Civil War Wiki
Hardtack & Coffee  
Author John D. Billings
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) memoir
Publication date 1887
Media type Print (Paperback)

Hard Tack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life (1887) is a memoir by John D. Billings. Billings was a veteran of the 10th Massachusetts Volunteer Artillery Battery in the American Civil War. Originally published in 1888, Hard Tack and Coffee quickly became a best seller, and is now considered one of the most important books written by a Civil War veteran. The book is abundantly illustrated by the pen and ink drawings of Charles Reed, also a veteran, who served as bugler in the 9th Massachusetts Battery. Reed received the Medal of Honor for saving the life of his battery commander at Gettysburg. "Hard Tack and Coffee" is not about battles, but rather about how the common Union soldiers of the Civil War lived in camp and on the march. What would otherwise be a mundane subject is enlivened by Billings' humorous prose and Reed's superb drawings which are based on the sketches he kept in his journal during the war.

The book is noteworthy as it covers the details of regular soldier life and as such, has become a valuable resource for Civil War re-enactors.


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