Fine Dining with the British Army.

By Kim Stacy

We are lucky that the officers of the 84th Regiment recorded some of the mundane details of their subsistence. The following is a compilation from many different primary sources and is relevant to most of the British officers and soldiers in America during the War of Rebellion. Each man of the 84th (and in fact the Army as a whole) belonged to a Mess. The Mess was the smallest unit in the Army. Each Mess was made up of five to six soldiers and included the families, who lived and cooked together. Each Mess was issued a wooden bowl, wooden platter, 6 wooden trenchers, spoons, ladle, and one iron cooking kettle. In the field, one tin kettle with bag was issued.

The soldiers were victualled world-wide per regulation or given a suitable substitution. This regular ration was commonly known as the "Sevens". The "Sevens" consisted of 7 pounds of flour or bread, 7 pounds of beef or 4 pound of pork (both usually salted), 3 pints of pease, 6 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of oatmeal or in lieu rice. Substitutions were common. Fresh meats were issued whenever available and salt was issued with them to allow the men to preserve their leftovers. A beer ration was also issued for all meals.

The foods often arrived seriously corrupted from packing, shipping, or unscrupulous supply officers. Despite the foods being spoiled only a small percentage -- that too far gone to be eaten -- were rejected. The men made the best of eating the maggoty and bug infested issue. This lead to much food poisoning and directly effected the war efforts.

The beer, usually made with molasses and spruce tips, was issued at about 3 pints per diem. If the water was unwholesome in an area, the ration would often be increased to 5 pints. The men also received rum when it was available which was watered down and taken as Grog. Hoarding of rum was frowned upon.

During the winter, it was common for the men to be issued anti-scorbutic vinegar and sour kraut. In hospital, the soldier was prescribed foods which commonly included broths, rice, moist sugar (for the Flux), white loaf bread, barley, milk, and fresh produce and meats -- all of which he paid extra for.

Meals were served twice a day in garrison. Breakfast was dished up at first light and usually consisted of oatmeal, bread and butter, and beer. The main meal was served at mid-day and usually consisted of a stew of meat and peas, bread, and whatever else was available. To hold him over the morning, the soldier snacked on his leftover bread ration.

The individual solder could not afford to purchase extra foods or spices on his own meager pay. However, by pooling his pay with the rest of his messmates, he was able to supplement his rations with fresh produce in season -- wild game, pepper, mustard, eggs, milk, cheese, fresh butter, fish, tea, and rum, or whatever else was on the market at his location.

When in garrison, the troops were commonly issued seeds to plant in their own gardens. The most common seeds being mustard, beans, turnips, corn (maze), lettuce, and greens. The Officers Mess is represented by Captain Murdock Maclaine who left us grocery bills for his personal foods while he was in Charlestown. His larder included, milk, butter, sugars (brown and white) Gore cheese, mustard, salt, mace, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, India soy, ketchup, India mangos, walnuts, almonds, mutton hams, ham, bread, vinegar, fine vermicelli and macaroni. There were also bottles of gingers, french olives, anchovies, apricots, pears, peaches, green sage, lemon and raspberry syrups, blocks of chocolate, and raisins. His liquor cabinet included: Rum, Porter, Madeira, Port, Lisbon, old spirits, French Brandy, Eau de vic, Claret, Tarragon, Raspberry Liqueurs and the spices to mix with them.

For recipes of soldiers meals, I highly recommend The King's Bread, Second Rising, by Dennis Farmer.