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September 18, 2021

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Short Rounds

Feeding the Kaiser’s Children

In 1914 the Imperial German Army had 25 active and 13 reserve army corps. Each corps was composed of two infantry divisions plus attached heavy artillery, engineers, signals, aviation, and logistical personnel. Active army corps ran about 44,000 officers and men with 160guns, 48 machineguns, and over 12,500 horses and mules. Reserve army corps numbered some 38,000 men, only 72 guns, but had 54 machineguns, and some 11,000 horses and mules.

Of course such great hordes of men and herds of beasts had, to be fed. The basic daily ration requirements were enormous.

Daily Ration Requirements, German Army Corps, 1914
Human RationsActive Corps Reserve Corps Per Man
Item (tons) (tons) (grams)
Bread, Fresh 10.8 9.2 250
Bread, Hard (Hardtack) 7.2 6.2 160
Rice or Grits 1.8 1.5 40
Pease, beans, or flour 3.6 3.1 80
Potatoes 21.6 18.5 500
Salt 0.4 0.3 10
Coffee, Roasted 0.4 0.3 10
Coffee, green 0.4 0.3 10
Vegetables, Canned 3.6 3.1 80
Meat, Canned 2.9 2.5 65
Meat, Smoked 3.6 3.1 80
Meat, Salted or Fresh 5,4 4.6 120
Pork, Fresh 2.5 2.1 60
  Total Food 64.2 52.3 1465
Animal Rations Active Corps Reserve Corps Per Head
Item (tons) (tons) (kgs)
Oats 89.6 59.5 5.8
Hay 18.7 16.0 1.5
Straw 21.9 18.7 1.8
   Total Fodder 110.2 94.2 8.9
  Grand Total 174.4 148.5 -

As is readily apparent, food for a corps’ horses and mules comprised nearly two-thirds the daily rations for a corps, regardless of type. In practice, rations were generally issued several days in advance. Not shown are the daily issue of beer or wine, and the weekly issues of luxury items such as sugar.

 

Private Joseph L. Pierce

The early life of Joseph L. Pierce is rather obscure. In fact, his real name is not known, but was presumably something suitably Chinese. That’s because Pierce was born in Canton, Kwangtung Province, China. He was probably born around 1840 or 1841, because in 1851, at about the age of ten he came into the custody of Captain Amos Peck, a Connecticut seafarer. Just how this happened isn’t too clear either. One story has it that the boy’s father sold him to Peck for $6, or maybe it was his brother who sold him for $60, which would have been a considerable sum back in the 1840s or ‘50s, easily two months’ pay for a common laborer. Another version of the tale has it that Peck rescued the lad from a small boat that was adrift in the South China Sea. In any case, when Peck got back to the Nutmeg State, he turned the boy, whom he had dubbed “Joe" over to his mother.

Young Joe went to school with some of the younger members of the Peck clan, adopting the name “Joseph Pierce,” in 1853, combining the “Joe” that Peck had given him with “Pierce” in honor of the President, Franklin Pierce; Where the “L.” came from is as much a mystery as anything else about Pierce. By the eve of the Civil War Pierce had become a farmer in New Britain, Connecticut.

About a year after the outbreak of the Civil War, Pierce did what a lot of other young Americans of his day had done, he enlisted, joining the 14th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862. On the enlistment rolls he’s shown as being 5 feet 5 inches in height, with a dark complexion, dark hair, and black eyes. Though it seems dubious, according to the regimental history, Pierce still wore the pigtail imposed upon the Chinese by their Manchu conquerors in the seventeenth century.

The 14th Connecticut had a busy war, fighting in virtually every one of the major battles in the Eastern Theater; Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and Sailor’s Creek, and was present at Appomattox. Mustered out of service on May 21, 1865, the regiment had lost 205 men killed in action, and almost another 200 dead from disease, making it one of “Fox’s Three Hundred Fightingest Regiments” in the Union Army..

Amazingly, during his service, Pierce was not wounded, and was only sick once, early in the war.

 

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