Fishing on the James River in the Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B811-2503A)

In the winter of 1862-1863, the Confederates in Virginia suffered through cold, little shelter and less food.

General Lee appealed to Richmond for help. He noted that his men’s food allowance “consists of one-fourth pound of bacon, 18 ounces of flour, 10 pounds of rice to each 100 men about every third day, with some few peas and a small amount of dried fruit occasionally as they can be obtained.”

No wonder that soldiers sometimes named their quarters “Camp Starvation.”

The men tried to ward off scurvy by hunting sassafras buds and wild onions. They also fished. “The soldiers of this Brigade are catching large quantities of fish with seines, more than they can consume,” wrote Bill Hill of the 13th Mississippi, which was Francis Poore’s outfit.

Years of bad food, little food and sometimes no food took their toll on men’s health and left them open to disease, if not during the war, then in the years after. If your Civil War ancestor suffered poor health after the war or died young, look to his time in the military for a possible cause.

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