Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Soldiers Ate: A Trip to the Past - Part 6

The daily rations for a British soldier were: 
     1 lb. flour or bread
     1 lb. pork or beef
     7 oz. peas
     1 oz. rice
     1 1/2 tbsp. butter
     1 1/2 tbsp. vinegar
     1 gill of rum

Vinegar? Yes, soldiers considered vinegar very important and became disgruntled if they didn't get it. People didn't know about germs in the 18th century, but they considered vinegar a "cleansing" agent — meaning it was good for the digestive system. In modern terms, they used it to purify their drinking water. The vitamin C in vinegar also prevented scurvy.

The British transported meat preserved in brine from Ireland. Sometimes it wasn't very palatable by the time the troops got it.

Soldiers didn't get rations on a daily basis, and it wouldn't be very practical for every soldier to be making bread every day. About six soldiers, who shared a tent, were called a "mess." Each mess assigned one man to do the cooking, and he picked up the rations for all of them once a week.

See the little silver cup at the top of the picture? That's a gill, a common measurement in colonial times. I think of it as a large shot glass.

The American troops had less (except in the vinegar department). Each soldier in Washington's army received the following per day:
     1 lb. bread
     1/2 lb. pork or beef
     1 pint milk or a gill of rice
     1 gill peas or beans
     6 oz. butter
     1/2 pint vinegar

Of course, that was when the army had food.

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