Most histories of the Civil War focus on battles and top brass. Hardtack and Coffee is one of the few to give a vivid, detailed picture of what ordinary soldiers endured every day—in camp, on the march, at the edge of a booming, smoking hell. John D. Billings of Massachusetts enlisted in the Army of the Potomac and curvived the conditions he recorded. The authenticity of his book is heightened by the many drawings that a comrade, Charles W. Reed, made in the field.
This is the story of how the Civil War soldier was recruited, provisioned, and disciplined. Described here are the types of men found in any outfit; their not very uniform uniforms; crowded tents and makeshift shelters; difficulties in keeping clean, warm, and dry; their pleasure in a cup of coffee; food rations, dominated by salt pork and the versatile cracker or hardtack; their brave pastimes in the face of death; punishments for various offenses; treatment in sick bay; firearms and signals and modes of transportation. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Hardtack and Coffee is striking for the pulse of life that runs through it.
About the Author
Contributing an introduction and index to this Bison Books edition is William L. Shea, a professor of history at the University of Arkansas, Monticello. His books include The Virginia Militia in the Seventeenth Century and, with Earl Hess, Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An outstanding primary account of an artillery soldier's war expierience.
While a little wordy in parts, it does give great background into a military minutia that one does not get in general history books. If someone were determined to learn everything they could about military history, especially that of the U.S. Civil War era, I would recommend reading this sooner rather than later as it gives great information that would be useful in understanding the machinations of warfare at that time.
A MUST-READ for all of those wanting an insight to the men that faught in the War Between the States. Civil War Reenactors should really pay attention to the details, and take note. This book is a little piece of Heaven for those trying to perfect their Civil War impression.