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At Ease: Food . . . A Truce Maker?

Civil War Foods

The holidays are here, and hopefully, you're enjoying some of your favorite foods and treats. Civil War soldiers enjoyed their "Christmas boxes" from home which could contain favorite foods like cakes, cookies, fruit, smoked meats, and more. Food could also bring enemy soldiers together as they traded across chilly rivers. You'll find a new video about pickets trading, some notes on peanuts, and the details of the rations soldiers were supposed to receive.


Your Answers...

Surprisingly, hardtack won the most votes. Stories about pickets trading food and the "Beefsteak Raid" at Petersburg also made the list.


Pickets along the Rappahannock

One of the most beloved winter stories from Central Virginia's Civil War... Soldiers communicating and trading food across the river. We've recorded a soldier's memory of these incidents for our newest video.


"Goober Peas"

A Civil War soldiers' song celebrated the peanuts that became a popular food, especially for hungry Confederate soldiers. Though typically associated with Georgia, peanuts were also grown in some parts of Virginia. Sittin' by the roadside on a summer's day, Chattin' with my messmates, passing time away, Lying in the shadows, underneath the trees -- Goodness, how delicious, eating goober peas! CHORUS: Peas! Peas! Peas! Peas! Eating goober peas! Goodness, how delicious, eating goober peas! (Bobby Horton performed the song which can be heard here.)


Basic Rations

So what was a Civil War soldier expected to get in his issued rations? The revised U.S. Army Regulation of 1861 (published with updates in 1863) listed what a Federal soldier was supposed to receive. Confederates had similar ration ideals, though not as many "extras" in the standard ration. A ration is the established daily allowance of food for one person. For the United States army, it is composed as follows: twelve ounces of pork or bacon, or, one pound and four ounces of salt or fresh beef; one pound and six ounces of soft bread or flour, or, one pound of hard bread, or, one pound and four ounces of corn meal; and to every one hundred rations, fifteen pounds of beans or peas, and ten pounds of rice or hominy; ten pounds of green coffee, or, eight pounds of roasted (or roasted and ground) coffee, or, one pound and eight ounces of tea; fifteen pounds of sugar; four quarts of vinegar; one pound and four ounces of adamantine or star candles; four pounds of soap; three pounds and twelve ounces of salt; four ounces of pepper; thirty pounds of potatoes, when practicable, and one quart of molasses. The Subsistence Department, as may be most convenient or least expensive to it, and according to the condition and amount of its supplies, shall determine whether soft bread or flour, and what other component parts of the ration, as equivalents, shall be issued. Desiccated compressed potatoes, or desiccated compressed mixed vegetables, at the rate of one ounce and a half of the former, and one ounce of the latter, to the ration, may be substituted for beans, peas, rice, hominy, or fresh potatoes.


Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.

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