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Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life Paperback – August 1, 1993
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Robert A. Hall
Author: The Coming Collapse of the American Republic
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).
-Breath the dust that thousands of marching soldiers threw up on dirt roads until your lungs hurt with the mud in them. If you fell behind, maybe an officer on a horse would hit you so hard with the flat of their sword (to keep you moving) you would slur your words or pass out unconscious for a few hours.
-Run a couple miles into battle at the end of this long march with an empty canteen
-Then, and this is the best part, get shot at like cattle in a pen and see your best friends from childhood die around you.
-Get up the next morning and do it again, and again, and again until the end of the war or the end of that damnable three year enlistment paper you signed wears out.
I could go on and on. Its just a fantastic book. We have romanticized this war beyond the point of rationality. It was terrible. Only the most elite soldiers were still in the army after the first year or two.
If you want an idea of how it was like, join a campaigner CW reenacting group and read this book. Otherwise you can only imagine....