Topic: Army Rations
Ideal Army Ration (1899)
What a Soldier Gets and What He Should Get
The Montreal Gazette, 29 July 1899
(Dr. Louis L. Seaman, in Leslie's Weekly)
The ration of the army today consists of the following constituents:—
- Fresh beef, or mutton when the cost does not exceed that of beef, twenty ounces;
- or pork or bacon, twelve ounces;
- or salt beef, twenty-two ounces;
- or, when meat cannot be furnished, dried fish, fourteen ounces;
- or pickled fish or fresh fish, eighteen ounces;
- or cornmeal, twenty ounces.
- Baking powder for troops in the field, when necessary to enable them to bake their own bread, sixteen twenty-fifths ounces.
- Beans or peas, two and two-fifths ounces;
- or rice or hominy, one and three-fifths ounces.
- Potatoes, sixteen ounces;
- or potatoes, twelve and four-fifths ounces, and onions, three and one-fifth ounces;
- or potatoes, eleven and one-fifth ounces, and canned tomatoes, four and four-fifths ounces,
- or four and four-fifths ounces of other fresh vegetables, not canned, when they can be obtained in the vicinity of the post or transported in a wholesome condition from a distance.
- Coffee, green, one and three-fifths ounces,
- or roasted coffee, one and seven twenty-fifths ounces;
- or tea, green or black, eight twenty-fifths ounce.
- Sugar, two and two fifth's ounces;
- or molasses or cane syrup, sixteen twenty-fifths gill.
- Vinegar, eight twenty-fifths gill;
- salt sixteen twenty-fifths ounce;
- pepper, black, one twenty-fifth ounce.
A proper diet for the tropics, obviously, should be of a vegetable character. This would supply the elements of energy, without unduly heating the body. This is just what the ideal ration should accomplish. It should accommodate itself to the needs of the individual everywhere. In the north it should supply him with the abundance of heat-producing elements demanded by the colder climate, while in the south it should limit that supply and provide him with the diet suited to his new environment. It should, further, in southern or tropical campaigns, when barrack or camp life is abandoned for active work in the field, readily adapt itself to the increased demand of the system for nitrogenous elements; for field work with its greater activity, requires greater energy producing food than does the quieter life in the barracks. This was illustrated in several regiments that visited Puerto Rico, notably in one of the artillery regiments, which landed about the same time as did my own, the First United States Volunteer Engineers. This particular regiment saw the hardest kind of work from the very moment of its arrival, until, upon the signing of the protocol, it was sent North. During its stay on the island—about six weeks—the troops subsisted almost entirely upon the "travel ration" (much worse than the field ration when viewed from the standpoint of the ideal), but they had comparatively little sickness, the effect of the excess of the nitrogenous element having been neutralized by the tremendously active life the men had been compelled to lead.
In order to reach the ideal, then, the present ration should be radically changed. The beef and salt pork component should be cut in two, and farinaceous food and fish substituted. There would be plenty of meat left even then, for the old theory that meat alone makes brawn and muscle has long since been exploded. Beef has been beaten time and again on the athletic field; and on the plains of Marathon, in the great international games recently held in the presence of the king and assembled thousands, the victorious champion in the twenty-five mile foot race was he who had not tasted a single ounce of meat in his long course of training. Salted rations should also be issued but once, or most, twice during the week, and fresh supplies should be provided from beef on the hoof at the point where issued. Of the cereals, one of the best is hominy, which is not only nutritious and easily digested, but it relished by the men as well. Equally valuable is the rice component, and its present issue should be quadrupled in quantity. The black or red bean (frijol), of the tropics should be substituted, in southern latitudes, for the white bean of this country and dried fruits, especially apples and prunes should be added to the ration.