, where the recruits were trained, (Letter two) was actually a bit north of Cincinnati in a town called New Germany.

Ham and Cheese: Two commodities always available, and always on the plate at any gathering in the German areas of Ohio. The soldiers could have been served up thick slices of ham on home made bread. Sausage and kraut would have been on the menu, too.

Beer: The city had numerous breweries, so the soldiers were not going without beer.

September Harvest Time: Farmers would be getting in the last of their crops, and housewives would be pulling off the plants and out of the ground the last of their summer garden. It is sweet corn and sweet red tomato time in Ohio in early September.This is where the green tomatoes come in. The growers must get them off the vines before the first frost comes.

Canning Time: Because of the surfeit of vegetables and fruit, canning would be in full swing, and the soldiers could have been treated to some newly canned peaches or piccalilli or strawberry jam.

Had the soldiers been able to foresee the limited diet they had ahead of them, they might have taken more advantage of fresh produce.  At any rate, we know that Erasmus enjoyed the food and hospitality of the ladies of Cincinnati. And we speculate that green tomato pie might have been among the treats they served.

Some people say that green tomato pie tastes like a tart apple pie. Perhaps, but to me it more closely resembles the sweet and sour combination of rhubarb pie, so I made it the way I make rhubarb pie, with tapioca.  Even people who start out skeptical, wind up loving this pie. (See the Perfect Pie Crust recipe here.)

Green Tomato Pie

Serves 8
Cook time 1 hour
Allergy Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable


  • 4 cups green tomatoes (thinly sliced)
  • 3/8 cups Minute tapioca
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • Pastry for double-crust pie (See recipe for Perfect Pie Crust)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (cut in bits)


1. Combine tapioca and sugar and seasonings. After cutting out hard core of tomato, slice thinly. Cut slices in quarters. Add tomato slices and vinegar to sugar mixture. Toss.
2. Line bottom of 9" pie plate with pastry. Add filling and dot with butter. Top with crust with vent slits or lattice top. Brush crust with milk and sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over top.
3. Put the pie in the oven on a cookie sheet to catch any overflow. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour
4. Partially cool, then put in refrigerator to chill before cutting.


The filling will be runny, which is why you put it in the refrigerator. You could pour off some of the liquid after mixing the tomatoes and sugar, but lose some flavor.

Civil War Letters From E: Cheerful Beginnings

Cincinnati park

Foundation Stone, Washington Park, Cincinnati Ohio

” Dear Suzi, We came here last night and are lying around in what is called Washington Park. It is a beatuiful place in the middle of the city with a nice fountain in the center full of fish and nice flowers, shrubs and trees, lots of pet squirrels playing around”

Erasmus Anderson enlisted in the Union Army in August 1862 and mustered into the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) at Wooster Ohio. It was a year after the first great recruitment efforts with public rallies and speeches, but the war was not ending as quickly as the Generals had thought, so a second push was made for volunteers.  Since Erasmus was 32 years old and had a wife and small child, he does not seem a likely recruit, but his first Civil War letters to his wife Suzanne, shows his enthusiasm for the task ahead.

Erasmus and other men from Holmes County were assigned to Company E. From Wooster the troops went to Columbus, Ohio, and then to Cincinnati where they would be trained at Camp Dennison. Erasmus didn’t think much of Ohio’s capitol city.

…but oh this is not Columbus.  God curse that hell hole.  They would not even board us and when they came to see us it was to cut the money out of our boys pockets while asleep or sell them provisions at an awful high rate, anyway at all to get our money.

Cincinnati was a different  story, he explains, because the residents were afraid of invasion because of their important position along the Ohio River and at the center of railroad transportation, and were therefore welcoming to the soldiers. He continues his description of Washington Park. (Note: a ‘nigger head’ is apparently a large water container.)

…for spring water we have a beastly big nigger head with holes bored in it and corks to draw water out, while little girls and boys and babies are playing around us and kind hearted women are sewing our clothes and gives us good things to eat.

Washington park, that he describes here, had been constructed just one year before in the area known as Over-the-Rhine.  You can still visit Washington Park, now refurbished for a modern age.  Erasmus is pretty happy hanging out with his buddies at Washington Park. As he does in many of his letters, he mentions food.

Here the women and children are coming and filling our canteens with good coffee and giving all that is good to eat.  I could willingly die for such people; while we draw our regular rations at the market house.

I italicized a phrase that makes me sad every time I read it, since I know that Erasmus did indeed die for these–and other people.   But in September, he is just beginning the adventure, and fortunately, he cannot see ahead.

The boys are all well and in the best of heart and would willingly fight if they only knowed how but we would be of little service as we are not drilled as much as we might be or would like to be.  I like it first rate and hope we will soon get through to the gap for I am uneasy about them boys there.

“the gap” that he mentions is the Cumberland Gap. From October to November 1862, the OVI 16th was assigned to the 4th Brigade, Cumberland Gap Division.  So while, the soldiers frequently had no idea of the larger picture they were involved in, Erasmus apparently knew that he would be going through “the gap.”

I don’t believe we will attempt to go through until the way is open as we have drawn no arms and I don’t think we will till we get to the gap.

Erasmus signed his letters “E”.

We’ll hear more in subsequent letters about the problem with not having enough weapons to go around. On next Tuesday, I will be speculating about what food those kind women were serving the soldiers.  And next Friday, excerpts from Erasmus’ second letter, which he wrote in October, from Camp Dennison, the training camp, just north of Cincinnati.

If you would like to follow along with Erasmus and ensure that you do not miss his letters, be sure to subscribe to the weekly E-mail from Ancestors in Aprons. Just click here.

See Letter 2 HERE.

Notes:  This series of Erasmus Anderson’s Civil War letters is definitely a group project. First I must thank the owner of the letters, who kindly sent me the transcript of the letters, and allowed me to learn about Erasmus.  Second, my brother and sister know far more about the Civil War than I do, and they are helping me with the background information on Erasmus the soldier.

Besides the Civil War letters, sources here include

  • The Cincinnati Parks Department website
  • A site devoted to the 16th OVI that is a real treasure trove of information about Ohio’s soldiers in the Civil War.
  • Ancestry.com where I find birth, census death, military and other records of my ancestors.
  • Picture from Flickr.com with Creative Commons license. See more by clicking on the photo.