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1861 Navy Food and Spirit Ration

An Act to alter and regulate the Navy Ration.

On July 18, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln approved a Navy ration law that altered the rations enacted in 1842, most notably, the handling of the spirit ration. It allowed for the commanding officer to stop or suspend a Sailor's ration of spirit if in his opinion the Sailor could not handle his liquor ("drunkenness"). The law also fixed the amount of money to 4¢ per day for those not allowed, or those who otherwise relinquished, the spirit portion of their daily ration.

Law as Written [1]

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the navy ration shall consist of the following daily allowance of provisions to each person: One pound of salt pork, with half a pint of beans or peas; or one pound of salt beef, with half a pound of floor, and two ounces of dried apples, or other dried fruit; or three quarters of a pound of preserved meat, with half a pound of rice, two ounces of butter, and one ounce of desiccated "mixed vegetables;" or three quarters of a pound of preserved meat, two ounces of butter, and two ounces of desiccated potato; together with fourteen ounces of biscuit, one quarter of an ounce of tea, or one ounce of coffee, or cocoa, two ounces of sugar, and a gill of spirits; and of a weekly allowance of half a pound of pickles, half a pint of molasses, and half a pint of vinegar.

On April 17, 1862, with the passage of "An Act making additional Appropriations for the Naval Service for the Year ending June thirty, eighteen hundred and sixty-two.", per Section 4 of the Act, the Secretary of the Navy gained authorization to "commute the navy ration of coffee and sugar for the extract of coffee combined with milk and sugar" as long as it could be accomplished with no additional expense to the Government.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That fresh or preserved meat may be substituted for salt beef or pork, and vegetables for the other articles usually issued with the salted meats; allowing one and a quarter pound of fresh, or three quarters of a pound of preserved meat for one pound of salted beef or pork; and regulating the quantity of vegetables so as to equal the value of the articles for which they may be substituted.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That should it be necessary to vary the above-described daily allowance, it shall be lawful to substitute one pound of soft bread, or one pound of flour, or half a pound of rice, for fourteen ounces of biscuit; half a pint of wine for a gill of spirits; half a pound of rice for half a pint of beans or peas; half a pint of beans or peas for half a pound of rice.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That in case of necessity, the daily allowance of provisions maybe diminished or varied by the discretion of the senior officer present in command; but payment shall be made to the persons whose allowance shall be thus diminished, according to the scale of prices which is, or may be, established for the same; but a commander who shall thus make a diminution or variation shall report to his commanding officer, or to the Navy Department, the necessity for the same, and give to the paymaster written orders, specifying particularly the diminution or reduction which is to be made.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That no commissioned or warrant officer, or any person under twenty-one years of age, shall be allowed draw the spirit part of the daily ration; and all other persons shall be permitted to relinquish that part of their rations under such restriction as the President of the United States may authorize; and that the spirit portion of the daily ration may be suspended or stopped by the commanding officer, whenever, in his opinion, it shall be expedient, for cause of drunkenness; and to any person who, by this section, is prohibited from drawing, or who may relinquish, the spirit part of his ration, there shall be paid, in lieu thereof, the sum of four cents per day.

On July 14, 1862, President Lincoln ended the spirit portion of the ration when he approved, "An act making appropriations for the Naval Service for the Year ending thirtieth of June, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, and for other Purposes." The new law specifically stated, "SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That from and after the first day of September, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, the spirit ration in the navy of the United States shall forever cease, and thereafter no distilled spirituous liquors shall be admitted on board of vessels-of-war except as medical stores, and upon the order, and under the control of the medical officers of such vessels, and to be used only for medical purposes. From and after the said first day of September next there shall be allowed and paid to each person in the navy now entitled to the spirit ration five cents per day in commutation and lieu thereof, which shall be in addition to their present pay."

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That the provisions of this act shall go into effect in the United States on the first day of the succeeding quarter after it becomes a law; and in vessels abroad, on the first day of the succeeding quarter after its official receipt; that any acts and parts of acts which may be contrary to, or inconsistent with, the provisions of this act, shall be, and are hereby, repealed.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Navy be authorized to procure the preserved meats, pickles, butter, and desiccated vegetables in such manner and under such restrictions and guarantees as in his opinion will best insure the good quality of said articles.

APPROVED, July 18, 1861.


1842 Ration | Navy Pay History


[1]United States Statutes at Large, Volume 12, pg. 264-265, Government Printing Office.

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