Questions about an average soldier (Grunt)

Discussion in 'Revolutionary War' started by MIR, Jul 8, 2019.

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  1. Jul 8, 2019 #1

    MIR

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    Questions regarding the British Soldier during the Revolutionary War:


    1. On the average how many miles would a soldier march a day---I have heard of estimates between 8-25 miles a day— Yes, I know some days they didn’t march but during campaigns to and from battle to the next--- ( I may have already answered my own question)--- even 10 miles a day is humping it-- especially in those type shoes and all the equipment they had to haul (they didn’t have Asics/New Balance walking shoes or even nice hiking shoes------ these guy had to be really fit if you think about it.


    2. In addition from his haversack, musket, canteen, cartridge box, bayonet---- which I am guessing would weigh about 25lbs. total –How much more weight would a soldier be required to carry( camp equipment etc… if any). ---I read somewhere where Roman Legionary for example would have to carry an additional 60-80 pounds of camp equipment on top of their personal equipage.


    3. Rations---- what is the typical 1 DAY field ration ---and about how many calories would that be estimated?


    4. I am uncertain about the rum rations given, but was the rum rations basically used to sterilize the water in their canteen for the most part---correct me if I am wrong---I have heard different takes on this.
     
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  2. Jul 9, 2019 #2

    tenngun

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    Plumb-Marin’s book is mostly the story of searching one meal after another. A pound of meat and a pound of bread per day was a standard ration. With rice or cornmeal pumpkins and such thrown in as substitution. Shad runs brought out men to fish for the whole army.
    Packloads musket and ammo included, was about sixtyfive pounds, when the stuff was available. Most of the time, even for the British army it wasn’t.
    Ten miles was a good march. It could be longer but roads were poor,mapping worse. Keeping an army together was time consuming.
    Ten thousand men would occupy four to eight miles on a road. That would mean the two ends would be a hour to two hours apart. Getting men on the road at seven am the end of the column might not be on till nine. Breaking for noon and early enough to make camp and keeping the army together limited how far one could march.
    Supply was a never sanding problem. Twenty days from your supply depot would mean wagons could only pack enough to feed the stock needed to move the supply wagons
     
  3. Jul 9, 2019 #3

    Rifleman1776

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    George Rogers Clark and his men marched in flooded conditions to Vincennes, Indiana. They reported doing so with little food. Hunters preceded the expedition charged with having game waiting when they camped but often, due to the flooding, the men went hungry. Other times they depended on the charity of private homes and farms. George Washington is credited with urging the formation of large cattle herds to feed the army. But it is unlikely starved cows accompanied marching armies very far.
     
  4. Jul 9, 2019 #4

    Brokennock

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    Hmmm? Plumb Martin, a Patriot. Clark, a Patriot.
    Anyone have British examples for the O.P.? Or are they all on another forum now?
    Loyalist Dave maybe?
     
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  5. Jul 9, 2019 #5

    tenngun

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    Brits had about the same regulations for issue, that had a wide variety of stuff thrown in but generally boiled down to a pound of meat and a pound of bread plus weekly rations of butter rice, sugar or molasses, in season locally available veggies.
    Congress based its issues on British army, the difference being the Brits were mostly able to supply it and the rebs were pretty hit and miss.
    Starving times at valley forge was a-moving problem, much food existed just a few miles away.
    However Brits in the Saratoga campaign and Cornwallis march to Yorktown the boys in red were as bad off as the boys in blue.
    In general, the Brits did not move as fast as the rebs. The complex organization of the British army made rapid movements difficult
     
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  6. Jul 9, 2019 #6

    Loyalist Dave

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    The Continental Army tried to come up with standard rations. I found two of the four variations:
    No. 1
    1 lb Beef per day... fresh 890 cal salted 1890 cal
    1 lb Bread per day... 1385 cal
    1 pint of milk per day... 310 cal
    3 pints of peas or Beans per week ... 1565-1520 cal per pint
    1 pint Indian Meal per week ... 1635 per pint
    molasses


    No. 3
    1 lb Bread
    1 lb Beef
    1 Gill of rum or other proof Spirits


    The ration would also be supplemented from time to time with vinegar, and/or pork, and/or rice. It could be as high as 3400 calories per day on paper, depending of course on the quality of the beef and the flour.

