Columbia Detachment Rations

Rations in the British Army of the 1860,s was more plentiful and heathy than in the years proceeding due in large part to the public outcry for the general betterment of the Troops caused by the debacle of the Crimean War of 1854-56.

The following attempts to illustrate how the changes made during the post-Crimean War period combined with the fact that the Columbia Detachment was in British Columbia - with its own inherent difficulties of transportation, access to fresh produce and lack of variety - affected the Men, women and Children in the Camp and in the field.

Captain Gosset was the Acting Commissariat Officer for the Detachment in terms of purchase. As the Detachment was not self-sufficient and as the town of New Westminster was unable supply the needs of the 160 men, 30 or so wives and 40 or so children, Gosset was forced to request tenders for Rations from Victoria.

New Westminster Times
24 Sept 1859


Tenders are invited for supplying the following articles, in such quantities as may be required during the next three months at each of the places named.

The prices to be stated in English currency.

All duties and carriage to be paid by the trader. Address, with samples, duly numbered to correspond with the Tender to me at this Office. British weights and measures.

At Commissariat Store, New Westminster:

Tea - black per 1000 lbs.
Sugar - brown per 1000 lbs.
Coffee - ground per 1000 lbs.
Soap - English yellow per 1000 lbs.
Pepper - black, ground per 100 lbs.
Mustard - ground per 100 lbs.
Candles - Palmer's English per 100 lbs.
Matches - box per 1 gross
Oil - lamp per 100 gallons

Acting Commissary


The quality of the Rations he arranged to have provided for the Detachment caused quite of bit of complaining from the Men. Captain Lempriere, as the Detachment Commissary Officer, writes in his Journal -

Saturday 19th November 1859 Some of the men complained about the ration of vegetables being too small.  I wrote an official to Grant about it. 

Below, Moody Document F1152: To Governor Douglas, is dated 24 November 1859 and gives an clear picture of how the Rations were issued to the Men , Women and Children of the Detachment

Article Man (daily) Ration Weekly Ration  Women Chil
Meat  (Fresh) 1 1/2lbs       3/4 1/2
Meat  (Salt)
When Fresh not Procurable
1 1/4lbs       3/4 1/2
Beans In Lieu of Vegetables
1lb       Whole 1/2
1 1/4lbs

1  1/4lbs

1 1/4lbs







Currants        Or Cranberries            
Tea 1/4oz       Whole 1/2
1/2oz       Whole 1/2
Sugar  2oz        Whole 1/2
Tobacco 1/2oz       No No
Soap 1/2oz       Whole 1/2
Salt 1/2oz       Whole 1/2
Matches 1/2oz   1box ofFire   Whole 1/2
Mustard     1/2oz   Whole 1/2
Pepper     3/4oz   Whole 1/2
Vinegar     1/2pt   Whole 1/2
On Demand


In the Field with the Boundary Commission, Lt. Anderson often writes about the Rations issued and privately procured. We can assume from his comments that the situation would be similar in the Columbia Detachment when they were in the field.

We are allowed a pint bottle of wine and a bottle of beer per diem when practicable and we generally contrive to keep a supply of them at all hazards.  A keg of brandy is generally kept as it is very acceptable sometimes on a cold winter's night when we have to sit up till sunrise observing the stars". 

-- 6th Jan. 1860, Lt. Anderson RE

"We draw the same rations as the Men as we find that is more then we can manage, namely 1 1/2 lbs. fresh meat, 1 lb. flour, 3/4 lb. potatoes per diem, tho' of course there is in reality no restriction of quality for the officer's mess.  We have been enjoying the luxury of Worcester Sauce and pickles lately, but I am afraid we shall soon be out, unless a reinforcement be sent from Victoria, 100 miles off." 

-- 6th January 1860, Lt. Anderson RE

"I never tasted such good bread anywhere as our Men make us, they use some chemical composition instead of yeast which I think makes the bread lighter and more palatable." 

-- 7th February 1860, Lt. Anderson RE

"...a case of Brandy and a box of preserves for our Gruel arrived as we complained having nothing to eat but Beans & Bacon three times a day which is a very good thing now and then, but 21 times a week is too often..." 

--10th June 1862, Srjt. McMurphy