HW2: Food and Coffee during the Civil War

Tintype of federal soldiers enjoying coffee and hardtack. Credit: Heritage Auctions.

Tintype of federal soldiers enjoying coffee and hardtack. Credit: Heritage Auctions.

If you had a choice, which would you give up? Food? Or coffee? We have just explored the photography of the Civil War, and we are reminded of the difficulties of producing photographs during war, especially with the wet-plate collodion process.

The objective of this homework is 1) to review the wet-plate collodion process, 2) to practice creating a post on our Openlab website, and 3) to post a picture on the OpenLab.

To help better understand the conditions that photographers worked in, this week’s homework explores what Civil War soldiers ate and their dependence on coffee. The typical food ration for a Union soldier included small amounts of meat, coffee, and hardtack (what is hardtack? Look here to find out.) The Union side half-jokingly believed coffee helped fuel their soldiers. Meanwhile, the Confederate South suffered vast food shortages due to strong Union blockades, and resorted to unique recipes (called receipts in the 19th century) to produce coffee substitutes. The word ‘coffee’ appears more frequently than ‘rifle’ or ‘bullet’ in Civil War diaries. To review the wet-plate collodion process, watch the first 3 minutes of a video from the George Eastman House.

  1. In a post, share what you think is most fascinating about a Civil War soldier’s diet AND post an image of a food item that you cannot live without. You can link to a photo on the web, or take a picture!
  2. Then comment on a fellow student’s photo.
    Please make sure you only check off the category #studentHW.

PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR POSTS BY TUESDAY October 22, 2019 — two days BEFORE the Midterm. Please make sure you find time to review the wet plate collodion process for the midterm.

Additional sources: If you’re interested in what soldiers ate and drank, check out these links.

What Union soldiers ate at PBS.org.

NYT’s article “How Coffee Fueled the Civil War”

This entry was posted in Homework Assignment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to HW2: Food and Coffee during the Civil War

  1. During the Civil War, Hardtack was the army main foodstuff. For this reason, it was the most fascinating food about a Civil War soldier’s diet. They used it as a large thick cracker. It was quite simple and inexpensive to make because it is made up of flour, salt, and water. As cabs, it was nutritious, and long-lasting, as well. For instance, it can last 150 years. If they did not store it in a proper way, hardtack could get moldy. they cut the mold away, and they eat the good side by dunking it into hot coffee, for example. the hot coffee is to destroy the insects that might be inside the hardtack. Soldiers used to fry it with bacon grease, they used to make the hardtack wet into a dough and cooked it over fire.

  2. Alex Furman says:

    I was most interested in the hardtack that the troops ate. Hardtack is essentially a large thick cracker. It is very easy to make as it requires only salt, water and flour. Bakeries were able to mass-produce hardtack and ship it out to the soldiers. Another reason hardtack was so interesting to me because there nearly isn’t an expiration date. The piece shown in the video was 150 years old so as long as the soldiers stored them right, hardtack could last them forever. In the video they also mentioned how if improperly stored, the soldiers would just cut off the mold and the hardtack would be good as new. The food item I could not live without is pasta. There’s so many sauces and different things you can mix it with that it never gets boring.

  3. Anthony Lau says:

    I’m fascinated by the idea that they believed coffee in their everyday diet gives them the nutrition along with a couple hardtacks that were barely considered food to fight a war. Coffee may have caffeine that will enhance your focus and merely give you a brain boost but they used it during the civil war almost as a super drug that gives them power. Coffee also speeds up digestion so that would mean the soldiers get hungry easily after consuming the coffee. The hardtack also doesn’t have a lot of the nutrients needed to feed a fighting soldier along with coffee makes me wonder how these two things went together. My favorite food that I cannot live without would have to be rice, rice along with bread is the base of most meals and without it meals wouldn’t be as pleasant.

  4. Anderley says:

    What I found fascinating about the civil war diet was hardtack and how usable it was to feed warriors and how long it lasted 150 years of bread is awesome and coffee help kill insects and moldy stuff on the bread making coffee the manliest thing to drink since it helps the warriors of this time a lot. Lastly, don’t forget the BACON

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *