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Foods and Recipes Enjoyed By Farmers, the Troops and President Lincoln During the Civil War

Updated on February 15, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty collects various recipes from past generations and is interested in early American history, the Civil War, and the 19th century.

Battle of Mission Ridge, TN. In which great grandfather H. McCaskey Inglish fought and survived.
Battle of Mission Ridge, TN. In which great grandfather H. McCaskey Inglish fought and survived. | Source

Starvation and Adequate Rations

We know that with supply lines cut off during the last part of the American Civil War, the Confederacy was in danger of starving to death in larger numbers than occurred before their surrender.

My great grandfather fought for the Union Army (Ohio) during the War Between the States and afterward, helped to complete parts of the National Road, Route 40 East and West in Ohio. I'll share with readers some of the food and recipes that he and his wife enjoyed during the 1860s and some that were reported to be Abraham Lincoln's favorites.

Unknown young Union Army soldier from Ohio,
Unknown young Union Army soldier from Ohio, | Source

UK Origins

Many English, Irish, and Scots settled in Eastern Ohio before the Civil War and their favorite foods stemmed from the corresponding parts of the UK, adjusted for the supplies available in the Ohio of the mid-1800s. One of the best recipes is for a real mincemeat made with beef,since many of these immigrants from the 1600s, mid-1700s, and early 1800s operated farms with cattle and other food animals. You can find that recipe here: Mincemeat.

Another favorite Civil War Era food in Eastern Ohio was pickled meat, since refrigeration was no invented yet. Our farms did have ice houses and even sold ice, however. Pickled vegetables also kept well. Dessert items that were favorites induced pies, which are my favorite dessert to this day, and cobblers - apple, cherry, mincemeat pie, raisin pie, pumpkin pie, and vinegar pie.

A Pie Trick

I'll let you in on a secret you many or may not know. When Ponderosa restaurants were more active on my state, frozen pies came in on the delivery trucks and were baked every other day for serving to customers, often with whipped cream. On the day after baking, left over piece slices were crumbled between layers of whipped cream in large sundae glasses and were still delicious. You may want to try that with your left over pie, if you ever have leftovers.

On the farm, fresh cream from day's milking was poured over a slice of pie or a dipping of cobbler. No whipped cream necessary! On my great grandfather's two farms, the family and farm hands enjoyed a slice of yellow cheese on top of serving of apple pie and it melted somewhat if the pie was hot. That tradition carried over into the restaurant menus of the 1920s - 1940s and rather disappreared. However, I see it resurfacing in diners today.

City Point, Virginia; about 1865.
City Point, Virginia; about 1865. | Source

Great Grandfather's Daily War Rations, 1861 - 1865

When he first went off to defend the United States, this ancestor probably took farm food with him - like mush, scrapple, souse, some pie and bread, and whatever else he could carry. Of course, it did not last long. Here's what he had during the war, along with any small wild game the men could catch.

Per individual soldier, daily:

  • About a pound or a little less of pork, salt-pork, bacon, or beef
  • A pound-and-a-half or so of soft bread or yellow cornmeal to cook or a pound of hardtack crackers.

Per unit of 100 soldiers, daily:

  • 15 Pounds beans (navy, pinto, etc.) or field peas
  • 10 Pounds hominy (a corn product)
  • 10 Pounds green coffee (unroasted) or 8 lb. roasted coffee
  • A pound-and-a-half of black tea
  • 15 Pounds sugar
  • 1 Gallon of vinegar
  • 1 Quart of molasses

Actually, the Union Army lived on Baked Beans and Hominy cooked outside in a big pot, coffee, and their individual rations of meat and bread. This was really not much food and the Confederacy were truly starving. Without meat, the Confederates were attempting to exist on field peas and greens, while they lasted.

You Might Call This Pickled Scrapple - Similar to American Souse

Serbian cuisine; meat and its gelatin, and water.
Serbian cuisine; meat and its gelatin, and water. | Source

Scrapple - Something Like Spam

Someone suggested that Spam was enjoyed during all the wars -- This is not likely since Spam was developed in the late 1930s, but SCRAPPLE is a close cousin of it and certainly was eaten and enjoyed by families during the 1860s. People like it today as well ad purchase the product in grocery stores.


Even though scrapple is known to be Pennsylvania Dutch, it was also made after a fashion in the 1860s on our Ohio family farms, - and it sounds more appetizing that headcheese or souse to me, all of which use up leftover pig parts after butchering, along with some gelatin. If you're raised on it, it becomes good food.

On the farm, scrapple was a treat that differed form fried much, because it contained more flavor and some protein..

Eastern Ohio's Old Time Scrapple Ingredients

  • Hogs’ heads after butchering
  • Pig hearts and a few livers or part of one liver if you have 1 hog
  • Pig meat scraps
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Yellow Cornmeal
  • Square or rectangular cake pans.


  • Cook the Hog's head(s) in a stock pot of water until the meat falls off the bone.
  • Skim off the fat (lard) and reserve it for use later.
  • Remove all the meat from the skull(s), coarse-chop it, and save it.
  • Cook the hearts, livers, and scarps until fully done and chop them coarsely.
  • Put all the chopped meat back into the stock pot after you have emptied it and refilled with clean water. Raise to medium high heat and cook. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.
  • Alternating cornmeal and lard, add some of one and stir, then add some of the other and stir. Keep this up until the scrapple is very thick and begins to pull away from the sides of the stick pot.
  • Fill cake pans only 1/2 the way up the edges of the sides and beat the scrapple down with your palms to remove air and to make it dense. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Remove from refrigerator, and pans, slice scrapple about 1/2 inch thick and fry on both sides in bacon grease with eggs. Serve with syrup, if you like.

