Hardtack, Salted Pork and Soldier Food
Now I sit me in my seat,
And pray for something fit to eat.
If this damn stuff my stomach brake,
I pray that God my soul will take.
Oh, thou who blessed the loaves and fishes,
Look down upon these old tin dishes;
By thy great power those dishes smash,
Bless each of us and damn this hash.
A Volunteer’s Prayer
Rations for the soldiers had to be easily transported as well as resistant to spoilage. Fresh cuts of beef, soft bread and vegetables could be issued in established camps, but soldiers on the march existed on what they could carry in their haversack—coffee, salt, sugar, hard bread and salted beef or salted pork. Regulations called for a daily issue of 16 ounces of hardtack, 20 ounces of salt beef or 12 ounces of salt pork. The meat was packed in a brine solution sufficient to preserve it for two years.By late 1863, desiccated potatoes and desiccated vegetables, which were scalded and then pressed and dried into sheets, were issued as an antiscorbutic to prevent scurvy. The soldiers in the Iron Brigade called them “desecrated vegetables” and generally did not eat them.
Coffee, usually issued in bean form, was always popular and was pounded or crushed, then boiled in water in tin cups.
Hardtack was a square biscuit made of salt, flour and water and then baked. It could be soaked in water and fried in the sizzling fat of the issue salt pork which was called “sowbelly” by the soldiers.
Soldiers on both sides took to “foraging” to supplement their food rations. Orders generally prohibited the theft of private property in the form of pigs, chickens, corn and sweet potatoes. A brigade commander requested his men not steal, but added, “Boys, do not go hungry,” which, one Black Hat private observed, “in war time means take what you want whenever you can get it.”
One French officer with the Army of the