Soldier Life // Cooking
Hello again! Thank you for returning for another history post! I’m continuing with a series I began last year (Joining up and Drummers can be found by clicking on the links!) At times it can be difficult to find the information you need without reading a hundred books and finding a snip here and there. It’s my goal to compile here on the blog a little of the information I’ve learned so you won’t have to hunt and peck as much! Hope this helps!
(Be sure and read all the way to the end for a special "P.S." note!)
Like everyone, soldiers had to eat. But have you ever given thought to what exactly they were eating during the War Between the States? Well, it certainly wasn’t anything to get excited about.
First, we’ll look at the federal fare. One ration that was common was a preserved meat that tasted so bad, the men called it “embalmed beef.” Another ration was “desiccated” vegetables, cubed, dried out veggies that required soaking for hours before they could be eaten. It may have contained carrots, turnips, and parsnips, but it is said to have tasted like straw. The soldiers called them “desecrated” vegetables.
They also received salt pork, dried apples, beans, and rice. Often, they would steal whatever they could from the southern countryside as they went, though the worst account of this was during Sherman’s march to the sea. The federals took all they could carry and burned what they couldn’t.
Confederate soldiers made due with poorer rations, especially as the war continued. At the beginning, they drew either beef or pork rations, cornmeal, peas and rice, coffee and sugar when it could be gotten. As the war came to its final days, Southern soldiers made do with bark, leaves, roots and worse.
A favorite treat of the Stonewall Brigade was Corkscrew Bread. After mixing a dough of flour, baking powder, salt, lard or meat drippings, milk (when they could get it) and water, they would take two forked sticks and plant them on either side of the fire pit. Then they would wind the dough around a green stick in a corkscrew shape. The sick would then be propped on the forked sticks and turned until every side was crisp. Then, they would slide the bread off the stick and enjoy.
And of course, on both sides, there was the famous hardtack. This flour and water cracker was unsalted most of the time and hard as a rock. The soldiers would soak them in broth or coffee before they ate them. They could be called the Civil War MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).
If you would like to read more on the subject, I do have some books that I have found quite helpful.
The Civil War for Kids by Janis Herbert
A Pocket History of the Civil War by Martin F. Graham
These two are histories in general and include lots of valuable information, but I do not recommend them if you are studying the cause of the war as both have incorrect information. But their camp life and battle facts are spot on!
The last two books are recipe books. Please note, I do not condone cooking all the recipes inside, as some call for alcohol. I am a firm believer that alcohol ruins lives and is forbidden in the Scriptures.
Civil War Period Cookery by Robert W. Pelton
The Virginia Housewife by Mrs. Mary Randolph
I hope you found this article useful! Why not look up some 1860’s recipes and give them a try. For fun, my siblings and I made hardtack and love it, though we salted ours and didn’t let it cook long enough to get too hard 😊
Until Next Time,
P.S. Now, for our snippet of information on “The Rivers of Sorrow.” The book weighs in at 327 pages and 89,732 words 😊 35 chapters round out this book. One of the chapters is entitled “The Hero.” Who do you think the hero is?
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Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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