Today, we have food rations for the soldiers we deploy in warzones and some other remote parts of the world called MRE, which stands for Meal, Ready-to-Eat. They’re not always the best tasting. If anything, they gained the reputation of the opposite. That’s why they were lovingly given alternative meanings like “Meals, Rarely Edible” or “Meals, Rejected by Everyone.” Despite that, they were at least packed with needed nutrients and pretty convenient to prepare. Just rest your flameless ration on a rock or something, heat up your food, and you’re good to go on your merry way trying to survive the conflict.

Things were much different over 100 years ago. Finding sufficient and edible food was part of the challenge. The soldiers had no choice but to resort to whatever they could find to fill their stomachs. The results were some of the wildest recipes that reflect both the creativity and desperation of the Civil War soldiers in the campfire. Here are some of their food during the Civil War.

Sweet Potato Coffee?

Think you could not function without your daily dose of caffeine? The Civil War soldiers thought so, too. Both the Union and Confederate soldiers were avid consumers of coffee, something they would consume during mealtime and after, especially those assigned to be on guard at all hours of the night. Totally relatable.

T THE TELEGRAPHERS- TEXT, YORKTOWN—MAY, 1862 These operators with their friends at dinner. (<a href=",_with_text_by_many_special_authorities_(1911)_(14759773101).jpg">Internet Archive Book Images</a>, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)
T THE TELEGRAPHERS- TEXT, YORKTOWN—MAY 1862 These operators with their friends at dinner. (Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately for them, the supply of coffee was not always available, be it due to shortages or the blockage of transport by enemy troops. With that, they had to get creative and resort to using substitutions that were on hand: peanuts, chicory, rye, peas, dried apples, anything that they could possibly turn into a cup of joe. The most interesting, perhaps, was the use of sweet potato, which was pretty popular. Here’s how you do it: