Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Contest and Cookies

What ho, folks.  That capital artist fellow, Pete, has a splendid contest going at his blog, where you are invited to come up with a name for a Viking warrior he’s drawn.  Grab your shield, horned thinking helmet, and Danish axe and head over there.

That’s the contest bit taken care of.  Would you like a cookie?

Mmmmmm, delicious.   That desiccated thing on the left is a piece of hardtack from my last ever Civil War reenactment in 2006.  I found it while I was throwing some things out the other day.  It’s rather amazing that eight years later, it’s still mostly intact, save for that nasty spot.  Sadly, no weevils.  Our group made our own hardtack in those days.  When I started, it was pretty funky stuff.  I recall making hardtack with cinnamon and raisins in it because it was tastier that way.  Other folks just took Pop Tarts because they kind of looked like hardtack.   Eventually I gravitated to a more hardcore, authentic group and we made it following period recipes, using just flour and water.

At some point I found this hardtack cookie cutter to get the right look.   We would make large batches, and take it to the field in wooden crates, where we would do ration issues.   Don’t ask about the sowbelly.


Hardtack was more a Union staple than a Confederate food.  The rebs favoured cakes or loaves made from corn flour.  Billy Yank wasn’t overly fond of it, and i can tell you that after a weekend living on these “dried mummies”, even when washing them down with coffee or pounding them into fragments and cooking them in bacon fat, they are pretty gross. Trying to eat one dry and risk breaking a tooth, or sucking on it to try and soften it, is just darned unpleasant.  No wonder hardtack inspired this satiric song, set to the tune of the popular song “Hard Times Come Again No More”.

Anyway, I’m not sure if this is a contest, but if you’d like to make your own hardtack, and want this uber cool cookie cutter, drop me a line.   Serve hardtack at your next ACW war-game.  Impress your friends.

"Let us close our game of poker, take our tin cups in our hand
As we all stand by the cook's tent door
As dried mummies of hard crackers are handed to each man.
O, hard tack, come again no more!


'Tis the song, the sigh of the hungry:
"Hard tack, hard tack, come again no more."
Many days you have lingered upon our stomachs sore.
O, hard tack, come again no more!

'Tis a hungry, thirsty soldier who wears his life away
In torn clothes-his better days are o'er.
And he's sighing now for whiskey in a voice as dry as hay,
"O, hard tack, come again no more!"
Sing Chorus again.

'Tis the wail that is heard in camp both night and day,
'Tis the murmur that's mingled with each snore.
'Tis the sighing of the soul for spring chickens far away.
"O, hard tack, come again no more!"
Sing chorus again.

But to all these cries and murmurs, there comes a sudden hush
As frail forms are fainting by the door.
For they feed us now on horse feed that the cooks call mush!
O. hard tack, come again once more!

Final chorus:

'Tis the dying wail of the starving:
"O, hard tack, hard tack, come again once more!"
You were old and wormy, but we pass your failings o'er.
O, hard tack, come again once more!


  1. Hard tack? Woof. Maybe some goober peas as well, eh, Padre?

    1. Goober peas? Please! I was a Yankee, sir, and proud of it!

  2. There are things I miss from reenacting. Hard tack is most certainly not one of them though.

  3. I think I will pass on this one thanks. I did enjoy my years in the Sealed Knot though


  4. Interesting post. I know look back at my ECW re-enactment days with fondness, but a certain smug comfort that I can stay in the warm and dry/cool and shade to refight battles rather than suffering the elements (and authenti-food, dried fish in our case....bleurgg!!).

    1. Dried fish? My God, that sounds revolting.
      My group once portrayed a Union regiment that had received a gift of limburger cheese from home, just before Gettysburg. The troops apparently threw the cheese at each other before going into battle. We did the same, though I tried some and thought it was quite good.

  5. How fascinating, the length you chaps will go to for authenticity!

    1. For a while these of authenticity were quite exciting. However, that last 2006 reenactment was one where I huddled against a rail fence the first night, under an improvised tent made off a rubberized blanket and a canvas shelter half, and got absolutely soaked, then marched all next day in cold wet clothes. It totally sucked. I was more comfortable in the real army and they paid me to do it.

  6. And here I am just starting re-enacting. 1812 and British though, but I would happily pass off hard tack as supplies liberated from the Yankee opposition.

    1. Pat, if hardtack will benefit your 1812 reenacting (I am sure the British Army had their own version) then I'll happily give it to you.


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