34th North Carolina Civil War Reenactment Group

Hardtack and Coffee

When the armies of the Civil War were on the march, each soldier typically carried with him 12 hardtack biscuits as their daily ration. Of course, this was not all they were issued and ate. The soldiers loved their coffee and today would be deemed caffeine fanatics. If a soldier had 10 minutes to rest he while on the march, he would build a small fire and brew coffee. Confederates too loved coffee and cornbread, but they often had various forms of hardtack which they procured through the normal commissary channels or retrieved from captured Union supplies.

Hardtack biscuits were of various sizes and shapes, but were generally 3” x 3” square and 1/4” to nearly 1/2” thick… like our Saltine crackers of today, but much harder. Making the biscuits rock-hard and salty was necessary as a preservative and for protection during shipment and handling, as well as the haversack. Small holes were poked into each biscuit to help in cooking it thoroughly and to release moisture.

Recipes

Hardtack:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
6 tsp. Salt
3/4 cup water

Dry mix the ingredients. Add the water and knead the dough. Roll out to an even thickness. Cut to shape. Poke three rows of holds with a fork. Place in the oven for about 1/2 hour or until just golden. Makes 10-12 biscuits. To cook them really thoroughly, set them aside for a day, then cook them at 225 degrees for 30-45 more minutes. The second baking will remove any “sweat” and really dry the biscuit. If packaged in wax paper, you’ll even be able to eat them during the next year’s reenactments!

For reenacting over weekends, you can soften the biscuits by adding about 1/3rd cup shortening. Add a touch of powder sugar or molasses to give them some flavor. Add an egg for even better taste. Substitute Bisquick for the flour; they really look and taste great!

Corn Dodgers:

The Confederate “cornbread” or “corn dodgers” was a favorite recipe of Southerners.

Ingredients:

1 cup corn meal
1/3 cup flour
Pinch of salt

Slowly mix with water to make the dough consistent. Roll the dough into “munchkin” size balls and fry in fat grease (in the field) or vegetable oil (at home). Or you can wrap the dough around a stick and roast over an open fire. Eat while they are still warm. They taste pretty good!

Other appropriate munchies include dried fruit, peanuts (goober peas), dried meat (jerky), carrots or apples. Unfortunately for reenactors, Ho-Ho’s, Twinkies, Pop Tarts, Candy Bars, Donuts, and Potato Chips did not come around for a long time. However, single serving fruit pies (apple and cherry) might be acceptable, provided they aren’t glazed and they have been removed from their packaging and wrapped in wax paper.