An Irishman's cast iron mouth
Travel back with us to Mother of American Family Feuds (ACW, 1861-1865), a time when brother rose against brother and the freely effused blood mixed with tears from heartbroken families on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. The scene is Florence, South Carolina. We are in the company of Pvt. Ezra Ripple, 52nd Pennsylvania, who had been captured on Johnson's Island, South Carolina. Pvt. Ripple was initially sent to Andersonville and was among the prisoners who were transferred to Florence to prevent their liberation by Sherman. We see him seated on the ground with his three comrades around a plate of mush.
"We never drew cooked rations in Florence. Everything was uncooked... We had a pan made from the tin roofing of an old freight car... and by clubbing our rations of wood and rations of meals or beans together we were able to get along after a fashion...
"Having nothing in which to put the mush when it was cooked we were obliged to eat it out of the pan, and in order that we should get no advantage one of the other, we adopted a code of table rules. When the mush was cooked, and the pan taken off the fire, we would seat ourselves around it on the ground and wait for the mush to cool. Boiled mush is a rightly hot dish and holds the heat for a long time. It was hard work for us to wait, and long before it was cool enough we would be scraping the flakes off the sides of the pan, impatient to begin. At a given signal each man dipped his spoon into the mush, filled it, and all raised our spoons together. Now came the interesting time; we were all very hungry but the mush was so hot we had to take our time - all except Brennan. That fellow had a cast iron mouth. He would take a tablespoonful of scalding hot mush in his mouth, swallow it, and reach for the dish again before we were half through with ours. Often Rapp on one side and I on the other with our mouths full of hot mush and the tears streaming down our cheeks, unable to speak a word, have grabbed Brennan's hands and by signs and force kept his spoon out of the dish until we could get even with him. I have often scalded myself so badly that the skin would hang in shreds from the roof of my mouth."
Pvt. Ripple was paroled and survived the war.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!