Battlefield Orchards

The peach orchard at Gettysburg.

The peach orchard at Gettysburg.

In a few weeks I will be taking students on an eleven day biennial Civil War tour of eastern theater battlefields and sites.  We visit Gettysburg, Antietam, Harper’s Ferry, and a whole host of sites in Virginia.  While orchards have been the focus of my research for the last decade or so, I have been teaching courses on the Civil War and leading tours to eastern battlefields for the last fifteen.  I have decided to use this trip as an opportunity to gather information on a subject at the intersection of these interests–orchards on Civil War battlefields.  Of course, most students of the Civil War are familiar with the infamous peach orchards of Gettysburg and maps of antietamShiloh, but orchards were ubiquitous on the mid 19th century American landscape, soldiers waged war in the midst of them, and filled their bellies with their fruit in season.  I have a few resources to get me started.  Bradley Gottfried’s excellent Maps of Gettysburg, Maps of Antietam, and Maps of First Bull Run mark the locations of orchards on those battlefields.  Susan Dolan’s Fruitful Legacy: A Historic Context of Orchards in the United States contains information on orchards on many national parks.  But this seems like a perfect subject to crowd source.  Have you stumbled across restored orchards on visits to Civil War battlefields? Do you have any information to share about battlefield orchards that are now gone?  Even references to soldiers’ memoirs, letters, and diaries which discuss orchards on the battlefield, or those they may have raided during marches across the countryside are encouraged.  I will share anything I find during my upcoming tour on this blog.

This map from Gottfried's Maps of Gettysburg indicates locations of woods, fields, and orchards.

This map from Gottfried’s Maps of Gettysburg indicates locations of woods, fields, and orchards.

The best, or worst, Johnny Appleseed analogies.

jaofpigsdesotoWhat is required to earn the title, “The Johnny Appleseed of” something?  Well, there appears to be more than one way to earn the honorific.  You could be the first person to introduce an object or idea, but if you are not the first, you still might earn the title by becoming the most important or most evangelical promoter of that object or  idea.  A recent article in the New York Times  declared Conquistador Hernando de Soto to be “the Johnny Appleseed of pigs” because during his reign of terror through the American southeast he released Old World swine into the region, which proliferated rapidly, wreaked much environmental destruction, but ultimately helped to cement pork as “the other white meat.”  He clearly earned the title, but I would prefer to put a more positive spin on it by calling him “The Johnny Appleseed of Bacon.”


Many other notable figures of recent history had “the Johnny Appleseed of” honorific bestowed upon them.  Here are a few of my favorites:

“Freeway” Ricky Ross, “the Johnny Appleseed of Crack Cocaine.”

jaofcrackfreewayrickyross In the early 1980s, Ross oversaw a crack cocaine empire from a few properties along Los Angeles’ Harbor freeway. the empire was so vast that he claimed to have sold $3 million worth of the drug in a single day.  Ross seems worthy of the Johnny Appleseed title because at its height, his empire appeared to be responsible not just for most of the crack in southern California, but most of it distributed in the Midwest, Texas, Louisiana, and the Carolinas.  Perhaps fittingly, Ross once claimed that the original Johnny Appleseed’s old haunt of Ohio was his most lucrative market.  Convicted in 1996 after trying to purchase 100 kilos of crack from a Federal agent, Ross eventually had his sentenced reduced to twenty years, and was released after fifteen for being a model prisoner.

Alfred Matthew Hubbard, “The Johnny Appleseed of LSD.”

Ross was not the first evangelizer of drug use to earn the Johnny Appleseed moniker.  jaoflsdhubbard
Alfred Matthew Hubbard, once a “barefoot boy from Kentucky,” moved west, became a small time inventor with an entrepreneurial spirit, and found his calling distributing hallucinogenic drugs.  He was said to have turned more than six thousand people on to the acid trip.  He also distributed magic mushrooms and mescaline, all of which he carried around with him Johnny Appleseed style–in  a leather satchel strung over his shoulder.  One Beverly Hills psychiatrist recalled that “we waited for him like a little old lady waits for the Sears-Roebuck catalog.”  Also known as Captain Trips, in his appearance the crewcut-wearing Hubbard didn’t quite fit the stereotype of the beatnik or hippy. Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary were two of his customers and champions, though the latter once commented that he had the appearance of a “carpetbagger con man.”

