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Old 3rd November 2018, 05:39 PM   #1
Jens Nordlunde
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Default How to feed an Indian army?

I am now and again wondering about the TONS of food an army needed. Lets take a medium army – 30,000 men on horse, 60,000 men on foot, 500 elephants, camels, bullocks, donkies and all the followers (often said to be of the same number as the army). I dont know how much an elephant or a horse eats and drinks each day – but it must be a lot – not to speak about the soldiers and the followers. Think also when a fort was sieged, most of them had limited room for storring a lot of food, and what about the water?
I am at the moment reading Jonathan Scott’s book about Deccan (the part Ferishta wrote), and what seldom is mentioned in other book is mentioned here, that the armies got ‘intelligence’ about the other armies – so they had a lot of spies. Also that it often happened that one army raided the other armies supplies – that must have been a disaster. When you have a lot of elephants and bullocks the moving speed must have been very limited so to move from Delhi to Deccan would have taken quite some time.
To day I read that a certain camp in Deccan (about 1450 AD) covered ten miles – just imagine to get an urgent message from one end to another.


Ok I have cheated – I have Goggled. An elephant eats about 200-600 pounds pr day, and drinks about 50 gallons of water. A horse eats 15-20 pounds of hey pr day, and drinks 5-10 gallons of water pr day. This may be understated, as Google speaks of wild animals (I think), and working animals would have a need for more food – not to speak about the camels, bullocks, donkies, the soldiers and the followers. The soldiers and the followers would need maybe half a gallon of water and at least half a pound of food each day - or more likely one pound of food.

Add to this that an elephant moves at a speed of 15 miles pr day - likely depending on the quality of the roads.
You may say that both armies had the same problems, which is true – but still.
Both armies must have had real problems with their delivery lines if they were cut.
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Old 3rd November 2018, 06:16 PM   #2
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Rather impressive situations indeed, Jens.
... In a way that battles depended so much in logistics that probably many a times they would be dismissed due to food (or other) shortages before actual contact took place; or to consider that raiding one another to capture their supplies was in itself a battle. Also perhaps to consider that stocks kept on being restored as marching armies passed by villages and helped themselves to local barns.
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Old 3rd November 2018, 07:14 PM   #3
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Yes Fernando, but imagine such an army passing by villages. A single village would not have been able to feed an army - and when you consider at which speed such an army moved - they would only have passed a few villages a day.
Not to speak about the early south Indian armies, said to be about one million people. I dont know if this was with or without the folleowers, but it does not matter - the amount of food and water was enormous.
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Old 3rd November 2018, 08:15 PM   #4
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Perhaps our present concept of an army is different than it was by then. We imagine a column marching constantly, only stopping for resting. Maybe those armies were more a huge crowd, not in a continuous marching but, a mass of people that stayed in a spot for a long while, enough to plant and crop their own supplies, restore their ammunitins and, coming next season, move again; no rush to meet with the enemy, as a modern army does.
I don't know how serious is the mentioning of armies of a million people; you are in a better position to judge on that, by what you read about it. By the XV-XVI centuries things were already more restrict, so to say.
In the writings of Alvaro Velho, who was with Vasco da Gama on his first voyage to India (Calecut-1497) he described the various local armies as comprehending respectively:
Cael in Calegrande. Its King could gather 4000 footmen and 100 elephants.
Chomandarla in Coromandel. ( of Christians) 100 000 footmen.
Ceylon. 4000 men and many war elephants, and also those for sale.
Camatara in Sumatra. 4000 footmen, 1000 on horse and 300 war elephants.
Xarnauz in Sião. 20 000 footmen, 4 000 on horse and 400 war elephants
Tenacar in Tenasserim ( of Christians with a Christian King), with a good wind, 40 days away from Calecute. 10 000 footmen and 500 war elephants.
Bengala. 20 000 footmen and 10 000 on horse.
Melaca. 20 000 men, scilicet: 10 00 on horse and the others on foot, and 400 war elephants.
So comparing to those early armies, these forces could be fed by the snack bar around the corner, so to say ... and probably they didn't use to march for such immense distances.
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Old 3rd November 2018, 10:25 PM   #5
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You are right Fernando, It was not a marching 'stream' of soldiers. A king asked his supporters to send armies, and so they would arrive in 'drops' so to say - if they arrived at all.
About an army of one million, I would say that maybe it was a 'wee bit' over estimated. Anyway they could muster a lot of soldiers when needed - not all well trained - but still armed. If they themselves had the arms, or if they were armed from the royal armoury is not quite certain, but at least some must have been armed from the armoury.
This would, of course, mean that a lot of the 'soldiers' had no battle training what soever - thay were armed, but that was it.

