Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Question of Daily Rations

I remember that one day seven horsemen left the camp to ranchear (that is, to look for food) and to kill some little dog, for in that land all of us were accustomed to eating these animals and held the day fortunate when a portion of one fell to our lot.

- Garcilaso de la Vega

On Thursday the chief of Coste came out to receive them in peace, and took the Christians to sleep in a village of his; and he was offended because some soldiers provisioned [ranchearon] themselves from, or, rather, robbed [saquearon] him of, some barbacoas of corn against his will.

Rodrigo Ranjel

I recently got an interesting question regarding any sources for the specific ration of a 16th c. Spanish soldier and in particular for those accompanying Ponce de Leon's explorations. " I have found lots of references to types of food, but nothing concrete on the specific daily ration." Alas, I too found most of my sources largely silent as to a daily ration for soldiers. This is probably because soldiers were expected to supplement their rations with forage. Noted above in passages from accounts of the De Soto expedition.

A typical example is found in Charles Hudson's The Juan Pardo Expeditions. Although the appendices (Accounts of the supplies and equipment distributed and used up during Pardo's foray's into northern la Florida [the modern day Carolinas & Tennessee c.1566-1568].) are quite detailed as to the overall quantities and types of rations its is annoying short of a per person breakdown, unlike for example shoes and sandals distributed to the soldiers by name!

"In regards to the bread, wine and cheese [it was used up] in giving it and dividing it to the soldiers of his company, as it was given and divided at times of greatest need when the journey was being made, as is certain and notorious." p.341

But I have found a couple of examples which can give us an idea as a basic marching ration.

Narváez/Cabeza de Vaca C. 1528 in La Florida
Leaving the Port of La Cruz for the interior:
.The Governor ordered two pounds of biscuit and half a pound of bacon rationed each man who was going with him.4

We traveled [northward] for fifteen days on our rations without finding anything edible but palmettos... 5

32/15 =roughly 2oz of biscuit /day 8/15 =roughly 0.5 oz of protein/day
...the best selling Conquistador Diet!

One of the mounted men...drowned with [his] horse...This death hit us hard, for until now not a man had been lost. The horse meanwhile, furnished a supper for many that night.6

Covey, Cyclone Trans.& Annot. Cabeza de Vaca’s Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America (University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque: 1993) p.31.
4 Covey. p.35.
5 Covey. p.36.
6 Covey. p.37.

More to the point, for Ponce de Leon reenactment which was a sea based expedition can be found in Pablo E. Perez-Mallaina's Spain's Men of the Sea:

"As an example, although there were others that were practically identical, I am going to discuss the daily rations per person for crews on the armada captained by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1568.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Saturdays: a pound and a half of biscuit, one liter of water, one liter of wine, half a peck of a mixture of horse beans and chickpeas for each twelve persons (150 grams or 5.3oz per person )and one pound of salted fish for each three persons (153.3 grams or 5.4oz per person).

Tuesdays: a pound and a half of biscuit, one liter of water, one liter of wine, one pound of mixed rice and oil for each ten persons (46 grams or 1.6oz [I assume this the is uncooked weight] per person. and half a pound of salt pork.

Sundays and Thursdays a pound and a half of biscuit, one liter of water, one liter of wine, one pound of salted meat, two ounces of cheese.

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