    The British soldier had a more reliable victualling supply and a normal week's ration, often divided into two parts issued on two different days of the week were:

    7 lbs of Flour, of the first Quality, made from wholly Kilndried Wheat... 1385 cal per lb.
    7 lbs of Beef, or in lieu thereof 4 lbs. of Pork... fresh 890 cal, or salted 1890 cal or pork 3555 cal per pound
    6 oz. of Butter, or in lieu thereof 8 oz. of Cheese... 213 cal per ounce butter,
    3 Pints of Pease... 1565 cal per pint
    1/2 lb of Oatmeal ... 880 cal.
    (in Winter, add 1 quart freshly made spruce beer)

    This is roughly 3200 calories per day, but as the men were issued the ration in smaller parts, they probably had more than ample calories on day one, and by day three were pretty hungry. It should also be noted that the ration was expected to be supplemented by foraging from the local population. Not bad for the manual labor of the infantry of the day... of course calorie values are for excellent sources of the listed foods...

    This of course varied by geography and availability. Variations on the above included:
    Flour or Bread. . . . . . . . . 1.5 Pounds
    Beef . . . . . . . . . 1.5 Pounds
    or Pork . . . . . . . . . 10 Ounces


    When there was no meat:
    Flour or Bread . . . . . . . . . 3 Pounds
    or Rice . . . . . . . . . . 1.5 Pounds


    To sterilize water in any way you need at least 120 proof in the entire liquid. Anybody who tells you the Gill ("jill") of rum added to a canteen of water would do anything other than flavor the water and reduce the chance it would freeze in the canteen in winter, knows nothing of what they speak.;)

    As for Marching the British army wasn't very fast on foot in North America. 8-10 miles is pretty good for a non-forced march, and they were really stretched out. The pace, however, was not what we do in the modern infantry, not by a long shot. It was not uncommon for the forward units of the column to begin making a new camp 8 miles distant just as the last elements in the British column were departing their previous camp.

    The Continentals had to do a lot more walking when in contact with the British as the tactic was to fight until night. Move out and move more than 10 miles from the British, then set up a camp, and wait to see if the British pursued. IF the British pursued it often included an arrival on the second day, not the next. When one is short of victuals, and foraging isn't plentiful, it's good to at least rest the men a day....,


    As far as packs you're probably looking at 50 lbs. including food. Remember though that the Brits often had wagons, when the road permitted, so they could slowly carry a lot more and be less fatigued than their Continental counterparts, and be better fed.


    LD

    (no guarantee my math on the calories is correct...source Camping and Woodcraft by Kephart)
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
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  7. Jul 11, 2019 #7

    MIR

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    Loyalist Dave------ That is some awesome information there and I really appreciate that very much..... you went above and beyond...!!!!! Blessings to you sir.
     
  8. Jul 12, 2019 #8

    Loyalist Dave

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    You're quite welcome, but I'm simply following the tradition of some of the true scholars on this forum, who have when I and others have asked for references, provided copious amounts of data.

    JUST be aware, that these "rations" are what supply persons noted in records. What the men actually got, and if the scales were correct, and IF they had the stuff to begin with.

    It appears that one common "dodge" a commissariat would work, is to have crooked scales, and then sell the leftover rations on the side. IF your pound weight was off by 2 ounces, for example, you held back a pound of meat or ship's biscuit for every 8 rations that you issued. That's 6 rations per every 50 privates. That can quickly mount up if you're selling the stuff on the side....

    LD
     
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  9. Jul 12, 2019 #9

    tenngun

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    The dishonest purser is a stock villain. Making money off of shorting the men and shorting the government was an old tradition. Officers were known to take protection money from dishonest purser or quartermasters.
    Samuel Pepys actually recorded in his diary how proud he was that he didn’t steal as much from the Crown as other had, he considered himself to be very honest.
     
