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Coffee Break: 1862

Coffee Break: 1862

May 1862. "Yorktown, Virginia (vicinity). Group before the photographic tent at Camp Winfield Scott." From photographs of the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862. Wet plate glass negative by James F. Gibson. View full size.


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The real stuff!

When I started drinking coffee myself in the mid eighties, I was taught to make it on the stovetop in a tin coffee pot with no filter. The grounds were measured into the cold water and boiled the bejeezus out of until it smelled good and done. Adding a bit of cold water to your hot cup of coffee helped the grounds to settle to the bottom so you didn't get a mouthful with every swig. The last swallow was usually the worst. I was a young woman working among rough, thick skinned men in the logging industry in Alaska. Their motto about the coffee, which by the way, I always had to make, was that "it ain't a real cup of coffee unless you can chew it!"


I take part in confederate re-enactment some, and we have been given actual hardtack in the past. I found that the best way to soften it to eat, was to place it in your skillet after you've fried your bacon. It soaks up the drippings and softens up quite nicely. Gets a bit of flavor to it.

Eggshells or Cold Water

Apparently the trick to drinking coffee (which in this time and place was made without filters) was to use crushed eggshells or cold water to make the grounds sink to the bottom of the cup. As for hardtack, you need to soak it in hot water (like coffee) for a while before it softens enough to be able to bite off a bit. Even so, it's still like eating a piece of masonry.

'Tack & 'Lasses

I once tasted a sticky suet-like concoction made from hardtack and molasses at a Civil War reenactment. Kinda swelled up in my belly. Didn't taste awful, though.

Travel in time

Shorpy is like a time machine. Wonderful photo, thank you, Dave!

Field rations

Hardtack and coffee!


My son made some for his Civil War project in school. Not the most appetizing thing in the world.

American History

My city in Canada wasn't founded till 1882, these photos depict unbelievable memories of brothers fighting brothers. U.S. history is complicated and very interesting, now I know why Americans have so much interest in history.

Only the beginning

I suppose we tend to read too much into these images but I can't help thinking that, judging by the distant look on their faces, the three men on the left have come to grips with the realization that this war is going to be a lot tougher than they were led to believe and the worst of the carnage is yet to come.

Camp coif

The classic "I just got up" hairstyle!

Another Missed Opportunity

Had McClellan actually had some gonads, the Peninsular Campaign could have effectively ended the Civil War in a little over a year's time. But no, he surmised for some reason that the Seccesh had thousands of troops in front of him and let Robert E. Lee outsmart him for the first time. The second time would be at Antietam.

Pass the crackers

If you've every heard the word "hardtack" in regard to pioneer food, that's what the guy on the right is holding. Looks like a big saltine cracker -- but it doesn't taste like one. Trust me.


I hate coffee in a tin cup. Either you burn your lip on the cup, or wait until the coffee's cold.

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