Original Civil War Whole Hardtack Cracker (Nondug)



Original Civil War Whole Hardtack Cracker (Nondug) – One of the staples of the average Civil War soldier’s diet during the war and one of the most common meals for soldiers was a cracker-like food called hardtack. Hardtack, made from flour, water, and salt, was ever present in most soldiers’ haversacks. As many relic hunters are aware, having excavated pieces and entire crackers, still intact after 160 years, this foodstuff could last a long time. Many soldiers would attempt to soften the extremely hard cracker, by frying it in bacon grease or meat fat. We have had two other whole crackers, one actually had the soldier owner’s name and regiment, carefully inscribed, in pencil, on the surface of the cracker. This example remains in excellent condition, with the exception of a crack across the surface on one side; this crack is quite shallow and does not induce any fragility in the cracker, so it remains completely intact. The hardtack measures approximately 3” x 3”.

Hardtack, a tough, flat, bland cracker, was often cursed. It became the subject of poems and songs. On a long march, it was often the only food available. The three-inch squares, turned out by the millions under government contract at assorted bakeries, were made of flour, water and salt. Some of the men tried to alter their rock-hard consistency by smashing them with rifle butts and mixing in river water to make a mush. If a frying pan was available, the mush could be cooked into a lumpy pancake. If not, it was dropped directly on campfire coals. (from an article in the Washington Post)