Friday, September 25, 2020

19th Century Army Subsistence by Zina Abbott

Most readers, when they think about the military, think about the troops—the fighting units. However, there is a lot more to keeping an army together. Enter the Quartermaster, Ordnance department, and Commissary, or subsistence.

Today, I wish to talk about subsistence.

There is the saying that the Army marches on its stomach. Someone has to see the men get their rations. That duty falls to what is called the commissary officer.

In 1775, the Continental Congress established the Army and named George Washington its commanding general. That same year, Congress created the Office of the Commissary General of Stores and Purchases to provide the Army's daily rations. Officers in charge of subsistence operations were known as chief commissaries, while their staff consisted of assistant commissaries and commissary sergeants. It was the commissary department’s responsibility to purchase the subsistence stores. The principal articles of the ration of the soldiers were pork, bacon, beef, flour, beans, and other articles of farm produce.

Commissary Tent Army of the Potomac- June 1863

Fifty years later, the commissariat, as it was then known, began selling food items – which at the time were also known as commissaries or commissary items – from its warehouses "at cost" to Army officers for their personal use. By 1841, officers could also purchase items for their families.

Providing adequate rations during wartime was always a challenge. With the Mexican-American war, distance was often a troublesome factor. During the Civil War, both sides worked at disrupting the supply lines of the opposing army, and non-combatant civilians paid the price in dealing with frequent raiding parties commandeering their food to feed the troops.

The army ration is the established daily allowance of food for one person. It was fixed by the army regulations as follows:

Twelve ounces of pork or bacon, or canned beef (fresh or corned), or one pound and four ounces of fresh beef, or twenty-two ounces of salt beef; eighteen ounces of soft bread or flour, or sixteen ounces of hard bread, or one pound and four ounces of corn meal; and to have, every one hundred rations, fifteen pounds of pease or beans, or ten pounds of rice or hominy; ten pounds of green coffee, or eight of roasted (or roasted and ground) coffee, or two pounds of tea; fifteen pounds of sugar, four quarts of vinegar; four pounds of soap; four pounds of salt; four ounces of pepper; one pound and eight ounces of adamantine or star candles; and to troops in the field, when necessary, four pounds of yeast powder to one hundred rations of flour.

This ration was so large that, if the food was wholesome and supplied in full, the soldier fared very well. In many cases in the permanent posts the companies were more than able to maintain their mess on the rations issued. The surplus was used to purchase extra articles for their mess, or applied to the company fund to be expended for the benefit of the company.

Group at commissary depot Aquia Creek Landing, Virginia, Feb. 1863

Under the best conditions, providing rations for nineteenth century soldiers was difficult. Yet, the soldier's usefulness depended to a large degree upon his health. The free open life of the army tended to take care of his physical condition if his food was wholesome. The farther away the troops are from their source of food supplies, the more challenging keeping them in rations becomes. On the Kansas frontier, at one point, the companies stationed at Fort Monument, one of the smaller posts at a stagecoach station, marched to Fort Wallace because they ran out of rations and had no assurance when more would arrive.

As part of my research for my books set in 1860s frontier Kansas, much of the fresh meat provided the soldiers stationed there was bison. Along with other white settlers, stagecoach personnel, and railroad crews, the troopers spent their off-time hunting. 

Army Commissioners Department

At frontier outposts, the mainstays of the common ration were likely to be salt port, beans, hard bread, and coffee. Soldiers supplemented their diets by hunting, fishing, gathering wild plants, and cultivating vegetable gardens, such as the one shown in this post's header which was taken at Fort Laramie. Officers' families often kept livestock. Soldiers spent their own money to buy extra food from the post trader or, prior to 1867, the post sutler.

In the field, a commissary, or subsistence, officer was not a separate Army designation like a quartermaster. Rather he was a line officer in a fighting unit or at a military post designated as an acting commissaries of subsistence. Each received an extra $20 per month less the value of a ration. They were charged with providing rations for the troops.

The establishment of a military post in a region created a market for grains, horses, mules and cattle. Sometimes, something just as desirable and important were fresh vegetables. Without leafy greens or potatoes to help see the men through the winters, the Army dealt with increased cases of scurvy in the winter.  The result was, if the Indian danger was not too great and suitable lands could be obtained, that small settlements of farmers and ranchers would spring up, depending upon the post for a market. For this reason, military authorities encouraged the opening of farms and ranches near the post

Supply a military post with these food items often became the sole support of the settlers and the only reason for its existence. Once a fort was abandoned because its purpose had been served, it sometimes meant the end of the nearby settlement. Even though the commissary department tried to obtain its supplies near the points of consumption, it was almost impossible. Many food stores had to freighted to the posts, which was usually done by contract freighters.

Commissary Clerks Aquia Creek Landing, Virginia

At the end of the Civil War, there was a major change in how subsistence was handled. As Congress made provisions for a “peacetime” Army, even though said army spent years battling the native tribes that resisted being forced onto reservations, it passed the act of July 28, 1866, entitled "An Act to increase and fix the Military Peace Establishment of the United States." 

Congress authorized the Army to sell goods at cost from its subsistence warehouses to officers and enlisted men alike, beginning on July 1, 1867. This was the start of the modern commissary benefit. No geographical restrictions were placed on these sales, which could take place at all Army posts, from the frontier to the east coast.

Reconstructed Sutler's Store, Fort Laramie

The post sutlers were done away with. They could continue to sell to Army personnel as free traders. However, they could no longer put liens on soldiers’ pay to cover the items sold. Also, the commissary department started their program of providing goods at cost to the military posts with the intent that they be available for purchase by officers and enlisted men alike. The transition was rough, and the stores that showed up at the posts often left much to be desired. However, the objective was that no longer would officers need to purchase for themselves and their families what was referred to as fine stores—better food over and above standard military rations—and have them shipped to a post. The commissary department would provide the items for sale.

The subsistence warehouses of the nineteenth century were gradually replaced by Army-run grocery stores called sales commissaries, which sold items at cost, providing soldiers good food at reasonable prices. By 1868, customers could choose from an official 82-item stock list, which was comparable to civilian dry-goods grocery stores at the time.

From these humble beginnings, members from all of the military branches today have access to commissaries across the world.


In my most recently published book, Hannah’s Highest Regard, the story takes place in Kansas. Jake is a quartermaster kept busy with providing supplies and livestock to his assigned fort to deal with the increase of soldiers and the demands of dealing with hostile Native Americans, primarily Cheyenne. The issue of subsistence for Fort Riley is assigned to another lieutenant who becomes interesetd in Hannah. You may find the book description and purchase link for that book by CLICKING HERE.



The first book about Hannah Atwell, the one that introduces us to Jake Burdock, is titled Hannah's Handkerchief. You may find the book description and purchase link by CLICKING HERE




Wednesday, September 23, 2020



The True-Life Inspiration Behind These Stories

by Dorothy Wiley, Author

Today, I am so excited to share with you the publication of my first boxed set! It contains the first three novels I wrote and some of my most beloved characters. Together they have a 4.6 star rating with 831 reviews! 

A new, never-before issued bundle—ROMANCING THE WILDERNESS—containing three full-length, binge-worthy novels: WILDERNESS TRAIL OF LOVE, NEW FRONTIER OF LOVE, and WHISPERING HILLS OF LOVE. More than 900 pages of heroes, suspense, and tender romance.  Set in 1797, these frontier stories seamlessly blend breathtaking action with family, friendship, and laughter. Pick up an eBook copy of this bundle for just .99 cents or read for free in Kindle Unlimited!  

Let me share a little bit of what inspired these three books. Many years ago...I was trying to come up with a unique Christmas present for my husband. So I decided to research his ancestry. I wanted to document enough to get him qualified for membership in the Sons of the Republic of Texas (SRT). To be a member, you have to be a direct lineal descendant of those that settled in the Republic of Texas prior to February 19, 1846, when Texas merged with the United States as the 28th state. 

Larry didn't know much about his family past his Grandpa Garvin. Secretly, with dial-up internet and a few furtive trips to the genealogy library in Houston, I was able to find proof that he qualified for SRT. But what was really amazing was I found out that his third-great grandfather, Samuel Wiley, fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle against General Santa Ana. At the Battle of San Jacinto, he was a member of Col. Sherman's 2nd Regiment which formed the left-wing of the army. Per Sam Houston, "...having commenced the action upon our left-wing, the whole line, advancing in double quick time, raised the war-cry 'Remember the Alamo'." Samuel received $24 for three months of service fighting for Texas. (Note: This real-life Samuel Wiley is the baby in my latest seriesWilderness Dawning.) 

Digging further into the past, I also discovered that his ancestors were among the first settlers of Kentucky (1790's),  Louisiana (1805), and Texas (1818). That made them among the first families to settle in these states. Later, research through Kentucky historical websites, dozens of books, the Texas State Archives, and The University of Texas, made me realize how very courageous these men and women were. 

Their journeys inspired all thirteen of my books in three series. I wanted to honor these and other first wave settlers of early America by writing these books. The arduous journeys, brave battles, and daily sacrifices of these first-wave pioneers should not be forgotten. While my books are inspired by my husband's ancestors, the stories are not based on actual people, although some of their names are real. The tales are what I imagine their lives would have been like based upon my research and a spirited imagination. I attempted to balance the hardships of the frontier with amusing, romantic, and vividly compelling characters that I hope are very memorable.

The first three books in The American Wilderness Series, offered in this bundle, are the stories of three of the brothersStephen, Captain Sam, and Williamall heroes in their own right who journeyed together to Kentucky, each for their own reasons. (Note: The Captain Sam in this bundle is the great uncle of the Samuel mentioned above who fought for Texas. If you have ever done any genealogy research, you probably came across the same problem I did. Babies were often named after grandfathers and uncles and they never used middle names, so you might have three men with the exact same name on the same census!) 

I believe you will find that my novels are both realistic and idealistic. They acknowledge the harsh realities of the frontier wilderness while including the ideals of boundless hope, strong family, and forever love. My goal is to touch the hearts of my readers and I hope that each of my thirteen books will do that for you. 

Grab the ROMANCING THE WILDERNESS  bundle on Amazon, at the amazing price of just .99, and immerse yourself in early colonial history as the brothers and the women they love bravely face a formidable wilderness frontier.  

"There is no question, Dorothy Wiley is one of the best American Historical Romance writers today." - Amanda Hughes, bestselling historical romance author

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Interesting facts about Texas

 I'm in the middle of a series called Bluebonnet Brides which takes place in Texas around 1874. Like most good writers, I find myself doing lots of research about the culture, the history, and the people of Texas.

We all know that Texas or Tejas was part of the Mexican state of Coahula y Tejas, often referred to as Mexican Texas. Americans first filed in to settle the land. Remember "Go West". People were often land poor. Farmers planted cotton which depleted the soil of nutrients if planted without crop rotation. The other draw to Tejas were horses.

 Equines rounded up, broken, and sold could often build a man's pocketbook or bank account quickly. But horses were also a commodity that the Mexican's wanted. They frowned upon the American's crossing the rivers to take the horses and selling them once they got back to the US side. Thus tensions were high.

Mexican leaders demanded that American settlers sign an agreement to stay for a certain length of time before their land would be handed over. Needless to say, things did not go well. American's wanted their own government with laws similar to those left in the United States and not those decided in Spain or in Mexico City.

So the government of Texas set out on it's growing pains. It declared it's independence from Mexico in 1835 to 1836 in a Revolution that brought about three major battles, Gonzales, San Jacinto, and the most famous the Alamo. While they finally got their victory with the capture of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the Mexican Congress did not recognize the Independence of the Texans because the general was a prisoner and signed the articles of surrender under duress.  

Eventually, the Republic was formed in March of 1836. As it's own country, Texas flew a flag with one star on a blue field. While trying to stand on its feet, Mexico considered it a hostile province. The Native Americans who were being pushed off the land were fighting back. Besieged, Texas nearly didn't make it.

In wasn't until 1845, that it was annexed to the United States to become the 28th state. Negotiations gave Texas it's borders. Yet tensions still remained and those were not settled until the Mexican American War 1846 to 1848. Twist of fate here, both Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant served in the Mexican American War. We all know that they would later face off in America's Civil War.

The Compromise of 1850 gave Texas two unique clauses. First, four additional states can be divide from its borders. Second, Texas didn't have to give up its public lands. In other words, if the U.S. government wished to purchase lands from Texas, they had to pay. So all those oil wells and leases off shore belong to Texas. These monies are used to fund colleges in the state.

So in Texas, when they say "dream big" they mean it. 

Happy reading,


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Ads from Bygone Years

By Andrea Downing (with apologies for the quality of the photos)

Some time ago, while renovating a Victorian house in the UK, I came upon a bunch of old magazines…very old magazines.  Since then, I’ve encountered and kept a few more because I’m fascinated by the ads and advice and stories in them.  I thought some of you might also enjoy seeing a few of the ads, or even find use for them in an HWR you’re writing—though heaven knows not all of these are appealing. What gets me more than anything is some of the claims, but I also enjoy thinking about how times have changed.

From Petersen’s Magazine of August, 1873, we have the first of a couple of corsets.  Madame Foy claims this one to be a ‘skirt supporter’—I’m not sure how that works.  We also have an ad for the Great Western Gun Works, which will give you an idea of the price of guns during this period. But what amazes me is that Petersen’s was specifically a woman’s magazine—it had patterns to sew the latest fashions and other features directed at women.  Maybe they were thinking of ranching women?

Next is Scribner’s of March, 1878.  There’s this ad directed at the upper crust of society; who else could afford a five-glass landau? At the other end of modes of transport, we have the supposed “World’s ONLY Manufacturer of Wheel Chairs.” In a pre-PC world, there was no hold on how one described disabled people, I note.
Another issue of Petersen’s, this one from August, 1878, has this ad for a truss, looking like something of a cross between the Inquisition tortures and a chastity belt. I guess hernia surgery was not yet developed.

A second issue of Scribner’s, from October 1880, has this delightful ad for a bicycle. Imagine! Riding 1404 miles in 6 days—standing up! My legs ache just thinking of it. And there’s an ad for Vaseline, still with us today, but, look, in those days it made hair grow when nothing else would and was good for pimples, too! But even better is Cocoaine (sic) that prevents hair from falling, softens the hair, soothes irritated scalps and cures dandruff.  Wow. There must’ve been an awful lot of addicts going around with terrific hair.
Over in the UK in April, 1909, in a magazine called Our Home, we see our second corset, the Kosybak.  It had no back lacing or back opening, nor hard, unyielding dangerous busks-it had come to "stay"!  Get it? They don’t tell you how a woman would get into it, but there was a free book which I guess explained everything. Also in this issue was an ad for Valentine’s Extract, which seems to be some extract of walnut for dying hair. And you could get a free bottle to try…
Finally, from Sept. 22, 1917, (during WWI) the Literary Digest shows us that a few products still available today were around then. Although Campbells bought Franco-American in 1915, the logo is still around, though maybe not with a label claiming beef broth is for children and invalids.
Scott tissue is still around (although difficult to find in pandemic times) & hopefully has still ‘never been used before.’
Have a look at The Comptometer, an adding machine they claim is easy enough for a woman to use, thereby saving companies tons of money in paying men! If the men would have been paid $75 a week, one can only imagine what the women were paid.
Genco, a cutlery company, was making razors for the troops, the only ad I spotted  to mention the war.
Did you know there were dishwashers in 1917? No, not the husband of the house; I’m talkin’ electric dishwashers which washed your dishes in five minutes!  My own takes over two hours so maybe they were better then.
And last but certainly not least, we have Lastbestos Roof Tile—fireproof! And as we were later to discover, a whole lot more…
I wonder if in years to come people will think of our current advertisements with the same amazement?

My own HWR does not contain any of these fabulous items, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it just as much! It’s getting some great reviews so why not mosey on over to your favorite site:
iBooks on app

Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family's Wyoming ranch, only to find there's still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.
Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.
When the two meet, it's an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what's right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?

RECIPE FOR DISASTER by Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

 I am the least organized person I know. Please don’t flinch, but this colorful disaster is my much-loved and well-used box of recipes. I’ve tried dividers, color coded index cards, even a binder with plastic sleeves.  Eventually they all turn into this kind of jumble, so somewhere along the line, I gave up.

 As I poke through looking for a specific recipe, I know if it’s scribbled on a post-it, handwritten on an index card, torn from a newspaper or glossy magazine, or most recently, printed on 8 ½ x 11 paper from the internet.  I can visualize what I’m looking for and usually (not always) find it quite easily. I have handwritten recipes from my no-longer-with-us mother-in-law, and friends I have not seen in years. Every recipe has a story—where it came from and why it made it to the “keeper” box.

 I enjoy thumbing through and finding recipes I had forgotten about, although I do get frustrated when a recipe hides and I have to look through twice to find it.   

 Which made me wonder about women in the old West.  Did they write down recipes or keep them in their heads?  Not everyone was literate.  Were recipes verbally passed from mother to daughter, containing a pinch of this and a handful of that? I’ve seen some old-time recipes, and it’s obvious the cook had to be flexible depending on what was readily available.

As a child, I remember eating my grandmother’s turkey stuffing and asking her how she made it.

          “I just got it out of my head, dear.”

          To which my father replied, “If you keep taking the stuffing out of your head every year, Mother, pretty soon there will be nothing left.”

 I don’t talk a lot about food and cooking in my books, so was pleasantly surprised to learn that Percy, my hero in HOPE is quite a cook, with an array of spices collected during his travels. I love it when the characters surprise me this way.

 Percival Bloom is a much-loved secondary character from the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers series, and readers insisted he deserved his own HEA.

HOPE, Book 1 of Widows of the Wild West, launches a new series that grew from the previous one, and contains cross-over characters.  

           Percy turned to Hope impulsively.  “Would you like to come for supper tonight?”

          “Where?  Out to your treasure-hunting site?”

          “Silly, Hope,” Percy said indulgently.  “I recently purchased a house here in town.”

          “You own a home?  And you cook?”

          He gave a modest smile.  “I have always believed no matter what I undertake, I am honor bound to do it well.”

          “Of course you do,” Hope said.  “Might I guess you found time in your travels to train with some of the more famous chefs around the world?”

          “A lesson or two, here and there,” Percy said.  “I’ll see if Laura and Brody Mason are free to join us.  Brody is the surrogate big brother of the Mason clan, and was recently elected town mayor.  You’ll like Laura, his wife.” 

          “That sounds very nice,” Hope said.  “I don’t cook much, but is there something I could contribute?”

          “Not a thing.  I’ll call for you at the hotel around half-six.”

          Percy left her in the hotel lobby after their tour, along with the distinct impression he didn’t want to be alone at his house with her.  Hence the impromptu dinner party.

          Despite that, she was curious to see the place Percy called home and meet at least some of the people here who had drawn Percy back into their midst.  She was quite certain the quest for the missing ship of black pearls was only part of the attraction.

 HOPE releases on September 22nd and is available for preorder.    

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Funny Cowboy Sayings by Rhonda Frankhouser

While researching my latest Western Romance, I happened on to some great Cowboy Sayings I'd like to share.

Western writers are always looking for something authentic, and funny to add to their stories, so check out these great lists I found at

Cowboy Wisdom and Humor

Ever since a man rode a horse, there has been cowboy wisdom. Enjoy these funny cowboy sayings:
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.

  • An onion can make people cry; but, there's never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.

  • Any cowboy can carry a tune. The trouble comes when he tries to unload it.

  • Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.

  • Don't worry about bitin' off more'n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger'n you think.

  • Generally, you ain't learnin' nothing when your mouth's a-jawin'.

  • If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya.

  • I took to the life of a cowboy like a horse takes to oats.

  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

  • It's better to keep your mouth shut and look stupid than open it and prove it.

  • If it doesn't seem to be worth the effort it probably isn't.

  • Just 'cause trouble comes visiting doesn't mean you have to offer it a place to sit down.

  • Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back.

  • Nature gave us all something to fall back on, and sooner or later we all land flat on it.

  • The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket

  • The only good reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse.

  • Treat a woman like a racehorse, and she'll never be a nag.

  • There' are two theories to arguin' with a woman. Neither one works.

  • When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.

  • When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

  • We all got pieces of crazy in us, some bigger pieces than others.

  • When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

Things a Cowboy Should Not Do

Here are some words to live by according to cowboys. Some are really good advice and all are funny cowboy sayings.
  • Don't squat with your spurs on.

  • Don't let your yearnings get ahead of your earnings.

  • Don't dig for water under the outhouse.

  • Don't go in if you don't know the way out.

  • Don't mess with something that ain't bothering you.

  • Never drive black cattle in the dark.

  • Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.

  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.

  • Never ask how stupid someone is 'cause they'll turn around and show you.

  • Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.

  • Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

Horse Quotes and Sayings

What would a cowboy, or cowgirl, for that matter, be without his or her horse? Is it even possible to be a cowboy without a horse? Here are some funny sayings about horses.

  • If you get thrown from a horse, you have to get up and get back on, unless you landed on a cactus; then you have to roll around and scream in pain.

  • A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.

  • If you climb in the saddle, be ready for the ride.

  • The horse stopped with a jerk-- and the jerk fell off!

  • When in doubt, let your horse do the thinkin'.

  • Speak your mind, but ride a fast horse.

Cowboys have a way of looking at things a little differently than the rest of us. Their wisdom is simpler and more down to Earth.