Now here it is interesting to notice, that some left the fight and went home during the battle, while others went over to the 'enemy' during the fight - for several reasons


Now if you read the article Saadat Khan Bahadur the First Nawab of Oudh in A Passion for Indian Arms, you will see, that he had an army so big that the Mughul ruler was afraid of him, and only the Nizam of Deccan could match him.
But at that time, the armies seem to have been a lot smaller than under the very early rulers of south India - maybe a tenth.
However, when you read that someone who had won a battle had thousands slaughtered and their heads put into stables - then I think one gets an idea of what religious wars wer in India at the time.
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Old 4th November 2018, 02:11 PM   #6
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I often catch myself underestimating the magnitude of wars on the Indian subcontinent. It takes me some time to recall the size of their armies and the sheer number of conflicts here and there. And then I get goosebumps....

Perhaps only WWII and Taiping Civil War can hold the candle, but in India major wars were virtually an unceasing process over centuries.

And Jens' question is a great one: armies march on their stomachs. They must have had huge intendant services that had to be strong fighting units at the same time. Cutting off their supply lines would have stopped the invasion dead in its tracks. Russians did it to Napoleon and Ataturk to the Greeks.
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Old 4th November 2018, 03:38 PM   #7
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I am reading Jonathan Scott's book.

Ferishta's History of Dekkan from The First Mahummedan Conquests, with A Continuation from other Native Writers, of The Events in That Part of India, to the Reduction of the last Monarchs by the Emperor Aulumgeer Aurungzebe, also The Regins of his Successors in the Empire of Hindoostan to the Present Day, and The History of Bengal from the Accession of Aliverdee Khan to The Year 1780.
The book covers about 450 years, and there are wars all over the place. Not only between two rulers, but most of the other rulers are also fighting.
The armise are from about 15,000 to 80,000 horse and foot soldiers sometimes more, plus merchants, wifes, children, water bearers, cooks and, and, and.
These wars have been going on before the book was written, and after it was finished.
One of the Sultans in Deccan once got offended at something a Hindu ruler said or did, and said he would kill 100,000 Hindus, and so he did.
What did they do with thousands of dead people Muslims and Hindus? To burry them would have been impossible, to leave them to rot would hardly have been an option, so they would have had to burn them, but from where did they get all the wood it would have taken?
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Old 4th November 2018, 06:36 PM   #8
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I would guess that wood was not such a problem, in a Sub-Continent full of forests. More impressive is the number of people involved in these confrontations, even taking into account that some figures would be inflated by authors and that, battle casualties were not necessarily all soldiers, but civilians by colateral causes; you can read in chronicles that, when a leader won a battle after having been previously defeated, ordered his men to massacre all local civilians as a revenge bonus ... and also as a side effect during the loot.
I have read once (pity i don't recall where), that it took days (days) to cross the area where the laying dead stood, after a determined battle.
But despite these figures and scenes are astonishing, one ougth to believe in them. I have a book open in front of me where the author mentions that, comparing to the 'little' battles the Portuguese fought in India, in the wars for Delhi fought by local rulers, for one, casualties could be counted by the hundred thousand, even millions !!!. Each of the five times that Delhi was condemned to death, more human beings were slaugthered than those of Portugal period population.
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Old 4th November 2018, 09:28 PM   #9
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Fernando, you would be right about the wood, as they had a lot of it in India - but newly felled wood would be no good in this case - as it would not be dry wood, and that is what you would need for burning so many people.
Hindus were known for burning their dead people, but what about the Muslims?
I agree with you that a lot of the slain people were not soldiers. If you believe only part of the numbers mentioned over three or four centiries, beling killed in wars the number it very big - and I think it may have ben even bigger as we dont know about all the wars going on, bigger and smaller - what we hear about is when the big rulers go to war.
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Old 5th November 2018, 01:59 PM   #10
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I don't know Jens but, burning the dead after a battle is not properly a religious ritual, but a need to avoid epidemic situations. If rulers had some common sense, they would (both faiths) think of a practical solution. Maybe burying the dead was not an option to exclude; having so many men at disposal, there would be enough to be selected undertakers. Who knows whether there are period written descriptions on this subject ...
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Old 5th November 2018, 04:41 PM   #11
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While reading Jonathan Scott's book quoting sources wirting about the history, but also about the present time - 15th - 16th century, I have seen mentioned no where, what they did with all the dead people.
Anyway we are now quite a bit away from the subject - my fault sorry.


