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.

Associated Date: 1861 - 1865

Related Event: Civil WarCivil War and Reconstruction


See more items in: Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military, Food, Military, ThinkFinity

Exhibition: Price of Freedom

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Virginia Dell Sours Atkinson, C. F. Ray Sours, and John A. Sours

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: AF.55596Catalog Number: 55596Accession Number: 195333

Object Name: hardtackObject Type: hardtackOther Terms: hardtack; Army

Physical Description: flour (overall material)water (overall material)Measurements: overall: 4 in x 4 in x 3/16 in; 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm x .4318 cm


Record Id: nmah_439686

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