Period Rations for Events

By: Mike Murley

"1191. The ration is three-fourths of a pound of pork or bacon, or one and a fourth pound of fresh or salt beef; eighteen ounces of bread or flour, or twelve ounces of hard bread, or one and fourth pound of corn meal; and to the rate, to one hundred rations, of eight quarts of beans, or, in lieu thereof, ten pounds of rice, or, in lieu thereof, twice per week, one hundred and fifty ounces of desiccated [dried] potatoes, and one hundred ounces of mixed vegetables; ten pounds of coffee [which works out to one-tenth of a pound per man per day], or, in lieu thereof, one and one-half pound of tea; one pound of sperm candles, or one and one-half pound of adamantine candles, or one and one-half pound of tallow candles; four pounds of soap, and two quarts of salt."

"1193. On a campaign , or on marches, or on board of transports, the ration of hard bread is one pound."

Ration items available in local groceries:

Common (Federal and CS)

Salt pork; "country" (or smoke cured) slab bacon, fresh beef or pork; soft bread (home baked style loaves, not "Wonder bread"), rice, beans ("white" or "Navy"), corn meal, potatoes (small, red potatoes and sweet potatoes), onions, salt, coffee (either ground or bean is fine), tea (loose - not tea bags!), sugar ("Turbinado" or raw sugar is best), plain white candles (rare for CS), vinegar (issued but not listed), molasses (issued in lieu of sugar).

Confederate Substitutes

Corn bread for soft bread or hard bread, goober peas, parched corn ( make your own by 'parching' organic [no pesticides or herbicides] seed corn in bacon fat in a hot skillet - the end result should look and taste like un-flavored "Corn NutsTM").  A vendor, House of Times Past,  sells parched corn in ˝ and one pound bags for $1.75 and $3.00. (201 E. Pickens Street, Abbeville, SC 29620. 864-459-0325; e-mail: They also sell twist tobacco, green coffee beans and unrefined sugar.

Foraged items? Corn on the cob (in the shuck) and other period vegetables in season; period type apples (in season), 'country ham', eggs (will keep a week w/o refrigeration), bake biscuits at home and put in haversack, &c.

Items from home? Pickles (gherkins), jams or preserves, block cheese (more Federal than CS - no fancy imports), mustard, &c.

Federal Hard Bread ("Hard Tack", "Hard Crackers"):

1. Very good looking (but far too salty) hard bread is available from Mechanical Baking Company, Box 513, Perkins, IL 61555-0513, telephone (309) 353-2414.  Pricing: 1 - 6 65˘ each plus $2.80; 7 - 12 55˘ plus $3.75;13 - 24 45˘plus $5.80; 25-up 40˘ plus $7.80 ($8.00 for 100).

2. A very good cracker (but with a more rectangular shape) is the pilot bread made by G. H. Bent & Co., 7 Pleasant St., Milton, MA, 02186 - telephone (617) 698-5945 for $6.75 (post paid) for 10 (no quantity discount). Order "Civil War Crackers".

3. A hard tack cutter is available from Village Tinsmith Box 539, Hamptonville, NC 27020; 910-468-1190 - V/MC, with recipe. Home made hard bread will not look or taste right - you need commercial cracker flour.


1. No plastic! Ever!

2. Muslin "poke" bags for dry items / salt pork.

3. Brown paper or reproduction newspapers.

4. Period glass jars (found at antique shops) with zinc screw-on caps (this is good for 'from home' stuff when doing Federal!).

5. Stoneware bottles or crocks. Crocks should be covered with paper or oilcloth and sealed with wax.

6. Glass container with cork.

1. Page 243 of the Revised Regulations for the United States Army, Philadelphia: J.G.L. Brown, 1861 and paragraphs 1107 and 1109, page 191 of the Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States, Richmond, J.W. Randolph, 1863 - the CS Regulations modify the ration to be a pound of beef or a half pound of bacon or pork, with flour and meal not to exceed a pound and a half.

2. Modern 'salt pork' is salted for taste only. This is a period farmer's recipe for salt meat:

"It is best to cut the meat into 4 to 6 lb pieces. Have barrel ready and spread a layer of salt on the bottom. Rub each piece of meat with a mixture of salt and pepper and pack down in layers, covering each with a layer of salt. The top layer should be of salt. Let stand overnight.

"In the morning pour on the following brine: For 25 lbs of meat: 3 lbs Salt, ˝ tablespoon Saltpeter, ˝ cup Brown Sugar, Packed Or Molasses, ˝ tablespoon Baking Soda, 2 Galleons Water

"Dissolve the ingredients in 2 gallons water, stir until salt is dissolved. Test with an egg; if it floats, fine if not, add more salt. Pour over the packed, salted meat and if necessary, pour on more water to cover the meat. Invert a dish over it and put a heavy weight on it, to be sure that the meat will not float. It may be used in 2 to 3 weeks. For 100 lbs of meat, double all ingredients.."