Agriculture at the time was not so intensively done as now, so what they could get from each village must have been as a water drop on a hot stone. Their needs must have been brought from far away - corn, foot, hay, water and whatever.


A funny thing is, that when reading the book I have only once read about a Sultan keeping a part of the army in reserve should it be needed. I have earlier read that the Mughals did so, but I have never seen it mentioned more than once. There are mentions about who is leading the right wing, the left wing and the centre - but no mentioning about who is leading the reserve.


In one of my books I have the battle formation used by the Mughals.
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Old 5th November 2018, 05:58 PM   #12
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From what i gather as implicit from reading chronicles, depending on how far or how intense is going to be the battle, the need to prepare things requires corresponding antecipation. We may be talking months... several of them, at times. And if a determined ruler leaves with a constant potential of engaging in war, he will surely keeps his (huge) barns full. Apart from perishable goods, he will amass tons of supplies proportional to his bellicist intentions. Same goes for his arsenal efforts; you know, big battle thoughts, big everything else.
I take it that men in charge of army reserves do not have such high rank as those leading battle wings; maybe this is why they are not mentioned. Although men 'doing nothing' are hard to keep with discipline, and their leaders, in a way, must be tough enough to keep them obedient, avoid their desertion and all that. And after all, those men need to be fed as those in action ... although maybe a bit less, as they are not consuming so much energy.
I realize that, something else that doesn't come (often ?) narrated in books, are the (staff) managers that rulers must have to handle all these logistics; you know, tons of food ingredients coming and going, improvised kitchens, hundreds (thousands) of recipients, queues for the meal (certainly organized by shifts), altercations among men and ... in the end ... whoo's going to feed the animals.
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Old 5th November 2018, 09:21 PM   #13
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Fernando, yes it is true that the preparations took months. Sometimes up to three months.
This was not all about foot, but to gather an army took time, as you had to write to all your 'friends' and ask them to send whatever of armed men they had - wait for their answer or their arrival - sometimes without any luck.
Part of the army were veterans, but a lot of it did not have a clue about fighting, they turned up to get whatever money they could.


What I find frightening is, that the night before a battle, part of the army could either go home or go over to the enemy, which could also happen during a battle - so you could never be sure of how big your army was. Bribes were, of course, part of this, and a number of other things were also used like jealousy between the different parts of, especial the Mughal court, but also at other courts under Mughal control, as at least four groups tried to get control.
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Old 6th November 2018, 03:15 AM   #14
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Interesting conversation!

