Feeding an Army—The Foods Civil War Soldiers Ate

Dinner time at camp for officers and soldiers.

Civil War Dinnertime

Dinner time at camp for officers and soldiers. (photos: Library of Congress)

The Challenge of Feeding an Army
One of the biggest obstacles to tasty food was inexperience. Men of this time period had little knowledge of food preparation, a chore typically left to women of the house or female slaves. Male army soldiers were forced to adjust to battlefield eating.

  • Hardtack (army bread)
  • Rations of pork or bacon, or beef on rare occasion, were boiled, broiled or fried over open campfires
  • Chickens, turkeys and small birds
  • Rice
  • Baked beans were a northern favorite when the time allowed
  • Molasses, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper
  • Tea, but coffee was most desirable, though soldiers had to roast beans in campfires before grinding and grinding sometimes meant smashing beans between a rock and a rifle butt

Additional Food in the Civil War Rations 
The armies also supplied fresh vegetables (sometimes fresh carrots, onions, turnips and potatoes), dried fruit, and dried vegetables as part of the ration when they were available. Men also foraged and scavenged the countryside for fresh food. Many also received supplements mailed from their family, offered by townspeople, or they could buy foods from sutlers who followed the troops selling pickles, cheese, sardines, cakes and candies.

Lunch time at our Civil War Encampment
Instead of hardtack and salt pork, the Meriden Lions Club will serve burgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. The Meriden Historical Society will offer fresh home baked spice cookies made with flour, sugar, eggs, molasses, vegetable shortening, baking soda, spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves), salt—ingredients available during the Civil War era.

A variety of food, beverages and snacks are available for purchase, including hot coffee—and you won’t have roast and grind your own beans!

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About meridencivilwar

Meriden Civil War Encampment Saturday, October 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dossin Beach Park at Hanover Pond Meriden, Connecticut An historical event to honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and to recognize Meriden's contributions. The Encampment will be located near the original site of Camp Tyler, a training camp for the First Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Cavalry and the First Battery Connecticut Volunteer Light Artillery; the Second Connecticut Volunteer Heavy Artillery volunteers will act in the roles of militia and the ancillary but indispensable players associated with the camp, such as washerwomen, cooks and blacksmiths. The event is a collaborative effort of the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery, Meriden Historical Society, Meriden Arts Trust and Quinnipiac River Watershed Association and is made possible through a generous grant from the Meriden Foundation. A Civil War Remembrance Concert will be held at Lincoln Middle School Theater on Friday October 5 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. We plan to have a spirited day filled with varied activities for all ages—and hope you'll join us.
This entry was posted in Civil War, Encampment, Sutlers, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Feeding an Army—The Foods Civil War Soldiers Ate

  1. Amber says:

    The civil war is what i am learning about in school righ now!

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