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I hope to live long enough to see my surviving comrades march side by side with the Union veterans along Pennsylvania Avenue, and then I will die happy… James Longstreet

Illustration in Bits of camp life, by C. W. Reed and Louis K. Harlow, dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic by the artists. Munich & New York, Obpacher Bro's., c1888, leaf 7r. from the collection of the Library of Congress

Illustration in Bits of camp life, by C. W. Reed and Louis K. Harlow, dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic by the artists. Munich & New York, Obpacher Bro’s., c1888, leaf 7r. from the collection of the Library of Congress

Hardtack and coffee : Soldier’s Life in the Civil War Old Saybrook, CT, Konecky & Konecky, John D. Billings ; illustrated by Charles W. Reed United States. Army. Military life Hardcover. Originally published by Boston, Hall & Whiting, 1881, as, The history of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery of Light Artillery in the War of the Rebellion. Formerly of the Third Corps, and afterwards of Hancock’s Second Corps, Army of the Potomac. 1862-1865. vi, 408 p.,  ill.,  25 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

Most histories of the Civil War focus on battles and top brass. Hardtack and Coffee is one of the few to give a vivid, detailed picture of what ordinary soldiers endured every day — in camp, on the march, at the edge of a booming, smoking hell. John D. Billings of Massachusetts enlisted in the Army of the Potomac and survived the conditions he recorded. The authenticity of his book is heightened by the many drawings that a comrade, Charles W. Reed, made in the field.

This is the story of how the Civil War soldier was recruited, provisioned, and disciplined. Described here are the types of men found in any outfit; their not very uniform uniforms; crowded tents and makeshift shelters; difficulties in keeping clean, warm, and dry; their pleasure in a cup of coffee; food rations, dominated by salt pork and the versatile cracker or hardtack; their brave pastimes in the face of death; punishments for various offenses; treatment in sick bay; firearms and signals and modes of transportation. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Hardtack and Coffee is striking for the pulse of life that runs through it.

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