Setting Up an Army Field Kitchen

Army Kitchen

Typical U.S. Army Kitchen

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Unlike the Navy, the U.S. Army had developed an official cookbook for the use of army cooks. In addition to recipes, the cookbook had a lot of other advice. Below is a section decribing how to set up a basic field kitchen.

The article:


Each compâny should have its own kitchen on flank of, and in line with, its row of tents. The simplest kitchen consists of a trench dug in the direction parallel with the wind, of such width that the kettle, when placed on it, does not project beyond it more than an inch on each side; its depth should be 12 inches at the end from which the wind is blowing, and continue this depth for 4 feet, decreasing then gradually to 3 inches at the opposite end, where a space must be left equal to the breadth of the trench, to serve as a chimney. The fire is lit at the end where the trench is deep; it should not extend beyond 3 or 4 feet up the trench. The kettles are placed touching one another; dry sods should be used to stop up the chinks made by the roundness of the kettles, so that the space under them may form a flue. It is advisable to pile up sod, or, with stones and carth, to erect a chimney of at least one foot in height at the end farthest from the fire. All grass around the fireplaces should be cut to prevent accidents from fire.

If the command halts for more than one day, these kitchens are susceptible of great improvement; the chimney can be made of mud, or twigs and mud, and the draft may be increased by using short pieces of hoop iron as bars, stretched across the trench to support a filling in of clay around each kettle; or, in other words, to make a regular place for each kettle into which it will fit exactly, so that its position may be changed. As the day following the wind may change to an exactly opposite direction, a similar trench must be dug in continuation of the former one, the same chimney being used. In this manner one chimney will serve for trenches cut to suit the wind blowing from all four quarters. The openings from these trenches into the chimney must all be closed with sod, except the one in use. In some places, where bricks or stones suitable to the purpose are to be had, it is better to construct these kitchens on the ground instead of below the surface.

In well-wooded countries, two logs side by side and parallel to the direction of the wind, the fire being kindled between them, make a good kitchen. In such places fuel is no object, so the construction of chimneys can be dispensed with, and the kettles hung from a stick resting at each end on a forked upright.


 Lay down two green poles (5 by 6 inches thick, and 2 feet long) 2 or 3 feet apart, with notches in the upper side about 10 to 12 inches apart. Let the ground be leveled meantime.

Take two more green poles (6 by 8 inches thick, and 4 feet long) and lay them in the notches. Procure a good supply of dry wood, bark, brush, or chips, and start your fire on the ground between the poles. The air will circulate under and through your fire, and the poles are just the right distance apart to set your camp kettle, frying pan, or coffee pot on.

 If you re going to cook several days in this  place, it will pay you to jut up a crane, This is built as follows: Cut two green posts (2 inches thick and 3 feet long), which drive into the ground a foot from either end of yóur fire, and then split the top end of each with the ax (unless they be forked). Then cut another green pole, of same size, and long enough to reach from one of these posts to tho other; flatten the ends and insert them in the splits. The  posts should be of such height that when this pole is passed through the bail of the camp kettle, the latter will swing just clear of the fire. Other cooking utensils may be used as required.


 Particular attention is directed to the cleanly method of burning all kitchen refuse in the camp fire; it will not affect the cooking. Burn everything - coffee grounds, parings, bones, meats, even old tin cans, for if thrown out anywhere, even buried, they attract flies. Tin cans are flytraps - burned and cleaned out of fire daily they are harmless. Fires should be cleaned of burnt refuse once a day, as refuse burned will not attract flies; Cleanliness is a good doctor. The  burning of refuse, not burying it, is a splondid rule, especially in a large command or permanent camp."


Manual for Army Cooks. (Washington; Government Printing Office, 1896) 209-211.

Farm and Fireside. Vol. XXII, No. 4, November 15,1898 (photo of Army kitchen).

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