Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Sailor's Diet

From: med.navy.mil

Civil War Sailors at sea usually faced a steady ration of moldy beans, stale biscuits (hard tack), and sour/salt pork. To ease the monotony or perhaps to anesthetize themselves from reality, mess crews specialized in the manufacture of outlaw whiskey distilled from almost any substance that fermented in the southern heat.

Commanding officers and medical officers assigned to the James River Flotilla complained a great deal of the lack of fresh provisions and vegetables. Following a July 1862 inspection, Fleet Surgeon of the North Atlantic Squadron, Surgeon James Wood, recommended that vessels be furnished with fresh provisions twice a week. His report on his inspection also contained a recommendation for improving the water supply used in the vessels. He said that the “turbid and objectionable” river water used tended to produce diarrhea. He saw no reason for continuing to use impure river water, since steam vessels could condense more pure water than their crews needed.

Image: Union soldier sitting on crate of "Hard Tack", 1863


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