Civil War Food: What Union and Confederate Soldiers Ate

The modern US military has a wide range of food products available at base camps and in the field. There is a plethora of MREs (which are actually quite tasty) and other portable food items available to them when on missions and when stationed in hostile terrain. And when placed at an established base camp, the food that is prepared is pretty good too. A big part of this is, of course, the ready availability of vast quantities of every type of food imaginable in today’s modern environment. In fact, soldiers today have the best food ever available to a fighting force.

But it was not always like this.

Take the Civil War. Civil War food kept soldiers fed and not much else. Let’s take a look at the diet that included the typical Civil War food ration. There were several problems that affected the food that was supplied to the Civil War soldiers. These include the organization of the Commissary’s Department, which was charged with the procurement and distribution of food to soldiers in the field, the season which determined whether fresh food was available or preserved in some way, and the ability of food to be kept good for long-term storage and transportation.

Before the war, the concentration of commissars was in the north, so when the Civil War started, the north had a huge advantage in that they had an existing commissars department that was already trained in how to procure and transport food to the soldiers in the field. . His job was to work with troop numbers and schedules and maintain a constant supply of food for each area where troops were stationed so soldiers could keep fighting without worrying where their next meal would come from. It took several years for the Confederacy to develop a working Commissar, so being a soldier from the South was more difficult. It took real dedication to fight when you didn’t know where your next meal would come from. Due to this lack of infrastructure, the South had to forage heavily between battles until supply lines were operational.

Civil War soldier food was typically a very simple meal, often consisting of meat, coffee, sugar, and hard biscuits, a type of dry biscuit. Meat was often salted or dried to make it last a little longer, and fruits and vegetables were rare on the battlefield. Because the soldiers were often in the field, they needed to carry rations with them. They had a special bag, called a backpack, which was made of canvas with a cloth bag inside that could be washed to clean up leftover food from time to time. But even with this design, the bags were often quite contaminated and smelly. Cleanliness was generally not high on the list of priorities for Civil War soldiers.

Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers typically had a different mix of rations. A Union soldier may have salt pork, fresh or salt beef, coffee, sugar, salt, vinegar, dried fruits and vegetables. And if it was in season, he could have fresh carrots, onions, turnips and potatoes. A Confederate soldier typically ate bacon, cornmeal, tea, sugar, molasses, and, very occasionally, fresh vegetables.

The other difference in Civil War food between the Union and Confederate armies was the type of bread product they had available. Confederate soldiers had something called “Johnnie’s Pie” that they made in the field with cornmeal, milk, and a few other ingredients. Union soldiers had hardtack, also known as “blunt teeth” or “sheet iron biscuits.” Hardtack was made in large Northern factories and was a staple food for Union soldiers. Hardtack got its name because it often wasn’t used until months after it was made and during that time, it hardened like a rock, which is why it got its nicknames.

As you can see, food has come a long way due to the advent of technologies that allow better preservation of a wide variety of foods. Gone are the days of weevil-infested cookies. They have been superseded by modern vacuum sealing technologies that allow food to stay fresh and tasty years after it’s been packaged. And since they say an army is run by its stomach, it’s no wonder the modern soldier is the best the world has ever seen.

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