In a previous question we determined that to survive on an alien planet, we'd be heavily reliant on stuff we brought with us. Whatever plants we could convince to grow that we happened to have on hand, plus "processed" foods using yeasts.

Let's assume:

  • We have access to Bread Yeast, since the original ship had a half-decent kitchen.
  • We have access to Beer Yeast, since someone was almost certainly brewing something on board, legal or not.
  • We have access to a limited number of Earth foods that were preserved and able to be planted. Not an extensive list, but things like tomatoes, potatoes, and the like could likely be grown. This article sheds some light on what might or might not grow.
  • We have access to wagons and carts and some form of beast of burden for transporting things. More along the capabilities of an ox than a horse - Not something that would be used for personal transport, but good for moving loads.

So, we have ourselves fed, but we can't go out into the wild and pick something, or hunt something, and eat it. While they might not be toxic they're not going to be nutritious or sustaining.

It's been a century or two since we've made landfall, and we've regressed back to a "Middle Ages," before firearm, technology level. We still have writing, although literacy has dropped. We never really dropped much below middle ages, as we were able to make do with what we had to get this far. We've grown, and split into factions, and then nations, and as nations do, they war.

How do we keep ourselves supplied? One of the primary methods of resupply in such a time period was to forage and hunt, both of which are pretty much out. Sure, you can steal stuff from the enemy, but that will only get you so far - Especially since they know this and can adopt a scorched earth policy.

What sort of logistical wrangling would be needed to keep an army in the field under such conditions, and what sort of "Maximum Range" would they have, if any? Are there rations that would be sufficiently nutritious that would also keep for long enough? New addition: Could a network of ships and waterways be sufficient, especially if the civilization were built around such areas? There is historic precidence, especially for farming - A significant factor in this world.

As a note: I'm not necessarily looking for how warfare would change (That would be the scope of another question), more for how the logistics of keeping an army at a distance would change

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    $\begingroup$ Couple of points. Foraging and hunting as main source of wood is pre-bronze age. Mediëval era humanity farmed their food. Either by growing cropse or herding cattle.Also what part of the middle ages are your referring? Late middle ages used firearms, mostly cannons. Reading was on the rise now King James bible for example was translated to english, langauge of peasants, at the very end of the middle ages. THat very notion implies more readers then the nobility and the clergy. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 18 '17 at 9:53
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    $\begingroup$ Not foraging for food as a community - foraging for food specifically to support an army, which happened up until humanity learned how to can goods - and even a bit after. Also, I did specify before firearms. For a date range, about 1000-1300ish, with changes. $\endgroup$ – Andon Mar 18 '17 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ You should really check out Robert W. Fogel, Railroads and American Economic Growth or reviews for example this eh.net/book_reviews/…; Basically canals/rivers and ships could have led to a similar growth rate in the US as with the railroad. $\endgroup$ – John_H Mar 19 '17 at 2:03

Annoyingly, you don't. Armies stopped foraging because our technology increased. Canned food was a major breakthrough that allowed us to ship large amounts of food over large distances.

Without access to light long term storage you're bound by either a supply chain from city to the front or you need to forage what you can. With the first I mean you need a continous stream between your frontline and the city that produces your rations. Very very vulnerable to disruption.

You could probably support a squad with a wagon of supplies. Based on what your beast of burden can carry you can determine the maximum amount of supplies it can carry. Divide that by the amount of men in the squad and you got how many days they can be fed, Extrapolate that with how many miles they can march in a day. Half that for the return trip and you got your range of operations.

As Kisili mentioned herding is a way out. Adopt a system similar to the mongol horde. That would limit your speed to the speed of the herd animal. But what sustains these animals?

