Civil War Recipe ~ Union Skillygalee

03 Jun
Civil War Recipe ~ Union Skillygalee

Well on my adventure to find the “perfect” picture of what the Union soldiers called Skillygalee I came up empty.  As this has never happened to me before, I am quite dismayed by this.  HOWEVER, we are in luck that I am persistant.  Through many hours of this link, leading to that link, and so on, I was able to find some pictures that I think will give you a pretty good idea of what the Union was cooking up.

Here are some pictures of what I was able to find.  I think you will agree, it doesn’t look to bad, and almost appealing to the appetite.  I think I would soon begin to cringe at the sight of it, as it was nearly a daily staple for the Union soldiers in the field.

Picture courtesy of TimeTravelKitchen

For a much-needed change of pace from the “worm castles” that were often received by the Union soldiers, they made Skilligalees.  Now I’m not sure if this was from self-preservation or because they wanted a change in diet.  I’m guessing that these options were essential in the prevention of starvation.  As rations weren’t always delivered in a timely manner, by the time soldiers received their hardtack it was often infested with weevils and other undesirable critters.  Facing either feast or famine, the hardtack was often seen as undesirable to eat.  Yet the ingenuity of the Union soldiers most likely saved them from the latter of the choices they faced.

Union rations Hardtack Box pictures courtesy of

The soldiers would break up the hardtack and soak it in hot water, one to make it softer to eat.  And the other, to kill the critters that didnt’ really want to share.  Now I don’t want to discourage you here, and I definitely don’t want to kill your appetite either.  But here is what they often did to salvage the hardtack.  They would break up the hardtack and soak it in hot water.  Soon, the critters would drowned and float to the top.  They would scoop (or by some other means) off the weevils or whatever else floated to the top, then drain the water.  Have you ever seen a soggy cracker?  Quite possible in the attempt to save the hardtack for consumption they came up with Skillygalee to dry it back out.

After “washing” the hardtack, the soldier would add other things (salt pork, brown sugar, or molasses) to it, making it more appealing to the palette.

Here is the recipe for the Skillygalee.

Union Skillygalee:

  • Hardtack, broken into small chunks
  • Water
  • Salt Pork
  • Bacon grease

Break up hardtack into small chunks in the bottom of a tin cup.
Soak hardtack for 10-15 minutes or until soft.  (Don’t forget to drain off the floaties!! :p)
While hardtack is soaking, fry up some salt pork.  After frying chop into small pieces.
Dump soaked hardtack pieces into grease remaining in skillet, canteen half, tin-can,or tin-cup.  Return the chopped salt pork to the skillet also.
Fry this until heated through.
Remove from heat and eat.

♥ Recipe courtesy of  It is of no doubt that the Civil War was one of hard times, and hard choices.  I know I’ll never look at a cracker the same way again! 


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