Directions for Cooking by Troops, in Camp and Hospital

This volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection, published in Richmond, Virginia, in 1861, was written by Florence Nightingale and published both in the North (by order of the surgeon general) and the South during the Civil War to improve the diets and nursing care provided to soldiers in the field and military hospitals and to prevent loss of life from malnutrition and poor sanitation.

During the Civil War, this edition of Florence Nightingale’s classic volume on nutrition for the military was published by the Army of Virginia, but the book was also published in the North by order of the surgeon general. The introduction of nutrition into American military food prevented some losses from malnutrition and poor sanitation and could have saved more if Nightingales recommendations had been more widely implemented. Her book contains recipes to maintain health and to feed hospital patients suffering from scarlet fever, typhoid, dysentery, and many medical conditions. It was based on her experience with soldiers in the Crimean War. Her attention to food as being linked to particular ailments and conditions was not a completely new idea, but in the armies, doctors usually assumed that invalids could eat the same ration given to men in the field. A healthy soldier could barely chew the hardtack supplied to troops, so it was impossible for a man suffering from a jaw wound. Nightingale’s recipes took this distinction into account, and they were designed to include specific nutrients she had come to recognize as important during her earlier wartime experiences, emphasizing meat and milk (for protein) and whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (for carbohydrates). Thirty-five years later, essentially similar recommendations would emerge in the first U.S. Family Food Guide (1916).


This edition of Directions for Cooking by Troups, in Camp and Hospital was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the society is a research library documenting the lives of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection comprises approximately 1,100 volumes. 

About the Author

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820. As a young woman, she felt God was calling her to do good work, and in 1851 she went to Germany for three months of nursing training that led to her becoming superintendent of a hospital for gentlewomen in London in 1853. That year, the Crimean War began, and newspapers described the desperate lack of proper medical facilities for wounded British soldiers at the front. The War Ministry asked Nightingale to oversee a team of nurses in the military hospitals, and in November 1854, she arrived in Turkey. With her nurses, she greatly improved the conditions and substantially reduced the mortality rate. When she returned to England, she established the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in London. Her trained nurses were sent to hospitals all over Britain, where they introduced new ideas and established nursing training on the Nightingale model. Nightingale's theories, published in Notes on Nursing (1860), were hugely influential, and her concerns for sanitation, military health, and hospital planning established practices still in existence today. She died in 1910.

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