You might be able to make this dish with plain ground pork instead of odds and ends. Sausage is usually too salty for my taste, but you might try Italian sausage. Sounds good!.

Hard tack or hard crackers.
Hard tack or hard crackers. | Source

Civil War Crackers: Hard Tack

This is the recipe used by the Union Army. The crackers were so hard that they had to be dipped in coffee or hot water in order to be edible and they were almost nonperishable and good for long travel.


  • 2 Cups all-pupose flour
  • About 1/2 Cup or a little more of water.
  • 1 TBSP (a "knob") of Lard
  • About a shallow palmful (palm of your hand) of salt


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In some sort of large bowl, place all the ingredients at once.
  • Stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients form a stiff batter.
  • Moisten fingers with lard and knead several times until the dough is a ball that holds together well.
  • Turn out dough on an un-greased baking sheet or baking stone and roll to 1/2-inch thickness.
  • Bake 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Turn dough over on the baking sheet and return to oven for another 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, cut into squares that are 3-inches on a side, punch four rows of four holes (16 holes) into each square like saltines. Return to over a third time.
  • Immediately turn off the oven and let hardtack crackers sit inside the closed oven until cool (probably an hour these days).

Baking Soda Biscuits

Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday under his (Union) administration in 1863. Besides turkey and a jam-thick cranberry sauce, he enjoyed biscuits similar to these:


  • 1/2 Cup lard
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Cup whole milk


  • Heat oven to 425°.
  • Place flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and cut in the fat.
  • Add in the milk a bit at a time and stir to blend into a sticky dough.
  • Flour a bread board or clean counter top lightly with flour. Place dough on the floured surface and knead with lard-covered fingers 10 times.
  • Using a tablespoon, drop the finished biscuit dough into a dozen biscuits onto the baking sheet.
  • Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Lincoln's Infamous State Dinner

Chef Francois Rysavy studied all of the US Presidents and their menus when he became White House Chef under the early Eisenhower Administration. He felt that one incident in Lincoln's administration had to be the most embarrassing ever connected with food in the White House.

At the beginning of the American Civil War, President Lincoln, his cabinet, congressional leaders and other VIPS met at the State Dining Room. However, they could not get in. The key was finally found about midnight. The incident is likely one to have been planned to embarrass the new President, since people in the North and the South both disliked his politics and his stance on the war.

Lincoln was so busy in the White House, they he took little time to eat. Rysavy called him the Smallest Eater among Presidents, with John F. Kennedy the Second Smallest Eater.

However, Lincoln seemed to like cake icing better than the cakes, because his favorite recipe contained 1/2 Cup each of candied cherries and candied pineapple among 2 Cups sugar, a cup of water, 4 whipped egg whites, and a teaspoon of vanilla -- Boil the sugar and water to the stage where a thin thread of it drips from a spoon, remove from heat, drizzle and fold it into the whipped egg whites, mix everything left into that mixture carefully and spread on a cake. The icing is more like candy than icing.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I bet a lot of soldiers lost teeth from malnutrition in the war. Looking forward to reading your Civil War material soon.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm just reading another account of Andersonville and how bad the food was there.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I see it in a couple of our grocery stores all the time. People still seem to like it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      life without scrapple is no life at all

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for the humorous outlook!

    • Clucy profile image

      Kristin Tamke 

      7 years ago from Frederick, MD

      thanks patty for that visual...> im not hungry for meat again this luch time....haha

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Lucky you, Clucy, to see so many interesting meat products. Not appetizing to us, is it?

      I was given a brain sandwich when I was 5 and it tasted like a sponge - one of those flimsy grey plastic foam sponges.

    • Clucy profile image

      Kristin Tamke 

      7 years ago from Frederick, MD

      Great hub and voted up. Will so though, I lost my appetite for lunch when reading about the meat....augh. Im in MD and they stores here carry scrapple, souse and other stuff I care not to mention.....

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Gypsy - My father ending up being taught how to make nearly every one of these dishes. So, I at least heard the recipes, if I did not get to try them as a kid.

      teddi6 - This may be silly, but I want to see the film "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Killer" - I like the future president twirling an axe!

    • teddi6 profile image


      7 years ago from Northern California

      I really enjoyed reading this hub, Patty. Being that I'm such a history geek and a sucker for all things Lincoln, this was fabulous for me. Thanks for all of the new insight.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      7 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Voted up and interesting. Wow great hub. A really fascinating and I should say delicious read. Thanks for a great hub and passing this on.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I detest souse, personally, and hardly see it in the grocery stores any more. Smaller markets in small towns carry it though. I like some of the sushi, too.

    • melbel profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest, USA

      This is really cool! My mom makes baking soda biscuits on occasion, usually goes with a beef stew. Both scrapple and souse sound pretty horrible to me, but you're right about being raised on it. There are lots of things that I eat (sushi) that other people think are horrible. Thanks for sharing this bit of history!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Life was very difficult for the Confederate forces without food, that is certain. The icing looks good, ut too sweet for me! Please enjoy!

    • sen.sush23 profile image


      7 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Interesting information on Civil war. When you talk about the food the confederate soldiers ate, it makes the war not a strategic event only but a palpable human reality. I particularly like the biscuits and that candied topping for cakes. Think I will give it a try. Voted up. Thanks for sharing.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      That would be a good button, wouldn't it?

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 

      7 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Good hub, Patty...voted up, useful, interesting and, if there were a button, "tasty." ;)


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