Hardtack, a square biscuit made of flour and water, was the mainstay of soldiers North and South during the War Between the States and the forerunner of the saltines we know today. Although its hardness guaranteed that it would not spoil quickly, it also rendered it almost impossible to eat. A sign identifying an original piece of hardtack in the musuem at Manassas National Battlefield asserts that it is no harder today than it was when it came out of the oven 135 years ago.

Hardtack was generally broken up with a rock or rifle butt, placed in the cheek, and softened with saliva until it could be chewed and swallowed. It could also be soaked in water and then fried in bacon grease to produce a concoction known as "coosh." Among the many nicknames attached to this military delicacy were "sheet iron crackers," "teeth dullers," and "worm castles" (because it was frequently infested with weevils and maggots). "All the fresh meat we had come in the hard bread," wrote one soldier, "and I, preferring my game cooked, used to toast my biscuits."

Sung to the tune of Stephen Foster's song "Hard Times Come Again No More," this parody was popular with the Army of the Potomac and may well have been sung in Confederate camps as well--an early example of a "crossover hit."

"Hard Tack, Come Again No More"