|Icelandic traditional foods|
This lengthy preamble was a way of getting to some 16th century ration lists I found for English armies sent to fight in Ireland. Ireland was considered a very hard duty and had very low survival rates, sort of a mix of Vietnam and the Eastern front but with far more rain.We should assume that the diet was enough to sustain the men though was probably just enough to do that, armies are not known for overfeeding men, 16th century armies also suffered from serious supply difficulties and dishonesty at every level. The following should be seen as an "ideal" ration, it ran for a long time and was repeated so was probably satisfactory. Also note the absence of alcohol which suggests a complete picture isn't being given as alcohol was drunk in large quantities throughout this period.
Per day men were issued 1.5 lbs of bread or 1lb of biscuit, butter at 1/2 lb for two days and 1/4lb for two more, supplemented by porridge one day and pease the next. Cheese on two days at 1lb 2lb of salt meat one day a week or fresh meat at 2.5 lb or pork or bacon at 1lb.
calorie and nutrition counter doesn't "do" pease so we'll double up the porridge to 140 calories per week. With meat one day a week we have a weekly total of 26525 calories for a low 3787 calories per day. With meat (salt pork) every day gives 54917 per week or 7845 per day closer to levels for Irish farmers in the 19th century. Modern British army rations contain about 4000 calories while the (in)famous K-ration provided less at about 3000 calories. K-rations resulted in malnutrition in troops who relied on them for the bulk of their nutrition and modern military rations are not intended for long term use. So it would seem that the additional meat ration would be required to keep a 16th century army on the move and in reasonable health. With the quantity of grain a salt meat ration would potentially result in scurvy, fresh meat or local vegetables would prevent this. Given that this food ration weighs in at 15.5 lb per day, with a large army of 3000 men it would take over 23 tons of food A DAY to keep them fed to this level.Even a less exceptional and smaller army of 1483 men such as that which faced Shane O'Neill in 1569 would require over 11 tons of food a day. This figure though minus Kern does not account for the quantities of powder and other materials of war, let alone fodder for horses.While figures lower than this would be both likely and possibly sustainable on the short term much lower figures would seriously affect the army's ability to function. The Minnesota Starvation experiment had a starvation ration of 1500 or so calories a day which resulted in major adverse effects in the subject's performance and even mental health.
|Irish cooking without pots|
We must not be too quick to dismiss the cross-country abilities of Gaelic armies, the English could not bring Irish armies to battle and looking at maps or historical reports immediately impresses upon one the shocking speed and manoeuvrability of Gaelic forces. Montroses' famous move to Inverlochy over avalanching mountains being a great example of a feat it being almost impossible to imagine a conventional army performing, feats repeated on an almost weekly basis by the army taken into England by Prince Charles in 1745 during a harsh 18th century winter.
Succesful Irish viceroys did not commit to the field without specific objectives but with control of the seas and later in Scotland Wade's roads some measure of control was obtained through forts positioned at strategic locations Derry, Inverlochy etc. Burt states clearly that forests and woods were cleared from roadsides to prevent ambush in Scotland a tactic that pre-empts American defoliation programs in Vietnam. Yet even with garrisoned forts it appears that direct control over large areas of Ireland or the highlands was considered impossible and indeed attempts to supply Inverlochy by land were stopped due to the risks involved.