Hardtack was mass-produced in Northern factories which baked hundreds of crackers every day. The crackers were packed in wooden crates prior to shipment by wagon or rail. Fresh baked, the hardtack was reasonably palatable. Unfortunately the bread which reached the soldiers might be several weeks or even months old. The crackers had to be soaked in water or coffee. Referred to as “tooth dullers” or worse, the hard tack was often infested with insects called weevils. In Confederate prison camps, hard tack was often the only ration a captured Union soldier received.

Army Crackers

December 1861
Feeling the necessity of writing (but with no chance for) a seat at the table I stirred about and got another candle and made a candlestick out of a hard cracker & set it on the stove and myself beside it with with a knapsack & part of a bed for a seat...

Hard Crackers Come Again No More*
Let us close our game of poker
Take our tin cups in hand
While we gather round the old cooks door
Where dry mummies made of crackers
Are given to each man;
Chorus: Oh, hard crackers come again no more!
Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more!
Many days have you lingered upon our stomachs sore,
Oh, hard crackers, come again no more.
*Civil War era lyrics set to a common tune, also known as Hard Times.
Hard to believe, but the cracker pictured here is Civil War hard tack issued 150 years ago!


Usually two men lie down together so if it rains they have a rubber over them. Early in the morning a novel feature in experience appeared. Some call it a “stampede”. A few Regts. were got into battalion lines in less than “double quick” thinking that the rebels were taking us by surprise—but proved to be someone firing pistols out in the woods instead of pickets & some cattle were running to get out of the way. But it showed who were the true soldiers—for some did run. 

Meanwhile our Brig. General Park sits still on a stump and eats some crackers as if all was well...