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Posts Tagged ‘Rev War soldier rations’

Ideally, hopefully, “God willin’ ‘n the creek don’t rise,” a soldier
who fought in the Revolutionary War received, as part of his
daily rations, one pound of bread OR one pound of flour OR
one pound of hard biscuits. And so I made several batches
of the latter for my “Cook Like a Soldier” programs this past
year. Here are a few, hot ‘n fresh from my mo-dern oven:

IMG_0277

Hard biscuits are really quite easy to make. After all, there
are only three ingredients: flour; a bit of salt; and water.*
Mix them together into a fairly stiff dough, roll it out and
cut, then bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so until they’re
good and dry (you’re not cooking them as much as just
evaporating all the water). The best part is, they can be
made today and used next week, next month, or heck,
even next year! In fact, the longer you wait, the better.

Since a Rev War soldier was given a pound of these hard
biscuits, I weighed out that amount. At the size I made
them (roughly three inches in diameter), I discovered
that 17 individual biscuits equaled a pound:

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Naturally, if I’d made them larger, there’d be less in a pound,
and more, if they’d been smaller. But I must say, I was quite
amazed to see, exactly, the amount a Rev War soldier could
potentially receive EVERY single day! It made me wonder if
there were times when he had so many biscuits, he didn’t
know what to do with them? Of course, on those days, and
during those weeks, when possibly little, or even nothing,
no other food, was being delivered, I imagine a few hard
biscuits in the bottom of a soldier’s haversack would’ve
seemed like manna from heaven!

I sewed up the handy-dandy cloth bag so that I could tote
the biscuits from one place to another, as well as use them
repeatedly for display purposes. Besides, as I understand it,
that’s what Rev War soldiers might’ve done, as well, in order
to carry their rations from some distribution point back to their
own camps.

One of the nicest aspects of always having a supply of hard
biscuits on hand is that I can wrap up a few and take them
with me whenever I participate in re-enactments. That way,

IMG_1522

if I ever get hungry and/or need a quick snack, I have a little
something on which to nibble. The added bonus is that they’re
historically-accurate little somethings. What could be better?!

Of course, the Big Question is: How do they taste?

Well, actually, I think they’re quite delicious! They’re especially
yummy hot, right outta the oven, before they harden. But even
after, when they ARE hard as rocks, I still enjoy eating them. I’d
say the taste is a cross between a cracker and a regular biscuit.
In fact, I think they ARE, truly, delightful ‘n delectable! HUZZAH!

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*The receipt for hard biscuits was shared at a symposium
conducted by Kimberly Boice this past March at Ft. Mifflin.
It’s also in
The Packet , by Mark R. Tully ( (c) 1999-2007;
see page 4).

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NOTE: Hard biscuits were known as such during the wars of the 18th
and early 19th centuries. Unless you were in the Navy, then they were
called “ship’s biscuits” or “sea biscuits.” It wasn’t until the American
Civil War that they were referred to as “hard tack.”

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…was all that was necessary, and all that was likely
used, by Revolutionary War soldiers to create a simple
bread, particularly on those days when they received
a pound of flour as part of their individual rations. This
basic dough would’ve then been cooked by spreading
it on the flat side of a piece of firewood, on a rock or
a plank, or even just setting it amongst a fire’s ashes.
Whatever was available, whatever worked. No matter
how it was baked, it would’ve constituted a day’s
serving of bread.

Of course, in true soldier’s fashion, flour and water
were also all I needed, and used, this past summer

colonial_bread on a plank_DN_onderdonk

for my “Cook Like a Soldier” programs. And the same
combination was also employed earlier this month
when I participated in the first-ever Military Timeline
Event at Long Island’s Old Bethpage Village (OBV),
along with fellow members of the Huntington Militia.
Again, using a soldier’s potential flour ration, mixed
with a little water, I worked up dough for another
round of what I’ve fondly dubbed “soldier’s bread.”

I also cooked a pot of rations at OBV, which consisted
of beef, peas, and rice, with a few pieces of hard biscuit
thrown in for good measure. They make for some fairly
decent dumplings!

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Of course, hard biscuits could also be distributed as part
of a Rev War soldier’s daily ration. I’ve baked quite a few
batches in recent months. More on that is up next.

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NEXT: Those delightful ‘n delectable hard biscuits!

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