Poem originally published in Selma, Alabama; Request and reply in New York at tje 28th District Bureau of Enlistment. 1864. Unbound. Two pages: one page contains a manuscript copy of the poem; the other the satirical request from “S. Peter Adjt” and an equally satirical response from George B. Harris, the Chief of the Bureau of Enlistment for the 28th District, New York. In nice shape. Transcripts will be provided.
In 1864, John Haralson, an agent of the Confederacy’s Nitre and Mining Bureau, in an effort to obtain additional nitrogen for gunpowder manufacturing placed an advertisement in the Selma, Alabama newspaper requesting the city’s women to “preserve all their chamber lye for the purpose of making Nitre” and began to dispatch barrel wagons throughout the town to collect urine which was to be used to make saltpetre, a component of gunpowder.
Although his plan was ultimately successful, Haralson was promptly ridiculed by Thomas Wetmore in a humorous poem, Rebel Gunpowder, that was gleefully published in newspapers throughout the South.
(For more information see Buck’s “One dedicated Southerner collected wagons full of women’s pee to make gunpowder. . ..” available online.)
The poem reads in part:
“John Haralson! John Haralson! / Where did you get the notion
To send your barrels round the town / To gather up the lotion?
You’d have us think while every man / Was found to be a fighter
The women, bless their pretty souls, / should go to making nitre.
We thought the girls had work enough / In making shirts and kissing
But now you’ve put the pretty dears / To patriotic pissing.
The thing’s so very queer you know, / Gunpowder like and cranky,
That when a lady lifts her skirts / She shoots a bloody Yankee.”
S. Peter used a variation of the poem in his satirical request to the Bureau of Enlistment which begins,
“Respectfully referred to Geo. B. Harris C.B.E. who is requested to report forthwith what is the probable amount of Nitre necessary for the recruits [to produce?]”
Harris, equal to the task, responded in kind:
“The quantity of villainous Salt petre requisite for the immediate wants of the recruits not yet enlisted can be estimated when the requisite data are furnished by the District Q.M. who has been respectfully applied to therefor but states that he has not received orders. The amount of Nirogenous matter furnished by the Employees of this Bureau including the Q.M.’s Vimmens is being made the subject of the most active investigation. The Chief of the Bureau and his personal staff are pursuing a thorough course of diuretics (principally “Vizkee and bitterz”) and I shall have the honor to report in detail as soon as the course of investigation now in progress shall be completed.”. Very good. Item #009760
A terrific pseudo-document and, no doubt, a tension-breaker that brought a little relief and a number of chuckles in the midst of a terrible war. Office-humor at its finest.
Very scarce. Nothing similar is for sale in the trade, nor has appeared at auction per the Rare Book Hub, nor is held by any institution per OCLC.