Here's an overview of how the dietary needs of soldiers were met over the ages. Very focused on the west, but some applicable practices to armies anywhere.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/...ing-the-troops/
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Old 6th November 2018, 02:59 PM   #15
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Great link, shaide !
... and a critical condition to bear in mind; the number of men to be fed.
If you have a real (huge) army you will hard manage (or even intend) to serve them gourmet dishes as a diet. Besides, i don't think it is easy to cook and serve food to (several) thousands with a set point flavour. Not to think that nourishment Intendents could pocket their share when fixing with suppliers the (mediocre) quality of raw materials. Also cooks could be driven to not through into the pots the required quantity of ingredients;a few barley corns (period measure) less per portion would make them rich in a glimpse. Both these schemes and cooks very ofen being drafted and not complying with the minimum requirements, would make the men have on the table (when there was one) some 'washed out' stuff their superiors would hypocritically call food; Napoleon was only a follower.
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Old 6th November 2018, 03:52 PM   #16
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Yes it is an interesting link Shayde. When I was in the army, a 'century' ago, I remember the C-rations, I dont remember any A or B-rations.
Without knowing it, I would think each Indian soldier, at the time, cooked for himself, or they did it in groups, or their wifes did it.
Must have taken a lot of wood to cook for so many people. Yes there were a lot of woods in India, but in some places there were big deserts - no water, no wood, no foot - no nothing, but a big army and a lot of sand.
If you found a well you could drink the water - and hope it was not poisoned.
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Old 6th November 2018, 05:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Yes it is an interesting link Shayde. When I was in the army, a 'century' ago, I remember the C-rations, I dont remember any A or B-rations....

In my army time 'half century' ago, when we were out in the field we were given ration 20, which was miserable, and later on they introduced ration 30, rather more decent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
...Without knowing it, I would think each Indian soldier, at the time, cooked for himself ...

Speaking of which ...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3550905/
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Old 7th November 2018, 04:55 PM   #18
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Fernando - I may not be remembering correctly, as it could be half a century ago since I was in the Army.
Interesting article, although I think that the logistic then made it a bit different - the foot as well.
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Old 9th November 2018, 04:21 AM   #19
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Hi All,

A rather interesting topic for discussion and we can only "try" to guess the situations of the times in which these wars happened.

I can cite the information from the 1660's when ShahistaKhan who was the uncle of Aurangzeb marched to the Deccan to vanquish Shivaji.

It is documented that he had two sets of his tents etc. and while he was staying at one place the other would be on march and set up at the next point of staying.

Apparently his army marched a mere 10 miles odd a day and took months together to reach from Delhi to Pune where he established his base. Also, on his way the local rulers/feudal Lords joined his army on the instructions/directions from the Mughal court as they were also the subsidiaries of the Mughal Emperor and had to do the bidding of the Emperor.

Large cooking pots (Hundis) were set up on camel drawn carriages in which "Biryani" was cooked while on the move and soldiers were fed. in fact, Biryani was preferred as it was easy to cook and could last for days.

Also, the villages and chiefs enroute had instructions of providing all the necessary materials and food grains etc. to the marching armies.

This army was about 100,000 strong and had heavy cannons, elephants, camels, horses and lot of non-combat individuals like family members, cooks, dancers etc.

on the contrary the Maratha armies had only horsemen and infantry and carried dry rations to make flat breads and rice and ate it with assorted meat or vegetables.

However, most invading armies from Delhi to Deccan resorted to plundering and forcefully taking things away on their way from the villages and cities they passed through.

Hopefully this will help get some insights on the way armies moved in those times.
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Old 9th November 2018, 11:27 AM   #20
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What a splendid input, Bhushan. I am certain that Jens will appreciate it.
Many answers to questions that were yet unanswered or passive of uncertainty.
Also worthy of note is that, in cases where the answer was not one of either solutions ventured but actually both practices having occurred.
Very good material indeed; thanks a lot for sharing.
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Old 9th November 2018, 04:30 PM   #21
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Bhushan, very interesting that they were cooking while travelling - I did not know this.


In 1472(?) it did not rain in Deccan for two years, and many people and animals died, while other moved to other parts of India. Then the rain came, at last, but then there was hardly any people left to take care of the agriculture.
Should an army decide to move through such a country, it would mean very long lines of delivery.
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Old 9th November 2018, 09:48 PM   #22
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In context, some loose notes extracted from Mughals at War: Babur, Akbar and the Indian Military Revolution, 1500 - 1605 A Dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy By Andrew de la Garza.

