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Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life Paperback – August 1, 1993


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Frequently Bought Together

Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life + The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union + The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy
Price for all three: $51.45

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 413 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books; Reprint edition (August 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080326111X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803261112
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

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Customer Reviews

Very interesting and informative.
Garry Shumann
This is one of the few books that tells the story of what the life of the common soldier was like in the Civil War.
Dart66
I started this book because I'm a civil war and history buff.
Sydney O. Lavigne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on July 15, 2000
Format: CD-ROM
There are numerous histories of the Civil War and some have become classics. Most of these focus on battles and great heroes. Billings, however, a Civil War veteran, writes about the daily life of the average soldier. We learn about the soldier's motivation to fight, camp discipline, diet, housing, medical care, recreation and just about everything else that comprised the life of the Civil War era soldier. Billings' book is serious yet he manages to write in a lighthearted tone, replete with levity. This is a great book to round out a Civil War buff's study of the great conflict.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mark Hatala on December 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
I teach a university class on the experience of the American Civil War, and I use sections of this book to illustrate camp life and the life of the average soldier.
Billings tells his story as a humanist and has a real eye for detail. His descriptions (and the illustrations) are invaluable.
This book is not for someone with only a passing interest in the American Civil War; one must know something of the era to appreciate it. It is a must-read for a true fanatic.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
I would have loved to had this book when I was a child. The non-linearity of the chapters makes it a perfect "browser's book" -- a book which you can pick up and flip open to any page and read interesting, amusing and humorous accounts of day to day life in the Civil War army. This is one of the most fun books I've picked up in a long time.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jerre Garrett on February 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Hardtack and Coffee provides an excellent picture of Army life in the mid-nineteenth century. The sketches illustrate the text superbly. This is a useful handbook for students and teachers as well as an intriguing introduction to the Civil War.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By G. D. Winn on June 18, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm one of those men with the "Civil War Itch" who can't get enough reading, can't get enough time on the battlefields. This book is hands-down one of my favorites in my extensive collection, re-read several times and dog-eared. It's something I always put in my bag for air-travel reading, because you can pick it up and put it down when you need to...the author and the illustrator both were participants in the Conflict, so you know it's accurate. The content is educational but not stuffy, since it was written to explain to soldiers' families what exactly Union Army life was like...and the humor still carries through to this day. After you've read the historical studies or walked a battlefield, THIS is the book you want to read to put yourself in the shoes of the everyday soldier--and it's easy to do with the author's skills. For me, the best chuckles are the chapters "Jonahs and Beats", and "The Army Mule". A must-read for those wanting more than just a general's biography or an order of battle.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Todd E. Newman on April 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
I haven't read a book in a long time that I actually really enjoyed every chapter. Biling's doesn't confuse the reader with battlefield strategy or complicating the obvious. He doesn't reflect on battle scenarios with upmost detail after 20 years either. This is a great book for anyone looking to learn about daily soldier life. Bilings captures the daily grind and life of being a Federal soldier while offering humor and straight forward realities that get the mind ticking. The stories make truth stranger than fiction and is a welcomed charge of quick information. It is easy to suggest this book to younger readers as well as the information is clean,concise and well written. I would definately recommend this book for all as many ages can benefit from this educational and entertaining book of soldier life.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By chappell@fone.net on February 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
For anyone who wants to get a feel for the life of a Federal soldier in the American Civil War, this is the book. It is the best resource I know for living historians on the details of life in the field. In addition to its value as a reference, the book is written with humor and verve, making it eminently readable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Cook on July 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So, you want to be a Civil War soldier? You want to get rustic and go reenact. Live the hard life. Really understand what it was like to be on campaign in 1864...??

LOL. You have no idea. I'm a Union reenactor and although we try to live as authentically as we can for a few days a month, it gets old fast. People bring meat in coolers, a few beers, an oil lamp for light, even cots to sleep in!

The truth of the matter is, and what I really found myself asking by the end of this beautiful account, written by an actual soldier, was:

-Could I survive on 4 4x4" squares of bread made of nothing but water and flour, so hard that they could break your teeth and were invincible to softening even by soaking in hot coffee for an hour or more?
-Could I eat meat that was half rancid, "stunk like hell", and was infested with "worms" because that's all there was for the next four days
-Make coffee out of chicory root. Why, you ask? Because coffee was the cocaine of the CW soldier. Its all they had to keep them marching mile after mile.
-March up to 30 (or more) miles a day in shoes (brogans) that would make your feet bleed after the first 20 miles, carrying 30 lbs of awkward equipment, all in a full suit of itchy wool. PS. Your lucky if you even had decent shoes, or shoes at all!
-Go to the bathroom with no toilet paper and no leaves available (yes, use your imagination as to what they did, and remember they didn't realize that you needed to wash it off your hands to keep from getting sick.). Microbes were yet to be discovered.
-Drink muddy water that would turn your bowels into liquid wax (remember, your still marching on a dusty road in Virginia and it could be 90 degrees outside while all this is going on inside you).
Read more ›
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