Days Gone By - stories from the past

Did you know this about black-eye peas?

Good luck from Vicksburg

by

Shannon Hollon

On New Year’s Day me my wife and my parents ate lunch at Cracker Barrel, when our waitress came for our orders she informed us that today and only today everyone would be given complementary bowl of black-eye peas to wish their  patrons good luck in the New Year. This tradition of eating black-eye peas for New Years intrigued me even though I had practiced it for many years. So I researched it’s origins and legend and this is what I found.


Tradition dates back to Civil War

black-eye peas

Used for cattle feed

As the story goes black-eye peas were used exclusively as cattle feed in the old south. During the Battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War, the town was under siege for over 40 days. No supplies came in or out. Vicksburg was on the edge of starvation. The people had no chose but to eat those black-eye peas, along with a little rat meat for good measure and protein. Therefore starting this Southern tradition.

Vicksburg trenches

Vicksburg trenches (Library of Congress)

Remember our forefathers

Today black-eye peas are  eaten for good luck in the new year. From now on when I celebrate this timeless tradition I will think of one of my forefathers Private John Jones who served at the siege of Vicksburg with Company D (Bibb Rangers) 20th Alabama, and raise a spoon of black-eye peas in salute to him minus the rat meat of course.

Alabama Footprints Confrontation is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.

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  • Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
  • Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
  • Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
  • Hillabee Massacre
  • Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
  • Red Eagle After The War

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Features: Alabama Footprints Confrontation Lost Forgotten Stories
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About Shannon Hollon

Shannon Hollon lives in McCalla Alabama graduated from McAdory High School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Served 9 years in the US Navy Seabees with one tour in Afghanistan.Currently employed with US Steel and serving on the board of directors for the West Jefferson County Historical Society. http://wjchs.com/

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5 comments

  1. I really miss Alabama, I was transferred there in 1968 after my time in the Army. I was raised overseas in Japan and Korea but I adopted Alabama as home. I have two sons and a daughter all raised in Alabama. Even though I live in Florida and was born in Memphis, Alabama will always be home to me. RollTide!

  2. It is strange how some thing feed to cattle in one country can be what others eat and when times are really hard like the Civil War they find the cattle food tastes good. In France the grow Sweet Corn just for the Cattle and thought we were funny to cook it to eat ourselves. Yet if you ask any GI War Brides from Europe that came to the US what they were eating in l944 they will tell you horror stories.

    1. My father told us about going to France right after D Day. He and his buddy were walking down a street and passed a meat market with a dressed cat in the window for sale. The nazis had stolen about everything they had. He had grown up during the depression without a father and he pitied those poor folks.

  3. We would never thank of that no more black eye pies

  4. I’ve read that people used to say that in Scotland people ate oats and fed corn to their animals, while in America people ate corn and fed oats to their horses. An elderly German lady told me that if I ate only rye bread instead of wheat bread, I wouldn’t get fat, because you can’t fatten animals on rye. Of course, I’ve eaten the wheat bread anyway, and guess what! I’m fat!

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