Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 25, 1864

Brandy Station, Virginia
Diary of Orrin Brown, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tuesday–Oct. 25th

The weather is verry pleasant today although it was cool and foggy this morning as it always is for the most part of the time, my mess mates have all gone out to work on the fortifycations today but I am left with the tent. I wrote another letter home this morning, our boys had to work till about 3 Oclock without any dinner, we drew a pint cup full of Potatoes today they are ddryed and ground, we also drew some fresh Beef but it was dreadfull tough and no fat about it, we went down town tonight to buy some bread but could not find a particle for love or money. I went to church again this evening and we had a good prayer meeting before preaching and then heard a sermon from Pauls writings, we also had a good exhortation by a Chaplin that has server his 3 years. I read 6 Chapters in the Testament today besides some other religeous papers.

What did Civil War Soldiers Eat?

At the end of a long supply line, a soldier eats what a soldier gets served.  Or more accurately, what he could make from what the quartermaster doled out, with what he could carry on his back. Cast iron cooks nicely but it is deadly heavy on a hike.

According to the Civil War Preservation Trust, Union fare consisted of hardtack (hard crackers made with flour, salt and water), with saltpeter pork/bacon/beef, flour and cornmeal.  Confederate menus consisted of cornmeal (Johnnie Cakes of beef and cornmeal fried with bacon grease, yum), with salt beef or bacon, and dried peas.  If you were lucky, you got molasses, sugar, and dehydrated vegetables, or perhaps rice and beans.  Union troops often had coffee or tea, and might even get the new Borden’s condensed milk.  Peanuts, or “goober peas”, were relatively available throughout the South.

The Union soldier also added to his diet by receiving care packages from home or buying food from sutlers. These were traveling salesmen that followed the army’s regiments. Their prices were extremely high and sometimes their food was spoiled. Soldiers referred to them as vultures, and sometimes raided their supplies… In fall 1864 the Confederates were living mostly on sweet potatoes. Men were so hungry that they were ready to fight just to get food.

Foraging the countryside was not looked upon favorably, but in times of war you do what you have to do…and eat what you have to eat.



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1 Response to Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 25, 1864

  1. Pingback: Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 6, 1865 -JC Shepard(dot)com

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