Banner Image Campfire Spider

Food and Drink

Feeding the army was a major undertaking. Congress and the states had difficulty raising funds to purchase sufficient supplies for the Continental Army. General Washington was believed to have estimated that the army needed 100,000 barrels of flour and 20 million pounds of meat to feed 15,000 men for a year.

Rations were irregular during the first few months of the encampment. Soldiers were supposed to receive daily amounts of beef, pork or fish; flour or bread; cornmeal or rice; and rum or whiskey. However, with no organized distribution system combined with limited food resources near the encampment site, soldiers went several days with little to no food during the winter months.

What the army could not supply, it often requisitioned from local farmers. Hunting and fishing supplemented the soldiers’ diet. General Washington required that soldiers document receipts of what they took so that civilians could later request compensation from Congress. Locals were not satisfied by this arrangement.

Soldiers cooked their own food with their hut mates. The Army issued a tin kettle to every six men. These tin kettles were lighter than the sturdy cast iron pots found in colonial kitchens. Some had frying pans and gridirons while others made cooking utensils from iron barrel hoops and broken spades. Men also shared wooden bowls and other eating utensils. Before soldiers could eat, they had to chop firewood, haul water, build a fire and cook the meager rations. Camp followers, typically the wives and children of soldiers, helped with cooking and carrying firewood and water.

Several earthen kitchens were dug at Valley Forge. Earthen kitchens were circular trenches dug in the ground, creating a large round shelf for multiple cooking stations. Fireboxes were dug into the side of the shelf. The displaced dirt from the trenches made a mound in the center of the “kitchen.”


Feeding an Army
Feeding an army

Image of Saucer Tea Kettle Image of Toaster