This Week In Quartermaster History

21-27 October

  Quote of the Week:

[Black coffee] ". . . strong enough to float an iron wedge, and innocent of lacteal adulteration, it gave strength to the weary and heavy laden, and courage to the despondent and sick at heart."

Wiley, Life of Billy Yank, p. 241


For more information on Army Rations visit the 
Army Subsistence History Page

From the time of the Revolution through the Civil War, the basis of all Army troop feeding, whether in camp or on the march, was the so-called garrison ration. It consisted of little more than an allotment of bread and meat (occasionally vegetables) and a beverage.

At first that beverage was alcohol. The patriot troops under General Washington did so welcome their allowance of rum, whiskey, and other assorted "spirits." (A full colonel could receive as much as a half gallon of spirits a week.)

Noting the "deleterious effects" of including all that alcohol in the military diet, the Surgeon General, and later Secretary of War John C. Calhoun began to lobby against its inclusion in the ration. The struggle over this issue continued throughout the 1820s -- just as a full-scale Temperance Movement was gaining momentum on the national scene. But no actions were taken.

Then it happened. On 25 October 1832, President Andrew Jackson, impatient with Congress, took matters into his own hands, and signed an Executive Order dictating that coffee and sugar were to be substituted for the allowance of rum, whiskey or brandy. From that day until this, COFFEE has remained a vital component of the U.S. Army soldier’s field ration.


Compiled by the
U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps Historian
Fort Lee, Virginia

Quartermaster Museum

QM History This Week QM History Page

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