  10. Jul 15, 2019 #10

    Artificer

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    MIR,

    A few things in addition to the excellent info provided by Loyalist Dave.

    If you notice from the period ration lists, there is a definite lack of Vitamins C and A from the provided rations. To prevent scurvy and other problems from inadequate rations, Teas were often made from pine and Douglas fir needles to rectify the problem, though these were not usually provided by the Quartermasters and knowledgeable Officers and soldiers gathered and boiled the needles for these Teas.

    We all know that rampant Diarrhea was sometimes common from bad food or the wrong kinds of food in too large of quantity and/or bad water. However a diet of meat, bread and butter/cheese alone can and did lead to soldiers being "stopped up" and not having Bowel Movements when necessary. That can be almost as debilitating to an Army as Diarrhea. The British ration of Oatmeal helped alleviate this problem, but there was often no such issue for Patriots.

    As a matter of fact, there is documented evidence that Scottish soldiers in the FIW and AWI took only their oatmeal rations for food and took the money they received in place of the meat and sometimes bread rations, to send back home to the families. It was reported on a few occasions the Scots remained in excellent health even when they were only eating oatmeal.

    What is not mentioned is how soldiers in the leading Regiments on the march would forage for wild onions, mushrooms, etc., though those further back in the columns of march would find the land nearby already stripped of these items by the time they got to the next camp.

    Finally, soldiers would try to purchase regular and sweet potato's, onions, carrots and other vegetables from local farmers, when/if the soldiers got their pay.

    Gus
     
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  11. Aug 25, 2019 #11

    MIR

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    Gus,
    Very informative stuff there my friend...thanks for the info....... a wealth of knowledge here on this forum...my heartfelt thanks to all of you
     
  12. Aug 30, 2019 #12

    Artificer

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    You are most welcome.

    BTW, the information on the Scottish Soldiers eating Oatmeal came from our Unit studies of the Scottish Units we portrayed in the FIW and AWI. I imagine they "doctored up" their oatmeal with issued molasses or berries they foraged or purchased when available, but often they just had the oatmeal. I thought about that every time in camp as a Private Soldier in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment reenactment unit and I was tearing into a piece of meat for supper. :D

    The British Army was also dead set the only approved way to cook rations was to boil them. Strict punishments could and were handed down at times for those soldiers who tried to fry, roast, broil, etc. their food; because it was generally believed any other cooking method "was injurious to the health of the common soldiers.' (Not sure the Officers' Messes followed that at all times, though, and I suspect they did not."

    I imagine the British Army demanded boiling because at times the issued salted meat could begin spoiling before it was issued. Perhaps it was also to safeguard the soldier's teeth, though I can't document that.

    The British Army also broke the common soldiers into 8 Man "Messes." When rations were supplied, one Soldier was excused from other duties to prepare and boil the food and perhaps bake bread, when available. At other times soldiers were detailed just to bake bread. (There were even specified ways of how many times the meat would be rinsed/soaked in water before the final boiling was to begin.) I have no way to document this, but I bet the best cook/cooks in each Mess wound up doing more cooking than "other duties." ;)

    The Patriot Army generally followed the British Military procedures, as many of the Senior Officers were raised in those traditions. However, they weren't as rigid on only boiling food and I'm not sure if they used 8 Man Messes, especially not Militia Units.

    Period food in the Military was always interesting to me as I often did Military Reenacting Units of different periods from the FIW through the UnCivil War and in my 26 years of active duty in the Corps, we became "Canned C Rat Connoisseurs" through the different types of rations up to the more recent MRE's.

