Our first overnight, camping-in reenactment went fairly well. Why the artillerists had to bring a concertina to a gunfight, I’ll never know, but a 2:36 AM rendition of “Good Night Ladies” was truly unnecessary.
The most important thing I can emphasize about reenacting in high summer is to stay hydrated. We brought the big white water pitcher we used at the House Cleaning in April, sliced a lime into it, and filled it repeatedly at the town pump. The Young Mr doesn’t like lime in his water, so he filled the coffee pot for himself, but the rest of our Regiment and members of the 10th Mass helped themselves liberally. It was well worth bringing.
The meals we ate were simple: apples, bread, ham and cheese for breakfast and lunch (I forgot to bring the eggs…) and beef stew for dinner. The stew is the most interesting part of the business. Mr S bought the meat, and without even realizing it, he picked up the appropriate amount of rations. Men were supposed to be issued a pound of beef and a pound of flour or bread a day; women, half that, and children a quarter. The amount we packed was a pound and three quarters. Seemed like too much when I packed it into the cooler, but as it turned out, we ate it all.
Enhanced Ration Stew (feeds 3 to 4)
- 1.75 pounds beef stew meat
- 3 carrots, sliced
- 1 very large onion, roughly chopped
- 4-5 small, firm, potatoes, cubed
- Half a small kettle of water
- 2 packets or cubes of portable soup (beef boullion)
Note: start the fire and get it hot before you bring the meat out…
Cut the meat into smaller chunks, add to the kettle, and place over the fire. Brown the meat on all sides; note that this will take as long as it takes.
When the meat is browned, add the onions and cook until they start to get soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and cover.
Bring to a rolling boil for at least twenty minutes; stir occasionally. Be sure to add wood to the fire to keep it hot. I think we cooked our stew for about 2.5 hours, but it’s hard to say exactly, as we were not wearing timepieces. We started the fire after the battle, which would have been at about 3:30 or 4:00, and ate around 6:30.
I used my pocketknife to slice the vegetables first, and arranged them in our wooden bowls. Then I sliced the beef into smaller chunks, using a piece of firewood as a cutting surface—since it gets burned, you don’t have to wash anything but the knife in hot water. Thanks to the 40th Foot at the SOI for demonstrating that technique.