The Lamar Rifles

By Dwayne Seale

When on campaign the Union soldier was authorized, by regulation, the following items and quantities for 3 days :

hard bread..............................3 lb
pork.......................................2 lb 4 oz
sugar.......................................7.2 oz
coffee......................................3.8 oz

Sometimes garrison issue items such as beans, rice, desiccated vegetables, candles, etc. were not provided to the soldier on active campaign. Does this mean we should be limited to only hardtack and salt pork while portraying a Confederate or Union soldier on campaign? Not all of the time. Rations were occasionally supplemented by foraging or from food boxes sent to the front by the folks at home.

Confederate soldiers were often ordered to cook three days rations prior to leaving their bivouac area. For this impression you might want to consider cornbread or hoe-cakes in lieu of hardtack. Biscuits and coarse un-sliced bread are also acceptable substitutes. I recommend that bread be baked at home and brought to the field. Attempting to bake bread in the field is a hit-or-miss proposition at best.

For the meat ration, two pounds of either pork or beef will suffice for a weekend. Carrying uncured raw meat in a haversack during hot weather can be risky. An option is to cook the meat at home by boiling, broiling, or frying. Ham or pork loins are great. Thick sliced bacon is a good choice. Any lean cut of beef, such as bone end round steak, will work. Cook the meat on Thursday and place it in the freezer. When you leave for the event on Friday, wrap it in brown paper and put it in the haversack. It should be thawed by Friday night. Once in the field, simply slice and enjoy as is or heat it up in a small frying pan.

Coffee can be bought in a variety of forms, but we should stay with whole beans or coarse ground. A period form of instant coffee, called "essence of coffee", can be made at home. Take modern instant coffee, add sugar in a ratio to suit your taste, and mix with a small amount of boiling water to create a goo that has the consistency of axle grease. Spoon into a period tin to take to the field. Mix a small amount in a cup of hot water and you've got hot sweetened coffee! Note: "essence of coffee" was not normally available to Rebs, but could sometimes be obtained from the Yanks by pillaging haversacks or trading between the lines.

Vegetables are the safest and easiest foods to carry in the haversack. Sweet potatoes and the small new potatoes can be either baked or boiled at home and carried to the field pre-cooked. Wait until they are cool before placing them in the haversack. Once in the field they can be eaten cold or heated by placing them in boiling water for a short while. The new potatoes make an excellent breakfast when sliced, fried with onions, and served with bacon. Carrots can be eaten raw or boiled with the potatoes and meat to make a stew.

In the grain category there are several choices. Cornmeal, grits, and rice take only a short time to boil in your cup over a small fire.

Dry beans and peas are another option but take longer to prepare. These require a lengthy soaking, usually overnight, and then an hour or more cooking time. They do produce a good meal, especially when pieces of your meat ration are cooked in with the mixture. Supplement with a hunk of cornbread from your haversack and you've got it made.

Sweets are simple. Plain gingersnaps are very period and available in bakery or dessert sections in the grocery. Dried fruits such as apple and peach slices weigh little and travel in the haversack very well. Try stewing some apple slices and a sprinkle of brown sugar in a cup till it's soft, then add some crumbled ginger snaps and simmer awhile longer. It makes a fine ginger-apple stew. I like to prepare a couple of fold-over fried apple or peach pies ahead of time and bring to the event.

Other food supplements can consist of any combination of the following items: summer sausage, raw or parched peanuts, fresh or parched corn, brown sugar, salt and pepper, tea, molasses, boiled eggs, cheese, fresh apples, apple butter, etc.

What SHOULDN'T been seen in any form is plastic, modern commercial containers, and foods that weren't available during the 1860s: Slim-Jims, OREO cookies, Doritos, potatoes chips, burritos, pop tarts, Ramon noodles, snickers bars, etc.

Food preparation utensils are simple. You need a can with a bail wire, billy-cup, or mucket for boiling and a small steel (not cast iron) frying pan or canteen half for frying. A frying pan 6 inches in diameter easily fits in the knapsack. Members of a mess section can share a larger, 9-inch pan and carrying it can be rotated between the members. A small hatchet also comes in handy.

Be sure to wrap your rations in brown paper or place in canvas/cotton poke bags.


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