Thomas Bendelow, “The Johnny Appleseed of Golf”

jaofgolfbendelowIt isn’t just drug dealers who develop an evangelical zeal for their favored mode of recreation.  Scottish-American Thomas Bendelow’s passion for golf certainly matched that of Ross’s and Hubbard’s for illicit substances.  Bendelow was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, to a family of pie makers. Which was an appropriate occupation for the Bendelow family, because they were also well known for their religious pie-ty. Thomas migrated to America, where he first taught golf, and eventually began to design golf courses. Soon Bendelow was designing golf courses across the nation, and his courses became known for both their “naturalistic” and “sporty” designs.  By the time he died in 1936, Bendelow had designed over 600 golf courses.

Michael Roizen, the Johnny Appleseed of the Male Orgasm

Ohio might be called “the Johnny Appleseed of Johnny Appleseeds,” as it has jaofmaleorgasmmichael_roizenplayed a central role in the careers of so many Johnny Appleseeds. It might also be called “the Johnny Appleseed of Presidential birthplaces” because it appears that all of the nation’s most obscure Presidents were born there.  But I digress.  Michael Roizen, the chief  wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic has accomplished many things in his life, so perhaps it isn’t really fair to saddle him with the title “the Johnny Appleseed of the Male Orgasm.”  But that is what Men’s Health Magazine has called him, because of his efforts to promote the idea that men should have more of them–at least three a week–if they want to live long, happy, healthy lives.

The United States of America, The Johnny Appleseed of Nuclear Weapons

jaofnuclearweaponsamerican-flag-libertycsmonitorThis last one is so important, it could not belong to a single person, but only to a whole nation.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, the title belongs not to one President, but to every one from Harry S Truman to Barack Obama, and to all the people who voted for them. I chose to illustrate this last one with an image of the Statue of Liberty, because, frankly, there is clear gender bias going on in the bestowal of Johnny Appleseed honorifics.

So, what are you the Johnny Appleseed of?

A Theology of Wild Apples

Ralph Austen's Spiritual Use of an Orchard, first published in 1653

Ralph Austen’s Spiritual Use of an Orchard, first published in 1653

In 1653 Oxford horticulturist Ralph Austen published The Spiritual Use of An Orchard or Garden of Fruit Trees: Set Forth in Divers Similitudes Between Natural and Spiritual Fruit Trees, According to Scripture and Experience. “Fruit Trees . . . do truly . . . preach the attributes and perfections of God to us,” Austen insisted, “and we may read divine truthes in them, as in a book consisting of words and sentences.” Austen set out to demonstrate this by offering up “100 observations in nature [from the orchard] with similitudes.”

Unsurprisingly, in this age when the ideas of John Calvin loomed large in theological discussions, many of Austen’s “observations in nature” were devoted to the question of election of grace. For Austen the cultivated apple tree, safe within the walls of the husbandmen’s orchard, was a fitting symbol of those God had elected for grace. The cultivated trees of the orchard had been chosen by

A Puritan Brand Apple surely has most of its wild sinful nature under control.

A Puritan Brand Apple surely has most of its wild sinful nature under control.

God (the Husbandman) from amidst all the wild plants beyond the orchard walls. The wild apple trees left behind were, in Austen’s view, a symbol of the “many wicked men and women in the world which were passed by in his decree, and therefore are not brought into his Church, nor engrafted into Christ.” These wicked persons, like wild apple trees, “bring forth sower, bitter, and posynous fruits.” Some of these wild trees might give the appearance of beauty and character, but when tasted, commonly yielded only bitterness. These visually attractive wild apples were Austen declared, much like the Pharisees, “but painted fruits, faire to a carnall eye, without any good taste or relish.” The good Christian, he warned, must not be fooled by them. Austen further declared that even among those trees included within the orchard’s walls resided a wild and corrupt nature, which could only be subdued by grace (and careful pruning and grafting.)

