Mule Meat Became a Confederate Staple Food
Basic Confederate soldiers’ rations consisted of corn bread, and little if any meat. Much of the South was an agriculturally rich region that brimmed with food. However, supply and distribution network breakdowns kept many provisions, especially meat, from the mouths of soldiers in Southern field armies. Rebel troops often had to eat mule meat, and when even that was unavailable, resorted to meat substitutes. One such was a mixture of rice and molasses, with cornmeal sometimes added to, or used in lieu of, rice. Southern rations were adequate and varied – on paper. In practice, not so much. Rebel soldiers were usually issued corn bread and bad beef, with corn bread the more constant provision. Basics like vegetables and salt were also often hard to come by.
The supply of beef to Southern armies broke down quickly. As early as 1861, the Confederates’ commissary general recommended the use of rice and molasses as occasional meat substitutes. Supply difficulties persisted, however, and “occasional” became “quite often”. By 1863, things had gotten bad enough that mule became a standard ration item for Rebel soldiers. Even mule meat, rice and molasses, as well as corn bread, were often in short supply. Southerners often subsisted for days on handfuls of field peas and parched corn. In addition to food shortages, and the poor quality of what food actually reached them, Confederate soldiers often lacked adequate cooking ware and eating utensils.