Camp Food

Chapter 9 (April 20, 1863 – April 26, 1863)

It might be interesting to know just what we received from Uncle Sam, to keep us in fighting trim. W. S. Keller was company commissary for a little while and then he was promoted to brigade commissary. John T. Mark was then appointed in his stead, and held the position until the close of the war. A better selection could not have been made from the members of the company. He certainly was faithful and impartial in his duties.

A soldiers daily allowance while in camp was one lb. crackers, one lb. beef or pork (when beef was issued we got no pork and vice versa), beans, rice, coffee, pepper, salt, sugar, vinegar and desiccated vegetables, and on a march, beans, rice, vinegar and desiccated vegetables were cut out. This vegetable was prepared by being pressed into cakes, about 10 by 12 inches square and about one inch in thickness. In it we found peas, beans, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, rice and onions, and almost everything that grows in a garden. The boys used to say it was made up of the rakings of the garden, but, nevertheless when it was properly prepared it made a first class vegetable soup.

We received a very small piece for a ration, but by soaking it in water it became quite bulky. Elias Noll took his ration with him on picket, intending to eat it without cooking. He did eat it, and some time later he complained of severe pain in the stomach; his belt got too tight, then his pantaloons had to be widened, and finally he lay on the ground moaning, rolling and tossing his pain was dreadful and we thought he was going to die. His stomach looked as if he had a bass drum in it, but after quite a siege he got relief and you may rest assured, he always cooked his vegetable after that instead of putting it away raw.

The company commissary would draw the rations for so many men in bulk and bring it to the company quarters for distribution, where each man would receive his ration of crackers for one, two or three days. Generally three days ration would be issued. The beef or pork was cut in as many pieces as there were boys in the company, and each one was handed his piece. This, oft times, was the cause of a great deal of dissatisfaction, as each one thought that the other fellow was getting the largest piece.

However, we never had any bloodshed about it, for a big growl was the end of it all. The balance of the rations were poured out upon a gum blanket, upon which the commissary would make as many heaps as there were boys in the company, dividing all as equally as possible.

Sometimes we drew our coffee un-ground, but always roasted and of the best quality. When it came unground we put it in little bags which we made out of old pieces of shelter tents, took a hatchet and pounded it on a stone until it was fine enough for use. When tired and nearly worn out after a hard day’s march or a battle, a cup of coffee almost strong enough to bear an egg, a few crackers roasted, and a piece of salt pork broiled over the fire held with a forked stick, made one of the best meals we think we ever ate.

April 20th, 1863. Upon this day, after spending nearly 90 days in winter quarters in our camp at Dumphries, the spring campaign of 1863 opened. Again Company G is on the march and the cry is on to Richmond. We left our old camping ground with some regret, for it was here that we had many joys and many sorrows.

The bugles sounded the fall-in call about 8 or 9 o’clock. then forward, and we were on the march, going south along the Potomac River. We traveled six miles and encamped early in the afternoon near the Chippawampsy Creek.

April 21st we broke camp, crossed the creek, marched to Aquia Creek and, having traveled eight miles, went into camp. The day was intensely hot and the marching severe.

April 22nd, we broke camp about 9 a. m., passed Stafford Court House, traveled six miles, where we encamped. From this camp we had a plain view of Prof. Lows’ balloon in which observations were being made of the enemy in the vicinity of Falmouth. We remained in this camp until the 24th, when we broke camp and moved one mile nearer Aquia Creek. This camp was known to the boys of Company G as the orchard camp, and a fine place it was.

On the evening of the 26th, orders were read that the army would move next day.

When Company G entered the service General McClellan was commander of the Army of the Potomac, he having been recalled after the defeat at Manassas under General Pope to lead the army upon the invasion of Lee’s Army in Maryland, where he fought and won the battle of Antietam. Then McClellan moved his army south of the Potomac, and was preparing to strike the Confederates. But this step he was prevented from taking because, while on the march to Warrenton he was suddenly removed from the command of the Army of the Potomac. General Ambrose Burnside on November 5th, 1862, was directed by the President to relieve McClellan and that he, Burnside, was to take command.

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