A bit of history… to eat

This week will be the first time in well over a decade that I have worn any of my Civil War gear.  So this week I tried a bunch of my stuff on and what do you know, it still fits, although the vest is going to need some adjustments.  Still, I am excited about doing it, and to be getting involved with history again.  And to get me in the spirit of things I decided to take a little trip to Milton, home of the G.H. Bent Company.

First, some background information.  Back when I was still doing a lot of stuff for the National Park Service (and some reeenacting too) I had heard about this company that had made hardtack* during the Civil War and was still making it.  So I remembered that recently and thought to myself, “Hey, isn’t that place in New England somewhere?”  And sure enough, they are, in a small town just a few miles southeast of Cambridge.   How fortuitous, I thought.  So I went down there yesterday for a little while.  It didn’t take long.

The “factory” and shop as it currently looks.

I bought myself a package of hardtack so I could have some with me this week as I was working.  I prefer to stay authentic when possible.

I still have to get a lot of things together and pack it all up to bring with me to work tomorrow.  Once services are over I will have to change into my uniform.  This will be the first time that I have ever portrayed an officer so it will be a little bit of a change of pace for me.  The best part of all this is that I am getting paid to do it.  I love it so much that I used to do it for free, so getting paid at all is pretty awesome.  If possible I will put up more photos later.

*Now, I suppose there might actually be people are are saying “That’s nice, Geoff, but um… what is hardtack?”  Well, in essence, it was a type of hard bread issued to Union troops during the Civil War.  It was generally issued in boxes – boxes that would sometimes find themselves sitting outside in all kinds of weather for extended periods of time.  Not being that tasty to begin with, hardtack was made even less edible by its exposure to the elements.  Many soldiers complained about the hardtack they had received being infested with bugs.  But it was still largely indispensable, and regardless of the availability of other foods, many soldiers would still insist on having their hardtack and coffee.  The great John Billings, a Civil War veteran who wrote the classic book Hardtack and Coffee, describes it when he talks about soldiers’ food.

Drawing from the book Hardtack and Coffee by John Billings of the 10th Massachusetts Battery. The artist was Charles W. Reed, a bugler and a Medal of Honor winner in the 9th Massachusetts Battery.


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