Wild apples

Wild apples

Many pious Englishmen shared Austen’s moral disdain for the “wild” ungrafted apple tree, and in that peculiarly Calvinist way, they believed that they might find in the condition of a man’s orchard evidence of his spiritual fate. While English Puritans and other devout men of wealth and standing carried these moral assumptions across the sea to English colonies in the Americas, many of the poorer immigrants to England’s American colonies had a different set of priorities. Scratching out a living on frontier farms, these colonists could not afford the expense or the labor required to emulate God in their husbandry. Instead they quickly planted, then neglected, disorderly orchards of seed grown trees, so that they might turn their attention to other labors required for their sustenance. These orchards served their short term needs quite well. Their imperfect fruit fattened their hogs, quenched their thirst when converted to cider, flavored their food as vinegar, and the best fruit provided them with a variety of apple dishes for their table. The orchard’s appearance, and the inconsistent quality of its fruit were low priorities for a family focused primarily on sustaining itself with limited financial resources and limited labor.

Yet well-off travelers in the late 17th and throughout the 18th century frequently cast harsh moral judgments on the subsistence-minded farmer and his wild, disorderly orchards. And by the 1820s, many moralists found another reason to condemn the seedling orchard: most of its apples were destined to be converted to demon alcohol.  Temperance societies called for the destruction of wild apple trees as an essential step toward sobering up the nation.

The wild apple had always served the poorest American farmers quite well. But it did not find an articulate defender before Henry David Thoreau. In an essay from his 1850 notebooks, the Concord contrarian celebrated the virtues of New England’s “Wild Apples.” Freed from Calvinistic concern of determining who was and was not among God’s elect, this prophet of individualism celebrated the distinctiveness, and unique potential of every wild apple tree. The wild apple, to Thoreau’s mind, “emulates man’s independence and enterprise,” and was more worthy of attention than its cultivated cousins.

Thoreau had little use for “civilized apple trees,” insisting that he preferred “to go

Henry David Thoreau, champion of the wild apple.

Henry David Thoreau, champion of the wild apple.

through the old orchards of ungrafted apple trees . . . so irregularly planted . . . that you would think that they not only had grown while the owner was sleeping, but had been set out by him in a somnambulic state.” Wherever he spied a ripe apple on some unkempt apple tree tucked in the corner of a cow pasture, Thoreau thrilled at the possibilities it represented. Many of the most highly praised commercial varieties, after all, had first sprung from some chance neglected seedling. As a result, Thoreau offered his own “observation in Nature” underpinned by a philosophy quite different from Ralph Austen’s. Wildness was not a sinful nature which needed to be suppressed, but the place from which true genius arose.  “Every wild-apple shrub excites our expectation thus, somewhat as every wild child. It is, perhaps, a prince in disguise. What lesson to man! So are human beings, referred to the highest standard, the celestial fruit which they suggest and aspire to bear, browsed on by fate; and only the most persistent and strongest genius defends itself and prevails, sends a tender scion upward at last, and drops its perfect fruit on the ungrateful earth. Poets and philosophers and statesmen thus spring up in country pastures  and outlast the hosts of unoriginal men.”

Henry David Thoreau's Wild Fruits, published posthumously, contains his essay "Wild Apples" and other writings on wild fruits.

Henry David Thoreau’s Wild Fruits, published posthumously, contains his essay “Wild Apples” and other writings on wild fruits.

Thoreau’s dissent, never published in his lifetime, did not result in a widespread re-evaluation of cultivated and wild apples. The cultivated apple continued its favored status. But by the middle of the 19th century, that status was not rooted in old Puritan dogmas but in the values of the marketplace. In an age when markets had penetrated into the most isolated regions of the nation, an apple’s virtue became increasingly connected to its commercial value. This did not doom the wild ungrafted apple tree to extinction. It continued to spring defiantly from the earth at the margins of pastures and alongside stone walls and fences. But if not doomed to extinction, it was at least to doomed to invisibility, unseen by all but impractical poets and adventuresome children.