AN ATTACK ON THE TURKEY
A Christmas Bird Under Bombardment
A Good Dinner at Last
“I wake up at night to laugh about some things that happened in the army,” said Capt. Williams of the old One Hundred and Second Pennsylvania. “I remember that on one occasion when three companies of one regiment were on picket duty at Great Falls on the Potomac, we prepared for a big time and didn’t have it. The night before Christmas the boys concentrated all their thought on a Christmas dinner. An old man was sent off to Rockville on a foraging expedition with instructions to get a turkey or never come back. He came back the next morning with as fine a turkey as ever gobbled, a twenty pounder, and it was cooked in splendid style by men who knew how to do that sort of thing. It was on the table in the house at the reserve post, and with carving knife and fork in hand I was on my feet making a flourish preparatory to an attack on the turkey, when, crash! came the plastering down on the table.
“The crash was followed by a terrific explosion that tore out one corner of the house. It was followed by another crash that sent half the shingles flying from the roof. A third explosion sent more of the ceiling down on the table and on those about it. Then we comprehended that we were being bombarded and we lit out, leaving the turkey in the ruins. The rebels had placed three guns in position on the opposite side of the river and, getting range at first fire, had opened on our picket post. We didn’t care much about the house, and we regarded the shooting at us as a question of privilege, but our mouths watered whenever we thought of the turkey in the ruins.
“The rebels, of course, kept up their fire on the old house until it was pretty well demolished. In the meantime we gave them our undivided attention and when they retired the men who had been at dinner proceeded to investigate the ruins of the old house. The turkey was excavated, was submitted to a cleansing process, and was eaten. I have attended a great many Christmas dinners since the time, but I don’t remember one that had more jollity in it than our dinner on cold turkey at Great Falls. I never see a fellow with a carving knife and fork but that I look unconsciously up to the ceiling to see whether any bombshells are coming through or not, and I suppose that I have laughed 1,000 times over the consternation that spread over the faces of the boys when that first block of plastering came down on our turkey. Inter Ocean “Curbstone Crayons.”
Springfield [OH] Globe-Republic 26 March 1886: p. 2
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There is, Mrs Daffodil, notes, an “insider” joke in the description of the turkey as a “20 pounder,” which was also the nomenclature for a piece of field artillery used in the American Civil War, perhaps the type that brought the plaster—and the house—down upon the turkey. The good-humoured Captain might have had the adage “Hunger is the best sauce” written specially for him.
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You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.