Monday, November 15, 2010

Mode of Cooking Rations.

It is a while since we had any military food history, so today I want to give you some wisdom and recipes from an American Civil War era manual. It is the Hand-book for Active Service: Containing Practical Instructions in Campaign Duties, for the Use of Volunteers (1861), and it has an entire section on that most important duty – the feeding of the troops.


The history of military campaigns develops no fact more striking than that a very large percentage of the casualties are those of diseases incident to an improper diet. .…

The regular daily ration of food issued to the troops in the United States service, is three fourths of a pound of pork or bacon, or one and a fourth pounds of fresh or salt beef, eighteen ounces of bread or flour, or twelve ounces of hard bread, or one and a fourth pounds of corn meal, and at the rate, to one hundred rations, of eight quarts of peas or beans, or in lieu thereof ten pounds of rice; six pounds of coffee; twelve pounds of sugar; four quarts of vinegar; one and a half pounds of tallow, or one and a fourth pounds of adamantine, or one pound sperm candles; four pounds of soap, and two quarts of salt.
On a campaign or on marches or on board transports the ration of hard bread is one pound.
Fresh beef, when it can be procured, should be furnished at least twice a week; the beef to be procured, if possible, by contract.

The recipes for the use of these rations, each for a mess of 25 men, are, as would be expected, for very minor variations on a theme of soup and stew. I found the recipes for tea and coffee quite interesting however, so here they are.

Tea for 25 men.
Allow 12 quarts of water; put the rations of tea, a large teaspoonful to each, in a cloth tied up very loosely; throw it into the boiler while it is boiling hard for a moment. Then take off the boiler, cover it, and let it stand full ten minutes when it will be ready to use; first add sugar and milk, if to be had at the rate of 3 pints or 2 quarts of milk, and a pound or a pound and a half of sugar.

Coffee for 25 men.
Take 12 quarts of water, when it boils add 20 ounces of coffee, mix it well and leave it on the fire till it commences to boil, then take it off and pour into it a little more than a quart of cold water; let it stand in a warm place full ten minutes; the dregs will settle at the bottom and the coffee be perfectly clear. Pour it then into another vessel, leaving the dregs in the first; add sugar, 4 teaspoonsful to the quart. If you can get milk leave out five quarts of water in the above receipt, and put milk in its place.

Quotation for the Day.

When General Lee took possession of Chambersburg on his way to Gettysburg, we happened to be a member of the Committee representing the town. Among the first things he demanded for his army was twenty-five barrels of Saur-Kraut.
The Guardian (1869)


Les said...

Is adamantine a type of hard, wax candle?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Les, yes, that's how I understand it. They were made differently (with stearic acid ??) and were harder than normal candles, and burned brightly. If there are any candle-experts out there, I will gladly be corrected.

The InTolerant Chef ™ said...

I suppose if the beef couldn't be procurred by contract, it would be procurred by force?

SharleneT said...

An army travels on its stomach... the boys on both sides had battles just trying to stay alive during the winter months... When I lived in Va., my farm was where Pope encamped... Couldn't turn the garden soil without finding relics from the Civil War... And, potshards from their dishes (yes, no plastics...) It began a life-long interest... Thanks for sharing the cooking info... Come visit when you can...

The Old Foodie said...

InTolerant Chef. An army, procuring things by force? no way. 'Requisitioned', perhaps?
Sharlene: how fascinating to live in such a history-rich spot!

Shay said...

Up until armies began moving things by rail, living off the land was the norm. Of course this meant that an army which did not keep moving, starved.