Beef Jerky

In the Civil War, more soldiers died from disease than gunshots. Many of the deaths from disease could have been prevented with more readily available nutritious foods. Beef jerky was a luxury that saved many. In addition to providing a much-needed source of protein, men could conveniently carry it in their pockets. There just wasn't enough supply.

Jerky could have made a big difference in prisons, too. Starvation was common there, and diseases quickly turned into epidemics. In fact, captured soldiers were almost three times as likely to die in prison than those who remained on the battlefield, dodging bullets!

I'd planned to help you make your own jerky until I learned that scientists now warn people that homemade beef jerky can be a health hazard. So even if you find somebody who is sure they know how to cut, soak, and dry the meat safely, you'll want to ask a trustworthy adult to check out these warnings and recommendations from Oregon State University.


To learn much more about the cuisine, culture and conflict in the days of the American Civil War, check out Just Following Orders: Escape from Guerrilla Warfare in 1863