Be a Civil War Soldier

Living a little like people from the past can bring history to life and make it memorable for kids.  When you’re studying the Civil War be a Civil War soldier.

Civil War Soldiers in a mock sword fight

Whether from the north or south, civil war soldiers were very much the same and lived in very similar conditions.

Dress The Part

At the beginning of the civil war neither the north nor the south had uniforms, they wore whatever they had.

This is a child soldier from the U.S. Civil War. Image in the public domain.

But they didn’t have t-shirts or sweat pants. Have your kids find pants, a button down shirt and a hat of some kind.  Most men also brought their own firearms as the army didn’t have any to issue, so grab whatever play gun you have.  You need a bag of some kind to carry your gear in and a canteen would be great too (a water bottle will do).

They didn’t have scopes or moon boots either, but we do the best we can.

Get Your Grub

In camp the soldiers were fed more or less regularly, things like bread, bacon or beef, vegetables, stews, and so on. But when they marched into battle or if they were low on regular rations they ate hardtack.

This is hardtack. The rectangular piece is army hardtack and the circular one is navy hardtack. Photo by D. Farr, released into the public domain.

Hardtack:
Mix 2 c. flour
1 t. salt

Add water slowly, until the dough just holds together, you’ll need a little less than a cup of water.

Knead it slightly then roll it out to about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut apart into squares, and poke holes most of the way through (not completely through.)  Flip the dough pieces over and poke holes on the other side

Now bake at 375 deg for 30 min, flip each piece and bake another 30 min.  At first the pieces will still be slightly soft, but as they cool, they’ll get hard as a rock.  The bread lasts longer this way, but is tough to eat and eventually even this gets wormy or moldy.  Civil war soldiers ate theirs crumbled or dipped in coffee to soften it.  And sometimes they picked out the mealy worms that floated to the top first.  Yuck!

Learn to March and Follow Commands

Practice a steady forward march and halt, then try turning left and right as you march.  If you nave a whole line of soldiers this is tougher than it sounds.  the ones on the outside end have to step forward and the ones on the inside end have to step back to keep the line straight to the front.

Listen to these drum signals from the civil war.  The soldiers learned what these all meant and followed orders of the drum.  Most of the drummers were teenage boys.

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