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    $\begingroup$ Since we're coming from a high-tech background with at least some time to research, canning of a sort might be able to be shoehorned in. $\endgroup$ – Andon Mar 18 '17 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ Well that would greatly extend your range of operations. Mostly because you can stock up before a campaign on vegetables. You would need the metalworkings for the cans though. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 18 '17 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Andon - it will probably help to think of canning as a process, not the metal product. Airtight seals and heat pasteurizing will cover most of the storage requirements... but you can use glass, or ceramics, or stoneware. Tight seals can be made airtight (ish) with application of beeswax or lard or even clay or bread dough baked on. These sorts of stopgaps may not last as long as metal cans, but even if they last a year or so that may be enough for an army (which would need resupply anyway in that time). $\endgroup$ – Megha Mar 19 '17 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Andon Canning can certainly be used. Biggest problem in discovery of canning is not how, but why. Canning was randomly observed to work before discovery of microbes, but that's a a lucky hit. Knowledge of microbes, leads to Pasteurisation as direct, logical extension. While you said your world regressed, I would expect some kind of knowledge to survive, among that knowledge I would expect: boil the water to sanitise, cook the food to kill germs, bathe etc. Awareness of invisible microbes will survive. Heck, if it's been century, there might still be people with pre-regression schooling. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Mar 19 '17 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Andon Airtight storage, and way to remove microbes after or during sealing. Also, look into controlled spoilage. Sauerkraut and sour cucumbers are made by using herbs and salinity levels to make sure only certain strains of bacteria can thrive, and those bacteria spoil food in controlled way giving specific taste, whatever they secrete apart from taste also ensures that nearly nothing else can survive. Sour cucumber jars are NOT pasteurised, but once I had forgotten one (made it myself previous year) sitting open and half full on kitchen table for a month without any adverse effects. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Mar 19 '17 at 4:17

Herding comes to mind, many ancient peoples lived this way. The Mongols drove their herds with them on the way to battle and survived on them even when the earth was scorched in front of them.

So the beast of burden not only carries gear, but is part of the diet and figured into logistics as such. It breeds and multiplies itself as time goes by and it can carry enough seed to plant conquered areas.

A sort of non war example would be Polynesian explorers taking plants that could be cultivated on islands that previously had no food plants. The islanders lived off stores, pigs, dogs and fishing for years sometimes until the crops were enough to take over as a major part of their diets. Breadfruit trees for instances take at least 5 years before they can be harvested. But breadfruit paste fermented and prepared properly can still be eaten 50 years later.

Your army would do much the same, but live off it's stores and herds.

Ox can pull 900kg all day every day, they eat about 11kg (24 pounds) a day, so if managed properly this should be sufficient for quite a long time to carry their own feed, because their numbers would always be dropping as they are consumed. In groups pulling carts this haulage would be a lot more I would think. Although I just got the 24lbs from the internet, no idea how correct that is, but can always supplement their feed with high protein/low volume stuff. They can feed them on straw to fill stomach, and pellets to give the right protein. This is sometimes done with cattle in real life. If the native flora isn't poisonous the ox-like animal could browse on it to fill stomach, and get it's nutrients from pellets. This would increase the length of time they could exist on food they carry dramatically, perhaps indefinitely with intermittent resupply.

If it's a native ox like animal that can live off the local flora, then there is no problem at all supplying your army. They don't need to eat the animal, and one of them can haul 900kg worth of human supplies, more than enough to feed a bunch of men for a long long time. So you just need to work out a good ratio of beasts to men.

A human can eat about 2.5kg of food a day. So basically 1 ox could take a years supply of human food for one person without resupply.

People preserved food before canning, you can look up the different ways. Polynesians fermented and prepared foods that could be stored for 50 years and more. Salted meat, pickled veggies are other ways. Even smoking, drying and storing packed in oil make things last a long time.

An extreme was the Mongols several times ate their prisoners when they didn't have other sources of protein. Such a situation could develop on a World like yours where edible protein is not available outside base environments.

  • $\begingroup$ An excellent idea, if any of the local fauna was nutritious. That was my original aim, at least. Might need to revise. $\endgroup$ – Andon Mar 18 '17 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ If it's a native animal that can live off the flora, then there is no problem at all supplying your army. Your men don't need to eat the animal, and one of them can haul 900kg worth of human supplies, more than enough to feed a bunch of men for a long long time. So you just need to work out a good ratio of beasts to men. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Mar 18 '17 at 17:34

I'm writing this as extension of comments to one of the answers.

So you made planetfall about 100 years ago. You lost infrastructure, and a lot of knowledge, but you still know modern common knowledge, and if life expectancy rose high enough, you still have specialists with pre-fall schooling. Thus, your people know about things like bacteria, virii, atoms, where they come from, nature of light and many others. This makes a lot of things easier.

You need food preservation techniques. Take a look at this wiki page for hints.

