Civil War Fare: Hardtack

I did a simple search for Civil War food and came up with an interesting tidbit complete with recipe.  I might try to make these “treats” at some point, if for no other reason than to teach the kids more about the period and the trials of the soldiers.

According to my source (which has other interesting information), Hardtack was a biscuit made of flour and other simple ingredients.  Difficult to believe, the biscuit was a main dish for hungry Union soldiers–it made up much of the solders’ daily rations.

Hardtack was square or rectangular and was shipped in wooden crates by wagon or railroad.  Since it took so long for the biscuits to reach the troops (sometimes months), hardtack became even harder and infested.

According to the NPS site, the soldiers called them “tooth dullers” or “sheet iron crackers.”

“Sometimes they were infested with small bugs the soldiers called weevils, so they referred to the hardtack as ‘worm castles’ because of the many holes bored through the crackers by these pests. The wooden crates were stacked outside of tents and warehouses until it was time to issue them.

Soldiers were usually allowed six to eight crackers for a three-day ration. There were a number of ways to eat them- plain or prepared with other ration items. Soldiers would crumble them into coffee or soften them in water and fry the hardtack with some bacon grease. One favorite soldier dish was salted pork fried with hardtack crumbled into the mixture. Soldiers called this skillygallee,, and it was a common and easily prepared meal.”

Hardtack was made from 2 cups of flour, 1/2 to 3/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat, 6 pinches of salt.

We are indeed spoiled, aren’t we?

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