The Commissary Department had responsibilities. Their duty was to buy, store, and delivery food to the soldiers. It wasn’t the easiest job, yet the North did have an advantage over their counterpart, South, as they already had a commissary established prior to the onset of the Civil War. Even with the advantage, both sides faced difficulties with supply and demand. One was the inability to preserve food (like we do today), and the other was delivery time.
The Union had access to many things, but not everything. Here’s a list of what was available for the Union soldiers: Meat, coffee, sugar, dried biscuits (hard tack), salt pork, fresh or salted beef, salt, vinegar, dried fruit, dried vegetables, and occasionally fresh vegetables such as: potatoes, carrots, onions, and turnips.
With limited abilities in the process of preserving food, meat was either salted or smoked. Fruits, and vegetables were either dried or canned. You will find some of the inventions we use today, derived from a time of need during wartime efforts. (Watch for my post, next week, the Tin-Can!)
Oh, I digressed there for a minute. I am a lover of history and it is all so interesting to me! But we are talking about the Civil War here, so stop distracting me with other historical tidbits would ya’. 😛
Ultimately, having met their responsibility to supply the troops with food, the soldiers were left to their own creativity to make something out of what they had been given. Here is a sampling of something the Union soldiers received in their rations.
Picture and recipe courtesy of AmericanCivilWar.com
- 2 cups Flour
- 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup Water
- 1 tbl. Crisco or Vegetable Fat (they didn’t have that back then – they used bacon grease or lard)
- 6 pinches Salt
Mix ingredients together to form a stiff batter. Knead several times, and spread the dough out flat to a 1/2″ thickness. Place on a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 400°F.
Remove from oven, cut dough into 3″ squares and punch four rows of holes in the dough with a fork. (four holes per row) Turn dough over on cookie sheet, and return to oven. Bake another 30 minutes. Turn oven off once time limit is reached, keeping door closed. Allow hardtack to cool, remove from oven when completely cooled.
May be stored in a container or ziplock bag.
Here is a complete list of portions rationed out to the Union soldiers. (which were to be daily and often fell short of that) Scales were nil, and portions were unequal. Also facing the difficulties of time and distance for delivering rations to the solders caused, at times, nonconsumable food to be reconsidered as edible. (As eating was always a better option to starving.) Further, the lack of nutritional value (vitamin C) resulted in scurvy and many soldiers were unable to continue the campaign. With looming thoughts of death and famine, the war continued on.
Information on this was obtained from: