The “Rations Row” of November 25, 1864

On the morning of November 25, 1864, the 31st North Carolina’s commissary sergeant drew rations for his regiment’s 295 men. Each man was allowed a pound of flour and 1/3 pound of meat per day. But this particular day, the meat “was in a very filthy condition being covered with dirt and ashes.” The regiment’s cooks had to clean and trim the meat, losing about 11 pounds of the ration in the process.

The soldiers had had enough. While the regiment was receiving coffee and sugar, they tolerated the scanty provision of meat and flour. But the coffee ration had been eliminated. And the regiment had only received two rations of soap in the past month. It was time for the men to take action.

That evening, seven NCO’s and 60 privates of the 31st North Carolina attacked the commissary stores. They were accompanied by six men of the 51st North Carolina: McThomas Lewis, John Nealy, Zephaniah Redd, Christopher King, James Ellis, and Alfred Stanley. The looters engaged in what brigade commissary Major R. S. Gage termed a “mutiny” and a “riot.” Captain James Lippitt, commanding the Fifty-First, referred to the commotion as a “disturbance” and “the ration row.”

No record exists of what action, if any, brigade commander Colonel Hector McKethan took to discipline the rioters.

Two days after the ration row, Major Gage issued turnips and cabbages to the men. Still angry about the ration row, Gage penned an angry letter to McKethan explaining that the turnips were not a result of the mutiny, and he wanted the men to understand that their unruly behavior had not resulted in an improvement in the daily ration. You can read that letter HERE.

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