Hardtack Biscuits

Tooth Dullers or Worm Castles?

These hard biscuits have been a dietary staple for soldiers for hundreds of years.

The biscuits consist of little more than flour and water, and are baked up to four times to dry out any existing moisture in the dough. As long as the biscuits were kept dry they could last for years and were much simpler to transport as they took up less room than loaves of bread.

Biscuits were either round, square or octagonal in shape and weighed about 90 grams. They were known by many names, including ship’s biscuit, cabin bread, sea bread, dog biscuits, tooth dullers, molar breakers and worm castles.

The biscuits were extremely hard and required good teeth to break them! Often soldiers would bash them with their rifle butts to break them up, or soften them in liquid like coffee or broth from cooking their rations. Un-moistened hardtack was practically inedible and was said to be dense enough to stop a musket ball.

Did you know?

The name 'worm castles' referred to the biscuits that were infested with insects, mainly maggots or weevil larvae. Soldiers would break up these biscuits, put them in their coffee and the insects would float to the top, allowing the soldier to skim them off the surface before eating the softened biscuit!