... While at rest ... The soldiers were fed as units in large field canteens by a small army of cooks who were led by a mir bakawal, or Master of the Kitchen....
... A special supplementary tax was assessed on all agricultural holdings, and the proceeds from this fee, often including payments of foodstuffs in kind, were used to stock thanas, or supply depots distributed throughout the Empire. These supplies could be used in response to civilian disasters like droughts and floods, but they were most commonly used to provision armies encamped nearby or passing through en route to the frontier. Keeping all of the Emperor’s men fed required extensive planning and attention to detail. The “Master of the Kitchen” was not simply a ceremonial post...
... At the beginning of every quarter, they… collect whatever they think will be necessary… sukhdas rice from Bahraich, dewzirah rice from Gwaliar, jinjin rice from Rajori and Nímlah… ducks, water-fowls, and certain vegetables from Kashmir… The sheep, goats, fowls and ducks… are fattened by the cooks...
... A place is also told off as a kitchen garden, that there may be a continual supply of fresh greens...
... Of course the quality of fare enjoyed in peacetime and by the highest ranking officers was not always available to ordinary troops. During extended operations they often had to rely on much more basic iron rations. As one observer noted during adifficult campaign, “the horseman as well as the infantry soldier supports himself with a little flour kneaded with water and black sugar, of which they make small balls, and in the evening… they make khichari, which consists of rice cooked with grain… in water with a little salt.”...
...while the Mughal army may have been in some sense a “nomadic” institution, it had evolved far beyond its distant tribal origins or even the ad-hoc, patchwork organization of the early days under Babur. It was an army of “professional soldiers depending on the logistical and financial
assistance of professional transporters, bankers and merchants.” For this reason it rarely had to rely on foraging and plunder...

All this for a universe of more than 100,000 horse soldiers in their front line forces and as many as 400,000 with the inclusion of allies, local militias, and mercenaries.

.
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Old 11th November 2018, 02:30 PM   #23
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Fernando, thank you for the link, it looks very interesting, and I have, of course, had a look at chapter 6. Will read it closely when I have better time.
It is interesting to read that Babur and Akbar, even then knew how important it was to keep the soldiers well fet. The section about the medecine is also very interesting, and was one which I would have taken up later - but now we have the answer.
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Old Yesterday, 05:37 AM   #24
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Assembling and moving any army anywhere is't so much a matter of determining what supplies one needs to keep everyone and everything happy and healthy. Then supplying a little more than that.

It's more about figuring on the bare minimum and usually having a fair bit less than that. It's not about how much a healthy elephant usually eats and drinks per day so much as it is about how long you can march an elephant without that before it bucks and kills it's riders and goes feral. Or how far you can march a man on just enough food and water to keep him uncomfortably moving.

It's also going to be about when to move and when to rest. It might be better to get an early start in the morning while it's still cool, and bring everything to a halt an hour or so after dark. Taking the hottest part of the day to rest and the slimmest hours of the night to sleep.

It's not often that an army moves, fat and well fed. It's usually arduous and not at all good times. The promise of sacking a city and finally having a night wear one eats to their content can push a man that 10 more miles instead of turning back after 30 miles having already been covered.

That's another thing. You spend your supplies early if you can. Keep everyone happy until your too committed to turn back and survive. You get them past the mid point before you wrench down on the rations and they pretty much have to keep going. Just because it's easier to get there and get the thing done than to turn around once past the mid way point.

And places will get sacked as the army moves along. Even their own villages will dread an approaching army that is intended to defend their lands. Because there goes the family farm.

Deciding to mobilize is partly a decision about how much your own people can tolerate before you must call it quits. As well as what you can feasibly accomplish within that narrow window of time. And if those potential victories will return enough on your investment to leave everyone a little better off than they were before it all went down.
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