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Thread: Correct rations for reenactments

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    23

    Default Correct rations for reenactments

    What would be the correct rations to take to a reenactment?
    Salt pork, beef, hardtack, beans, coffee???
    What do you take to eat?
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    199

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    Good question....Lots of variables come into play here. Season, campaign, etc. Depends on how serious you are about doing it right, compared to just being in the ballpark. Some fellas endorse hot dogs and pizza after dark when you've traded in those uncomfortable brogans for your good old Nikes(just kidding). If you don't get what you're looking for, try the search function here, or at the AC forum. You'll find more than you can read over there, most by the late Charles Heath. Then find a few first person accounts to read(if you need to know a few, just ask on here). There are some free titles online at places like Kindle. Hard copies are reasonable on ebay. What I found out many years ago, is that you might be surprised at what they really DID eat at times. Reading is the key. Some of us know more on the subject than others, but we really just have to take the word of the ones who were actually there. Read, read, and read some more.....It will mean so much more to you if you dig up the info yourself. Good luck!

    D.W. Scalf

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Tuskaloosa, Alabama
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    Yes, it really does vary with time and place--and how far you are willing to go.

    For the event In The Van, a six day moving journey based on the accounts of Kirby Smith's supply train moving into Kentucky, we were fortunate to have accounts from that wagon train. They indicated that supplies were sparse for the infantry units guarding the train, consisting primarily of apples and field corn, neither quite ripe given the early August time frame.

    Confederate food supplies were much more varied and unpredictable than Federal supplies. Still, green apples and corn? Really? Now there's you an army on the run, quite literally.

    While there was a wagon full of apples and corn, we supplemented with other period foods--salt hams, eggs packed in sawdust, pickles in kegs, tomatoes and peaches in cans. That worked, though the men were heartily tired of apples and corn. The robust corn borers on every ear did nothing to alleviate that feeling. Still, there was not a hard cracker or a piece of pilot bread in sight.

    For each campaign, you'll wish to look at the record and conditions, and make a realistic assessment of your own ability and field skills. Too many look at the standard ration of crackers, dump them in a haversack without further research, and discover that they are not managing well, because they don't understand the ways the ration was prepared. After about 24 hours of that, they make the hike to the funnel cake stand, dumping crackers on the ground as they go.

    Remember too that men were issued 3 days marching rations, to be cooked on the spot when issued.
    Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
    Knitted Goods and yarns available thlawson@bellsouth.net



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  4. #4

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    Be careful with that "3 days rations" thing. I once had a very bad experience, "loosely" speaking, with fried pork that I carried around in that black bread bag on my hip in 100 degree temperature. All I will say is remember that burnt hardtack is a period treatment for the Georgia Trots.
    Time and place matter for your reenacting rations, too. Sometimes you know what your unit was eating at a particular time, and can bring it along. The 7th Wisconsin was getting a lot of fresh bread, and buying pears off the locals in the spring of 1862. I like to carry this sort of thing if the event I'm attending isn't specifically trying to recreate a particular time and place. Although I'm a good hand with fatback and cracker recipes, sometimes if I know the event is going to be very busy, or if I've had little time to prepare, I pack canned goods. I know, historically, they're not issued and they're expensive for a private soldier. They have the advantage of being consumable with little or no preparation, and if I forget to take my haversack out of the trunck before Thursday of the following week, won't become a living entity.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Columbus, OH
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    As noted, rations varied from location to location, time to time, and yes, side to side. For example, Federal breads tended towards wheat based, while Confederate tended towards corn based.

    Another consideration that has to do with period to modern: Can a modern day person get by on only period rations for a given length of time without having modern gastronomic problems or loss of energy levels? It depends upon what those rations are, and for how long one must subsist on them.

    Example: During In The Van, as Mrs. Lawson referred to, there came a time not all that far into the event where the infantrymen began to suffer a decrease in effectiveness due to the rations immediately available. Personally, I took to buying cans of tomatoes from the wagoneers and drinking them down in order to perk up. Another lesson learned was that unappetizing food will not get eaten, no matter how much of it is available and no matter how hungry one becomes.

    Now, for your original question:
    Basic Federal marching ration was hardtack, salt pork, coffee, and sugar. Everything else was camp/garrison/siege or a luxury, until later in the war when beef on the hoof became more available.
    I've actually never seen a reenactor eat the standard 10 hard crackers per day supposedly issued.

    My usual base Federal ration for a weekend event is double smoked bacon, onion, carrots, potatoes. Suppliments might be dried fruit, eggs, jerky, soft bread. Rarely hardcrackers. I don't drink coffee, so go either with tea/sugar or a flavoring agent with water, which can get tiring to drink plain in proper quantity faster than I ever thought possible.
    Doing Reb, I might precook some corn dodgers or similar item.

    For me, much depends upon the event, and what I'm trying to accomplish. That varies according to the event's standards and what its expectations are. Some events are "Be The Soldier, All Of The Time". Some aren't. The former I don't fudge on. Sometimes, on the latter, I do.
    Bernard Biederman
    30th OVI
    Co. B

  6. #6
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    Aug 2006
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    Abingdon, Virginia
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    .....Twinkies.....
    As always, OBSVT, Joe Cress..... "General, if they put every man they have......on the field to approach me......just give me plenty ammunition.....I'll kill 'em all.....before they reach my lines."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Tuskaloosa, Alabama
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    Quote Originally Posted by josie wales View Post
    .....Twinkies.....

    Those are for Federals. Confederates eat (Chattanooga based) Little Debbie Cakes.
    Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
    Knitted Goods and yarns available thlawson@bellsouth.net



    Moderator, When I remember. We got Rules here!

    Did your sales post disappear? Try again. But read the rules first.
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  8. #8
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    Jul 2010
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    While you are getting lots of good researched advice, I would highly recommend starting with reading Hardtack and Coffee. It will help with rations and many other aspects of military life.
    Andrew Grim
    Monte Mounted Rifles, Monte Boys
    Mess of Myself
    Occasional 7%er


    "Los Angeles at the close of the Rebellion was the most vindictive, uncompromising community in the United States" Horace Bell

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Macomb, IL
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spinster View Post
    Those are for Federals. Confederates eat (Chattanooga based) Little Debbie Cakes.
    I thought the Moon Pie was the snack ration of choice in Secessia.
    Bob Welch
    Dirty Shirts

    Macomb and the Civil War
    , my sesquicentennial blog about life in Western Illinois during the war years.

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Port Wentworth, GA
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    Pretty good article from the US Army Quartermaster Foundation on US rations

    http://www.qmfound.com/feeding_billy_yank.htm

    I second the recommendation on Hardtack & Coffee. I also second the notes about time and place. If your doing the later stages of the March to the Sea, the rations were terribly mundane, for man and beast.....lots andlots of locally procured Rice.......Rice for Breakfast, Rice for lunch, and Rice for dinner, and rice for forage for the horses and mules
    Bobby Hughes
    Co A, 2nd Battalion Ga Sharpshooters/64th Illinois Vol Infantry "Yates' Sharpshooters"
    Savannah Republican Blues
    Co C, 3rd US Infantry
    Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum & William Scarbrough House, Savannah, GA


    "I hope to live long enough to see my surviving comrades march side by side with the Union veterans along Pennsylvania Avenue, and then I will die happy." - James Longstreet at a Memorial Day Parade in 1902.

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