Captain Muller's "Eel" Breakfast

Transcribed by Larry Stevens

Excerpt from "We Were The Ninth" A History of the Ninth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry by Constantine Grebner, translated and edited by Frederic Trautmann. The Ninth Ohio was made up of Ohio Germans mostly from Cincinnati and fought at Rich Mountain, Carnifix Ferry, Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Nashville. The following is an account of a meal in Western Virginia in 1861.
"On patrol in a dreadful region, we struggled up and down mountains, through ravines, and across steep slopes. You kept your balance with the aid of overhanging limbs, and you supported yourself with your rifle or sidearm, so as not to lose your footing and tumble into the depths, never to return. Certainly not a pleasurable hike. But our good humor heartened us enough to help us over the obstacles. Meanwhile the snakes simply glided along the ground and curled alluringly around trees and branches. Captain Muller soon cut off the head of one with his sword, an especially fine reptile several feet in length. Nobody noticed how he carried it or even that he brought it along.
Next morning, after the mailman delivered letters and packages in camp, it being a day of rest, the captain emerged from his tent, smiling contentedly. He invited several of us, who were standing around, to breakfast at 10:00. "I just got in the mail some splendid marinated eel from Cincinnati and I'm cooking it up in grand style." Three of us accepted. Our amiable benefactor hoped we might bring crackers and beverages; and we brought them. We sat down to pieces of superb eel in a tasty sauce. We crumbled and added the crackers and washed down the oily mouthfuls with an occasional pull at one of those renowned flat and square bottles. Our genial host rubbed his hands in glee and urged us to dig in. "We can't have any left over," he said. "What a shame if such good fish spoils or is thrown out."
Now, even the stomach of a soldier in the field has its limits. And so at last we were sated on those savory morsels. The bottle was empty. Captain Muller folded his hands piously across his giant paunch and turned congenially to a lieutenant notorious for being squeamish: "Well, K., old buddy, how about it? Nothing beats a well-marinated Virginia Snake!" A leap from the chair, a savage curse, a dash from the tent...and let us not say what else!"

Web Publishing Copyright © 1995 Larry Stevens

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Last updated September 1 1995