    Gus
     
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  13. Sep 10, 2019 #13

    appalichian hunter

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    Artificer, interesting the last part of your post I also come from the Marine Corps days of c-rats, it was a interesting meal when you were issued the meals always turned the main box up side down so depending where you were in the issue line it was a wild choice as to what you received. Never went to the bush without a few items extra, hot sauce, ketchup, regular toilet paper if you could get it (the paper in the rats was shall we say interesting). Never ate the MRES, I cannot find it but I had a well worn booklet called CHARLIE RATIONS cook book, lots of different things you could do with a can of rats and the other items contained in the meal. And the trioxane heat tabs better have a well ventilated area if you had the time to use them which was never. SEMPER FI
     
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  14. Sep 11, 2019 #14

    FlinterNick

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    One of the best biographies of a congenital soldier other than plumb martin's book is by Simon Thayer, not sure if its in circulation but Thayer served under Benedict Arnold during his march to Quebec in 1775; with scant supplies and an underestimated march north in the blistering winter Maine wilderness, the loss rate was a staggering 80%. The biography gives a very grim reality of how poorly supplied the Americans were in their march from Cambridge to Quebec.

    Part of the story even explains that the war chest of gold was lost in the kennebec river during the march, prompting decades of treasure hunters.
     
  15. Sep 12, 2019 #15

    Loyalist Dave

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    I started just at the end..., ate some when going through OCS and ROTC...the guys from The Fleet who were with me on scholarships had eaten them, then we transitioned into MRE's. I know the MRE is better for logistics shipping, but there were a lot of uses for them tin cans in the C-Rats, as you well know. Fashion a coffee cup, a stove, a booby trap, or noise makers for your wire. The guys who smoked used a can to shield the glow of the cigarette. Oh Well. I ate some modern British rations on Sardinia once. Them lads were quite willing to trade their rations for two MRE's. It was a nice ration and I couldn't understand it..., until they told me it was the same ration every time. :confused:. Funny, they carried curry powder, we carried tobasco. We used to trade them for the curry powder too.

    The "trail foods" of the 18th century aren't too bad, if not monotonous. Parched corn ground, and some jerked venison is pretty good. Add some dried raisins to give you potassium in hot weather, and some tea and you're good to go. Really splurge, carry dry bacon, some ship's biscuit, a few ounces of high proof rum with sugar and lime (just to ward off scurvy when mixed 50/50 with water, mind you.) :thumb:

    Semper Fi

    LD
     
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  16. Sep 12, 2019 #16

    Zonie

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    To all:

    The Muzzleloading Forum is a pre 1865 forum.
    Please keep comments about modern things like MRE's out of the discussion and limit the discussions to things that were in use on or before that date.

    Thanks
     
  17. Sep 13, 2019 at 9:49 PM #17

    Artificer

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    In the records of Historic Fort Wayne, IN (War of 1812 period)- they found the daily ration for the soldiers was two meals per day of beef stew. They took the exact recipe and made it up so everyone would know what it was like. Well, it had almost TONS of pepper in it and I imagine that was to over power the possibly tainted salt beef? (I don't like pepper, except fresh ground on a baked potato, but even the guys who LIKED a lot of pepper said it was too much.) Imagine being fed the exact same thing two meals a day for 365 days a year. I bet those guys would kill for fresh fruits and vegetables in season and wild game!

    At least the British Army in the 18th century knew it was important to allow the soldiers to bake bread and set up rather elaborate ovens in long term or permanent camps. Americans had hoe cake and johnny cake, though, when available.

    The main problem then and even today is there cannot be a wide variety of foods available to the military and still be able to provide the quantities of food needed on campaign.

    Semper Fi to my Brothers and Sisters as well,
    Gus
     
  18. Sep 13, 2019 at 10:54 PM #18

    tenngun

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    We tend to like what we get used to eating.
    As a chiefly proportioned fellow I have to get serious about my diet every few years least none of my clothing fits.
    All them foods I really like and crave that pack on the pounds I really miss... for a bit. After a month or so you find when your thinking about your next meal the foods not on your diet your not thinking about. You get to crave what you eat every day.
    In the old days so much of food was available just for a few weeks for part of the year. And it was a treat.
    Even most post kept a garden and so a bit of off the books variety got in to even the most monotonous fort diets.
     
  19. Sep 14, 2019 at 2:25 PM #19

    fireman1

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    Interesting discussion.
     

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