You know, hardtack might have been hard, but at least it wasn’t rife with vermin. Oh no, wait, actually it usually was. Frequently with little granary weevils, but also the larger larvae of Indian meal moths. Both burrowed effortlessly through entire crates of hardtack, riddling crackers with holes, earning them the nickname “worm castles.”
While neither pest was harmful to eat, they didn’t do much to stimulate the appetites of the troops. Some soldiers solved that problem by simply eating their crackers after dark. Others submerged whole crackers in boiling-hot water or coffee, which would force the pests out and onto the surface where they could be skimmed off with a spoon. Frequently hardtack was toasted over a camp fire on a spit. This method didn’t drive the pests out, but at least it stopped the wriggling. Of course many disgusted troops simply gave up and pitched the hardtack out. Rumor had it that, though, you could throw away a cracker as often as you wanted. It would still come crawling back.