Civil War Soldier's Mess

Physical Description
Small metal box to protect matches, two-piece lantern, metal frying pan, and cup. Hardtack.
General History
A match safe, lantern, frying pan, and cup would have been part of a soldier’s equipment. Hardtack is the name given to a thick cracker made of flour, water, and sometimes salt. While it has been called by several nicknames, the Union Army of the Potomac referred to the ration as hardtack, and the name stuck. When stored properly, hardtack would last for years. Because it could be prepared cheaply and would last so long, hardtack was the most convenient food for soldiers. The army furnished hardtack by weight, but in most units the biscuits were doled out by number, with a ration generally being nine or ten.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
associated date
1861 - 1865
Physical Description
flour (overall material)
water (overall material)
overall: 4 in x 4 in x 3/16 in; 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm x .4318 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
related event
Civil War
Civil War and Reconstruction
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Military
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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