The Cracker Barrel
Neighborhood and country stores in the 19th Century were important gathering places where locals could exchange gossip, catch up on the latest news, exchange pleasantries with family and friends, and make general small talk. Often, the most popular place in these shops was the old cracker barrel, which seemed to be an accepted place for social interactions. The modern “Cracker Barrel” country restaurant chain attempts to evoke the memories of the old cracker barrel as the gathering place for travellers and visitors.
Back in the tumultous summer of 1863, one young York County shopkeeper learned the hard way about hanging around the cracker barrel.
Foragers from the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry spotted a country store near Porters Sideling in southwestern York County. Inside, teenaged store clerk Aaron Rudisill was sitting on a cracker barrel when the party of Rebels entered the store. Startled by their unexpected visit, he fell into the huge barrel and became stuck fast. With only his head and feet showing, he was totally helpless to stop the Rebels from ransacking his store. A Confederate officer tilted the barrel onto its side. Young Rudisill, helplessly trapped in the barrel, sat dumbfounded on the floor while the soldiers cleaned him out, leaving behind a few Confederate bills as a token payment. Villagers later discovered the lad and helped him out of the barrel.
Ironically, Rudisill’s father, John, was a draft dodger. He spent the summer hiding in a cave to avoid conscription because he lacked enough money to pay the $300 bounty for a substitute, and he definitely had no interest in wearing the blue uniform of the Union army. Another son, William, brought him food each day.