Week 2 Discussion Topic: Civil War Food and Coffee!

Union soldiers cooking dinner in camp, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865

Union soldiers cooking dinner in camp, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865

If you had a choice, which would you give up? Food? Or coffee? This coming week, we will look at photography of the Civil War and the difficulties of producing photographs during war. To help better understand the conditions that photographers worked in, in this week’s blog topic we will explore 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’s 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. Read about cooking on the battlefront and the importance of coffee (the word ‘coffee’ appears more frequently than ‘rifle’ or ‘bullet’ in Civil War diaries).

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!

Read about what Union soldiers ate at PBS.org.

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



6 thoughts on “Week 2 Discussion Topic: Civil War Food and Coffee!

  1. I am almost embarrassed to say that as much as I love food, I would have to choose coffee! I can not start my day without it! I had no idea that soldiers during the civil war were conditioned to believe the same exact thing. While I like to believe that the Union won the war because more people were in favor of their stance (and because it truly was the righteous side), its an interesting notion to think that coffee was a contributor to the North’s victory.

  2. I am surprised that soldiers depended on coffee as much as they did in the civil war. coffee can definitely give you a spark of energy but it crashes you as fast as it gives you that energy. I get the addiction for the coffee because I too at one point felt like I need it to start my day but I soon realize a good breakfast gives me way more energy. I will defiantly choose food over coffee any day. coffee to me is a lazy breakfast starter because some people only drink coffee and forget the most important meal of the day. food can keep you fueled a lot longer than coffee that energy only last for a moment.

  3. If I had to choose I would pick food because coffee is just like water to me with just a little kick to it. With food its a must I have to eat I rather do that then drink coffee but I see why the army used it so they can stay awake and alert during war. plus some may have gotten addicted to it as well along the line.

  4. Coffee and war are a match made in heaven. it ain’t no surprise that a lot of soldiers depended on coffee during the war. Coffee is easy to make and something you can make on the run especially with the uprise of “instant coffee” during the civil war era if I’m not mistaking. All you needed was hot water and instant coffee and you were set to go. If i had a choice between coffee or food, i would chose to to stay with coffee it easy to make it taste great and for me it fills me up love it.

  5. Pingback: Food Recipes | Food Recipes

  6. Pingback: OpenLab @ Tech Day | The Open Road

Leave a Reply

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