Life at Fort King

It was a hard life at Fort King.

Life at Fort King would not have been easy for soldiers who were accustomed to a northern climate and more civilized setting. They would have experienced extreme heat and encountered insects and animals they were unfamiliar with. The soldiers’ uniforms were made of wool and therefore not ideal for Florida’s tropical climate. 

Most of the soldiers that died at Fort King died from disease or climate related illness. Livestock and soldiers would have often been sharing spaces; and living conditions would have been unsanitary by any standard. Food rations would have been scarce and alcohol use would have been wide spread and excessive.

A letter excerpt from Samuel Forry, Surgeon, U.S. Army to Lt. J.W. Phelps on September 26, 1837 summed up the situation related to daily life at the fort:

“Nearly the whole garrison is, at this moment, drunk. The Catalonia has, of course, arrived, and a large supply of kindred drinks by the wagon train. This post has become quite unhealthy. There are now forty cases on the sick-list, mostly intermittent fever.”

FOOD RATIONS While there would have been a set food ration for each soldier at Fort King, food supplies were dependent on shipments coming by wagons on roads frequently raided. Food would also have been sourced locally but this would end up also being unreliable. Soldiers received what they could get and often supplemented what they did not get from the local sutler, or by trading with civilians or the Seminole.

In 1820 the soldier rations were as follows:

• ¾ pounds of Pork OR 1¼ pounds of Fresh or Salted Beef OR 12 ounces of Bacon

• 18 ounces of Bread or Flour OR 12 ounces of Hard Bread OR 1¼ pounds of Corn Meal

• 1 Gill of Whiskey

• To every 100 rations: 4 pounds of soap, 1¼ pounds of candles, 2 quarts of salt, 4 quarts of vinegar and 12 quarts of Peas or Beans.

In 1825 the ration was slightly adjusted; instead of 12 quarts of peas or beans to 100 rations, it was 8 quarts.

In 1832, the whiskey portion of the ration was stopped due to drunkenness, although spirits sold by the Sutler as an extra allowance was still allowed.

In 1834 the President substituted coffee and sugar for whiskey.

In 1838, an Act of Congress increased the ration to six pounds of coffee and twelve pounds of sugar per 100 rations.

The diet was not a healthy one. The only fresh foods or vegetables would have been grown on site or traded with Native Americans or settlers.

In the 1800’s, Florida was a hostile and difficult environment.

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