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Friday, October 21, 2011

Civil War Photo Friday: hardtack

Hardtack was one of the staples in the diet of both armies in the Civil War. It was supposed to last longer than regular bread and be more portable. Maybe it was, but that didn't stop soldiers from complaining about it. They had various names for it, from "tooth breakers" to "sheet metal crackers" to "worm castles." Judging from that last one I'm thinking it wasn't so long-lasting after all.

Hardtack was rarely eaten straight. The men dunked it in any liquid available in order to soften it up. Mixed with salt pork and dried vegetables, the other two army staples, it would make a reasonably balanced but unsavory meal.

Early in my Civil War novel A Fine Likeness, the protagonist and his band of bushwhackers ambush a Union supply wagon. Once they send the soldiers running, they steal a barrel of gunpowder but leave the salt pork and hard tack. They're being fed by local secessionists so they see no reason to fill up their stomachs with bad army food when a home-cooked meal is waiting for them!

This Wikimedia Commons image shows some hard tack preserved in the Wentworth Museum in Pensacola, Florida. If you want to try making your own hardtack, check out this hardtack recipe.

1 comment:

  1. Lembas! One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man.

    How many did you eat?



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