List of Artifacts
Formal Dress Hat, Union Army
This Papier Mache scale-model bears the insignia of Company K, 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment from Beloit Wisconsin. The hat design was borrowed from the Hungarian military. It was often called the “Jeff Davis Hat” or the “Hardee Hat”. Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War in 1858 when the hat was adopted; he became President of the Confederacy during the War. Major Hardee was the officer who coordinated the hat issue under Davis. Hardee later became a Confederate General. The hat became a symbol of the Iron Brigade also known as the black hat brigade. Most Union soldiers wore the more casual ‘slouch hat’; the Iron Brigade was unique in wearing the more formal dress hat of the Union Army into battle and it became their distinctive trademark. The brim was turned up on one side or the other depending on whether the soldier was cavalry or infantry. Cavalry soldiers turned up the right side while infantry turned up the left side and the flap was pinned in place with an eagle. On the opposite side they wore a black Ostrich feather.
Genesis of the Civil War by Samuel Wylie Crawford, Maj Gen USA
The book was Published 1887, a short 23 years after the Civil War ended. It came from the book stacks at JFK Library on Eastern Washington University. The book is leather bound with gilded edges to the pages. The wording is very colorful and illustrates the writing style of the period. The book also illustrates how the nation was captivated by Civil War literature immediately after the war and the level of interest has not died down since then. It also shows how later scholarship has brought new light to areas not fully understood during the post-civil war years. (Photo by Brent Helmick, Aug 2004)
Captioned Photo of Company K, 7th Wisconsin See: http://cc.edu/civilwar/ib.html
Various scholars have different interpretations of the ‘who’ and ‘when’ of this photo. But there is agreement that it’s a company of the Iron Brigade as shown by the hats, and leggings that the unit wore. And there is little doubt it was taken outside Fredericksburg, Virginia due to the presence of the church steeple in the background. However, various websites list it as the following:
Co. K, 6th Wisconsin,
Co. E, 2nd Wisconsin,
Co. K 7th Wisconsin,
Co. I, 7th Wisconsin
Likewise, various sources differ as to when the photo was taken. Some say December of 1862, roughly the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg. However, that’s unlikely since the trees are full of leaves. Note the color bearer and drummer boy.
Simulated Hard Bread (Hardtack) Source: http://www.kenanderson.net/hardtack/
The standard food for soldiers on the march was hardtack biscuits made from flour and water. A soldier was given 8-9 of these as a daily ration. The proper name for this was Hard Bread. According to Army regulations, “Hard bread should be white, crisp, light and exhibit a flaky appearance when broken.” Unfortunately, it was more often rock hard or moldy and wormy. Hardtack was eaten by itself, or crumbled into coffee. Probably more were eaten that way than in any other, as they were usually eaten as breakfast and supper, but there were other ways to prepare them. Sometimes they were crumbled into soups, which they served to thicken. Some soldiers crumbed them into cold water, then fried the crumbs in the juice and fat of meat, creating a dish that was known as skillygalee or cush. Some preferred to eat them toasted, either to more easily crumb them into coffee; or in the rare case when it was available, with butter. A few who managed to save a portion of their sugar ration spread it upon the hardtack.
Other books and other sources:
See Annotated Bibliography for lists of children’s books and adult-level books on the Civil War and the Iron Brigade units. Also note list of web sites.