A Taste for War


A Taste for War

The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray

William C. Davis

258 pages
33 illustrations, 247 recipes


May 2011


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

For soldiers in all wars, mealtime is a focal point of the day. Armies do indeed “march on their stomachs,” as Napoleon said. Soldiers of the Civil War armies, many away from home and mothers’ and wives’ cooking for the first time, were thrown back on their own resources both to prepare their own meals and often to stock their larders. No one in America, North or South, was prepared for the massive task of acquiring and distributing the uncountable tons of foodstuffs necessary to keep almost three million men fed. And yet food and mealtime were the dominant topics of interest and conversation, and the fodder for a great deal of the war lore. A Taste for War looks at what soldiers ate during the Civil War, where they got it, how they prepared it, and what they thought of it.

Leavened with first-person accounts of finding and preparing food, A Taste for War includes more than two hundred recipes drawn from soldiers’ letters and diaries and from the few cookery guides furnished them by their governments. The recipes are adapted with instructions for modern preparation that allow readers to recreate the distinctive flavors and aromas of the Civil War.

Author Bio

William C. Davis is a professor of history and the director of programs of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech. Three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Award, Davis is the author of more than forty books on Civil War and Southern history, including Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America.


“Nowhere else will one find so full a plate on so essential a topic.”—Library Journal

A Taste for War reveals the truth about how Confederate and Union troops survived despite their less than nutritious intake and seriously deficient cooking skills. . . . [An] often amusing—and just as often stomach-turning—look at the Civil War soldiers’ victuals.”—Civil War Times

“Without a doubt, A Taste for War adds a new dimension to the voluminous historiography of the Civil War. . . . A Taste for War is an essential work for understanding the Civil War era (1860–1865) and the lives of the ordinary soldier.”—Journal of Popular Culture

"This softbound reprint is sure to be a hit with food historians as well ass reenactors and others interested in the food eaten by soldiers during the Civil War."—Rick Sauers, Gray & Blue

"An entertraining, informative look at a usually ignored aspect of wartime life."—A. A. Nofi, Strategy Page

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Skim, Simmer, and Scour
Chapter Two: Every Fellow for Himself
Chapter Three: Hard Crackers, Come Again No More
Chapter Four: Visions of Fat and Savory Beef Steaks
Chapter Five: The Great Trouble about Hospitals
Chapter Six: Getting in a Pickle
Chapter Seven: How Strange a Thing It Is to Be Hungry
Chapter Eight: The "Irrepressible" Turkey
     Breads, Biscuits, and Yeast
     Stews and Hashes
     Fish and Fowl

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