Hungering for Independence: The Relationship between Food and Morale in the Continental Army, 1775-1783
Description: An adequate supply of the right kinds of foods is critical to an army's success on the march and on the battlefield. Good food supplies and a dire lack of provisions have profound effects on the regulation, confidence, esprit de corps, and physical state of an army. The American War of Independence (1775-1783) provides a challenging case study of this principle. The relationship between food and troop morale has been previously discussed as just one of many factors that contributed to the success of the Continental Army, but has not been fully explored as a single issue in its own right. I argue that despite the failures of three provisioning system adopted by the Continental Congress - the Commissariat, the state system of specific supplies, and the contract system - the army did keep up its morale and achieve the victory that resulted in independence from Great Britain. The evidence reveals that despite the poor provisioning, the American army was fed in the field for eight years thanks largely to its ability to forage for its food. This foraging system, if it can be called a system, was adequate to sustain morale and perseverance.
Date: May 2016
Creator: Maxwell, Nancy