Rail Requirements, German Army Corps, 1914
Although there was some variation, in 1914 a combat-ready German regular army corps typically comprised two infantry divisions, a light infantry battalion, two heavy artillery regiments, a pioneer (combat engineer) battalion, a machine gun detachment, and a training battalion, perhaps a small air unit, and some headquarters and support personnel, for a total of about 40,000 men. To move such a corps from its depot to its deployment area required 280 trains. These comprised over 12,000 wagons, of which
170 were passenger carriages for the officers,
965 were freight wagons for the troops,
2960 were specially fitted wagons for horses,
1915 were flat cars or freight wagons for artillery and impedimenta,
c. 6000 were freight wagons for ammunition, food, fodder, and supplies.
Now, consider that the German Army mobilized 26 regular and 13 somewhat smaller reserve army corps, plus 12½ cavalry divisions, 10 independent reserve, Ersatz (replacement), and Landwher (3rd line) divisions, as well as 16 separate Landwehr brigades, not to mention many smaller formations, such as heavy howitzer and mortar battalions and batteries, pioneer units, and railroad battalions, as well as naval reservists called up to strengthen the fleet, all of whom were in place within 15 days of being called up.
On paper, mobilization required some 11,000 trains, comprising over 460,000 railroad wagons, though actually far fewer were involved, since as soon as troops were delivered to the front, the trains would head back to pick up more.
This was probably the largest single movement of troops by rail in history.
Uncle Sam Feeds his Cadets: The West Point Ration Scale, 1820
Although still in its formative years, by 1820 the Military Academy at West Point had begun to acquire some institutional permanency, which was reflected in increasingly detailed regulations for the discipline and training of cadets. The officially prescribed ration, for example, was surprisingly good, as can be seen in this excerpt from the Academy regulations, with spelling, style, and capitalization unaltered.
- Breakfast. Good coffee with a sufficient quantity of Milk and Sugar; Fresh Bread & Butter, Smoked beef or ham or cold meat. Radishes & Cucumbers may be substituted occasionally for the relish of meat for breakfast in the season of them.
- Dinner. Fresh Meat either Beef, Pork, Veal, or Mutton well roasted, with good bread & Potatoes & two of the following kinds of vegetables: Beets, Onions, Turnips, Cabbage or Carrots. In their season dried Beans may be given, but not to exceed once in every six days; there shall always be proper sauce or gravy for the meat.
- Supper. Tea of good quality with Milk and Sugar; fresh bread and butter.
Additional provisions mandated that the Academy Steward was to serve pie for supper and pudding for dinner, and, even more surprising, that on certain occasions, such as Independence Day, cadets of appropriate age could be treated to a ration of wine, grog, or other alcoholic beverage. Note, by the way, that the main meal of the day was at noon, with “Supper” no more than a light snack
Now, while the menu may not be appealing to modern tastes, it’s worth pointing out that it was much more nutritious and varied that the standard ration for enlisted men. The enlisted ration relied heavily on pork and beef, usually salted, rarely including veal or mutton, with frequent issues of hard tack rather than fresh bread, and infrequent issue of vegetables, and that diet was probably better than what the average American ate.