One amusing account, for example, concerns a Union soldier, Myer Levy, who
was in a Virginia town one Passover late in the war when he saw a young boy sitting on his front steps eating a piece of matzo. According to Korn, when Levy "asked the boy for a piece, the child fled indoors, shouting at the top of his lungs, "Mother, there's a damn Yankee Jew outside!" The boy's mother invited Levy to seder that night. One wonders how the Virginian family and the Yankee soldier each interpreted the hagadah portions describing the evils of bondage.In another, the soldiers got just a little bit too excited over their night off:
In 1862, the Jewish Messenger published an account by J. A. Joel of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Regiment of a seder celebrated by Union soldiers in Fayette, West Virginia. Joel and 20 other Jewish soldiers were granted leave to observe Passover. A soldier home on leave in Cincinnati shipped matzot and hagaddot to his colleagues. Joel wrote:A good time had by all, then!
"We . . . sen[t] parties to forage in the country [for Passover food] while a party stayed to build a log hut for the services. . . We obtained two kegs of cider, a lamb, several chickens and some eggs. Horseradish or parsley we could not obtain, but in lieu we found a weed whose bitterness, I apprehend, exceeded anything our forefathers 'enjoyed....'"
"We had the lamb, but did not know what part was to represent it at the table; but Yankee ingenuity prevailed, and it was decided to cook the whole and put it on the table, then we could dine off it, and be sure we got the right part.
"The necessaries for the choroutzes we could not obtain, so we got a brick which, rather hard to digest, reminded us, by looking at it, for what purpose it was intended....
"We all had a large portion of the herb ready to eat at the moment I said the blessing; each [ate] his portion, when horrors! What a scene ensued . . . The herb was very bitter and very fiery like Cayenne pepper, and excited our thirst to such a degree that we forgot the law authorizing us to drink only four cups, and . . . we drank up all the cider. Those that drank more freely became excited and one thought he was Moses, another Aaron, and one had the audacity to call himself a Pharaoh. The consequence was a skirmish, with nobody hurt, only Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh had to be carried to the camp, and there left in the arms of Morpheus."
Last but not least, the piece notes that President Lincoln was shot on the fifth day of Pesach.
Incidentally, while I enjoy my daily diet coke fix, I was amused to see that apparently the AJHS considers the story of how Rabbi Tobias Geffen managed to get Coca Cola certified as Kosher and as Kosher L'Pesach to be one of the notable chapters in American Jewish history....