KRISTINA EKLUND RYAN
During the Civil War, coffee was one of the most important provisions for the tired soldiers. It was, in fact, as common on the
battlefields as it is in offices today… It was so important to the soldiers that if there was no time to boil water to brew the coffee,
they would simply chew on the whole coffee beans while they marched. Coffee was also the only thing on the soldiers’ menu that
they could rely on to be fresh, as it was delivered in whole bean form. Much of the other provisions were often rotten or stale,
so it’s no wonder the coffee was such a treat.
However, coffee was not to be taken for granted. The luxury of coffee was only readily available to the soldiers of the North, due
to a Union Naval blockade that caused the much-desired brew to be in short supply in the South. Therefore, Southern soldiers
had to resort to brewing an array of questionable substitutes: rye, okra and peanuts to name a few. Not only were these substitutes
difficult to digest, they tasted awful and lacked the perking effects of coffee. And, let’s be honest, when it comes to coffee there
are no substitutes for the real thing.
There was, however, one way the Southern soldiers could get their hands on some of that highly desired coffee – by making
peace with the Union, if only temporarily. Southern soldiers on the front lines commonly called interim truces so they could trade
tobacco for coffee and sneak back to camp before their superior officers noticed that they were missing. That gives the term
coffee break a whole new meaning.