How long did hard tack last before spoiling?

historicus

Private
Joined
Oct 12, 2016
We all know how a lot of soldier's rations on both sides in the American Civil War was hard tack and salt horse. Hard tack was a type of very hard bread. Salt horse was beef preserved with salt.

The Confederate Army at Vicksburg surrendered due to being starved out. What if the Confederates had stocked tons of hard tack in a bunker at Vicksburg to feed the garrison over the long term?

How long did hard tack last before spoiling?

How long did salt horse last before spoiling?
 

historicus

Private
Joined
Oct 12, 2016
150 years, give or take 5 years or so. Honestly, I´ve handled original hardtack that was still dry and hard. Theoretically, it should still be edible. In the historical period, as long as it was kept clean and dry, it had a shelf life of a couple years.
First you say that hardtake from the Civil War is still edible 150 years later. Then you say that it had a shelf life of a couple years. Which is it?
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2019
First you say that hardtake from the Civil War is still edible 150 years later. Then you say that it had a shelf life of a couple years. Which is it?

Probably that, so long it has been kept away from parasites and vermin, you can eat it but you will not enjoy the experience. The big issue was keeping it dry and away from said pernicious vermin for longer than a few years.

So really is a case of both, you can eat the stuff but given contemporary storage it would not be considered safe to do so by modern standards.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
First you say that hardtake from the Civil War is still edible 150 years later. Then you say that it had a shelf life of a couple years. Which is it?
What I mean is that it should still be edible even now, although flavor and texture may have degraded over time. (Perhaps it would make a good church donation. I mean both of those tongue-in-cheek.) Armies being armies, they inspect things for servicability every now and then, and throw things out long before they become truly useless, broken or non-mission-capable (at least theoretically). What I mean is that although a crate of hardtack may still be edible for a long time, after a couple years or so, it was time to give it to the Indians and make room for a new supply.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Kronberg Castle museum in Elsinore, Denmark has what is believed to be the oldest piece of hardtack. It dates from 1851.

Ships biscuit / hardtack was expected to last 30 years if stowed properly. In an attempt to organize the “piling system” in the closet where I keep my living history signal flags, arms, traps, props & clothing I emptied it all out. At the back of the pile was a sea bag that I hadn’t seen in years. The only item inside the bag was a cylindrical metal cookie can.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the can & found hardtack that my granddaughters & I had made. A merry Christmas note told me that it had been baked 12 years ago. The girls wanted to give hardtack to our living history friends Santa Clause fashion out of the sea bag. The individual crackers were round, sailor fashion, to fit the cookie cans I bought at a hobby store. The crackers would still crack a tooth.

A 12 year old cracker is not in the same class as the Danish relic, but it is the oldest documented example of my personal experience.
 
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trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
We all know how a lot of soldier's rations on both sides in the American Civil War was hard tack and salt horse. Hard tack was a type of very hard bread. Salt horse was beef preserved with salt.

The Confederate Army at Vicksburg surrendered due to being starved out. What if the Confederates had stocked tons of hard tack in a bunker at Vicksburg to feed the garrison over the long term?

How long did hard tack last before spoiling?

How long did salt horse last before spoiling?
Hard tack goes bad? :smile:
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
I suspect that the crackers in the old C Rations will still be good 150 years from now
I posted this before. I have a 75+ year old Keebler biscuit from a C-Ration found in Italy. It was carbonized in a fire.

Relics -Biscuit_n.jpg
 
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