As some examples:

You can can your food, just remember to pasteurise it (wiki pretends onlu milk and alcohols are pasteurised, this is not true). Something airtight that can survive high temperature is enough. As a kid, I would assist my mom. She would put whatever it is to be stored into jars, close the lid without twisting tight, put in water and slowly heat the water as to not break the jars. This would both kill the germs, and remove air from inside - hot air expands and escapes, after you pull jars out and twist them tight, under-pressure develops and helps keep them airtight. It also makes it easy to find out if they repressurise - lid will visibly pop showing that jar went bad (either it's not airtight, or it wasn't properly pasteurised - spoilage produces gasses).

You can use things that store easily, like flour and dried meat. Some creativity would be necessary to design mobile bread bakery (or maybe not, but I'm just not aware?), but one of the points of yeasts is to enrich the dough - yeasts produce some important vitamins for themselves, after we let them do it we kill (bake) them and take what they produced for ourselves.

You can salt the food (not very healthy in long term as salt levels need to be truly huge) if you can find source of salt, there's a good reason why salt used to be very expensive in ancient and medieval times - it used to be very important.

You can use controlled spoilage. I'm a big fan of this method, because I love sour cucumbers. Basically, you use bacteria (or fungi) to fight bacteria and fungi. It's a traditional method with many variations present in most cuisines. For example: our cucumbers are made by using horseradish (antibacterial and antifungal properties) and brine to ensure only certain bacteria can thrive in jars with cucumbers. Those bacteria (cumbers are washed, but not sanitised in any way, so those are bacteria commonly living in soil) then spoil cucumbers increasing acidity of solution and making sure pretty much nothing else can survive. Jars are more of a covered than closed. If you want them fast, you just keep them in warm place in kitchen, after week they are ready. Jars for long term storage should be kept in cold to slow down the process. I don't know how long you can store sour cucumbers, I never tried longer than 2 years. Arguably this method doesn't fit your narrative, since it needs specific bacteria (I don't know what bacteria, I just know how to get them into my jars), horseradish and dill (flavouring), which are unlikely to be transported on interplanetary spaceship unless you have full agrotechnics pod with soils, bacteria samples and very large collection of plants. But this method exists, in many variations.

None of those methods are high-tech. I can do every in my kitchen on my gas-stove. With practice I could do the same on wood-fueled stove, but it's tricky due to lack of fine control over temperature.

There are many ways to preserve food, your group benefits from fact that they know WHY they need to preserve it, against WHAT they need to preserve it, and they have a long list of ways HOW to preserve it. Food preservation is and always was important, I fully expect long list of methods to be compiled within few years of planetfall and passed down to next generations, perhaps mentioning that some methods stop being viable as pre-fall machinery starts failing. List will be effective even centuries after the fall, even if basic knowledge is forgotten, if procedures are outlined properly, and adhered to with reverence.

  • $\begingroup$ Don't use flour, use hardtack. It's just flour and water paste (maybe a bit of salt) and baked completely dry into thick hard crackers. Between the heat treating and the complete lack of water, these do not spoil easily - like fifty years and more - they're easier to move and store since they're less likely to spill or spoil by spilling than a powder, and while they have to be softened to eat and are more often an ingredient than a ready food, they don't actually require further cooking. $\endgroup$ – Megha Mar 20 '17 at 3:59

200 years should be more than enough for a large set of people to learn which alien plants are edible and which are to be avoided. It should have been enough also for selecting a variant of the yeast which works better with local plants.

Nevertheless you war logistic will be based on "take a territory, raid it for food" (another reason to learn how to eat local foods, unless you want to play the "Excuse me, sir, my mug is dirty" a la Berry Lindon under the British army).

If your army is exploring new uncolonized territories, they will have to carry along some supply, but again they shall be able to rely on something harvested locally.

If nothing at all on that planet is suitable for human consumption you will not be able to sustain a large amount of people.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm operating under the premise that none of the alien flora/fauna is nutritious - Eat it, you probably won't die, but you're not getting the stuff you need. Alien life has a different chemical mix, etc. With Terran crops, yeasts, etc there'd be plenty of room for farming for sustaining normal people similar to what's been done for centuries. Bland? Maybe. Maybe there's alien spices, too. Doesn't hurt people, but can change flavor. $\endgroup$ – Andon Mar 18 '17 at 5:16

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