Join us for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month with activities, programs, and resources this May. Plan Your Visit

Dismiss notification

Flour, water, and salt — if you're lucky. That's all it takes to make hard bread, later known commonly as "hardtack." Hard bread was commonly distributed to soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Fresh-baked bread was not always available while on campaign, and softer breads can spoil quickly. Plus, hard bread is simple to make and lasts a long time, making for practical sustenance during long campaigns and on sea voyages.

Joseph Plumb Martin described the rations promised to soldiers upon enlisting in his 1830 Memoir of a Revolutionary Soldier, rations that included hard bread. He wrote: 

"When we engaged in the service we were promised the following articles for a ration: one pound of good and wholesome fresh or salt beef, or three quarters of a pound of good salt pork, a pound of good flour, soft or hard bread, a quart of salt to every hundred pounds of fresh beef, a quart of vinegar to a hundred rations, a gill [a quarter of a pint] of rum, brandy, or whiskey per day, some little soap and candles, I have forgot how much, for I had so little of these two articles that I never knew the quantity."

Watch Tyler Putman, Gallery Interpretation Manager at the Museum, demonstrate how to make hard bread.

Hard Bread Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
salt optional

Directions: Mix flour, salt, and water until you have a ball of dough. Roll or pound out to 1/2" thickness, then fold and pound or roll again. Repeat 4 times. Cut into desired shapes (usually squares or rounds). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until just becoming golden. Let cool and eat or save in a barrel for several years.

This Living History at Home cooking demonstration was released as part of Virtual Spring Break with the Museum, sponsored by PECO, which ran online in April 2020, featuring do-at-home crafts and activities, virtual story time, Artisans Field Trip living history interviews, and live Q&As with Museum staff.

Be sure to follow the Museum (@amrevmuseum) on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for daily content and updates.

Learn More

Image 102320 Cooking Demo Roasting Pumpkin

Living History at Home: Roasting a Pumpkin

Watch Tyler Putman, Gallery Interpretation Manager at the Museum, demonstrate how to cook a pumpkin, inspired by Joseph Plumb Martin's words.
Read More
Image 051420 Cooking Demo Gingerbread Gingerbread3 Moment

Living History at Home: Making Gingerbread

Tyler Putman, the Museum's Gallery Interpretation Manager, demonstrates how to make an 18th-century gingerbread recipe.
Read More
Image 100220 16x9 Transparent Rtr Memoir Of A Revolutionary Soldier

Memoir of a Revolutionary Soldier

Read an excerpt from Joseph Plumb Martins memoir describing leaving the safety of home for his first deployment for the American Revolution in 1776.
Read More