Friday, July 5, 2013

Making Hardtack and Battlefield Bandages

We found lots of information about "A Day in the Life of a Civil War Soldier," and one thing that came up again and again was how miserable the typical soldier's diet was. We decided to try making hardtack, which was one of their staple foods. To be really authentic we would have used weevil-infested flour, but we decided not to. :)

Hardtack is basically just a mixture of flour and water, baked until it's hard and crunchy. We mixed 3/4 cup of water with 2 cups of flour. We also added a teaspoon of salt (only the lucky soldiers would have had that). Then we pressed the dough into a pan and poked it all over with a fork.
After baking it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, we turned it over and baked it for about 20 more minutes. Then we let it cool.

Because we ate it fresh, our hardtack actually wasn't too bad. Hard and crunchy (see Abe trying to gnaw off a piece of it) but palatable. Sebby said he quite liked it. Abe said he'd rather have a banana split. :) I reminded the children that it would just get harder and harder the days after it was made.

Another activity we did was making bandages out of blankets and shirts. We talked about how often, there were no medical supplies nearby (or the medical supplies would run out with so many wounded), so soldiers would have to improvise bandages, tourniquets, etc., with whatever they had around. It's still a useful skill even today---once I fell and cut my knee open (to the bone---ew!) while running on the mountain, and my friend used her shirt to make a bandage while she ran ahead for help. 
Here are a couple of our attempts (Sebby's looks like a turban)

Finally, here are the three boys pretending to be prisoners of war in Andersonville prison camp. We read that it was so crowded that the soldiers had to sleep three to a bed, and if they wanted to turn over, one would call out, "All turn to the right!" or "All turn to the left!" so they could turn without falling off the bed. The boys thought that was really hilarious and immediately re-enacted it. :)

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