Early forms of entertainment blow my mind. Before our modern diversions were invented, people found creative ways to distract themselves. During the American Civil war, civilians would bring a picnic lunch close to the battlefields and watch the action. Many of the watchers were well respected members of the upper class. Although considered safe, proximity to such violence and the possibility of danger must have been a real thrill. Later this month, there will be a civil war reenactment in Fresno, California. I am going to bring an accurate and authentic picnic basket, dressed in a period costume, and watch the reenactment from a nearby field.
I have been researching a menu for my Civil War picnic. It has been hard to find a definitive account of what civilians would have eaten in an outdoor setting. It is much easier to find out what soldiers ate. I have been able to find two hypothetical menus. The first includes grilled cucumber sandwiches and champagne. The second is more traditionally what you would think of as Southern cooking: fried chicken, pickles, picnic salads, and vinegar fruit drinks. I have been squinting at the photo above for the past 10 minutes, trying to make out what is on their picnic blanket.