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May 10, 2021 2:07:36 PM

Coffee and Combat

The Story Behind Our Partnership with Veteran Roasters

Coffee. It’s the fuel that starts our engines each day. It’s also embedded in our history. In colonial America, it rose in favor over it’s highly taxed and politically charged counterpart, tea, becoming the traditional morning beverage of a rebellious, young country. As the Civil War raged on, it was coffee that powered Union soldiers, just as it powers us today.

Civil War soldier John Billings raved in his 1888 book Hard Tack and Coffee, "What a Godsend it seemed to us at times! How often after being completely jaded by a night march ... have I had a wash, if there was water to be had, made and drunk my pint or so of coffee and felt as fresh and invigorated as if just arisen from a night's sound sleep!"

Coffee was allotted as daily rations to Union soldiers, provided in the form of green, whole beans. Soldiers would have to roast and grind their coffee prior to brewing it. Volunteers from the United States Christian Commission also carried and prepared coffee for soldiers—a laborious task, well worth the effort at the end of a march. It would be a pill-maker named Jacob Dunton who would patent the means to efficiently keep Union soldiers powered up on the march.

Tin type photos of union soldiers enjoying coffee on the battlefields of the Civil War


In 1863, Dunton’s coffee wagon made its debut. It was a modified artillery caisson and gun carriage that held a large chest and three 14-gallon boilers instead of a cannon and ammunition. Commission chairman George H. Stewart called the wagon "a most ingenious and beneficial invention" in his book and reported that during a march, 10 gallons each of coffee, tea, or cocoa could be made in 20 minutes, or 90 gallons an hour.

Though it was fuel for the war, coffee was also America’s symbol of peace. As the war came to its end, and General Lee surrendered at Appomattox, it was coffee that served as the first act of reconciliation—a welcome gift to Confederate troops who were deprived of coffee for years by Union blockades.

Today, coffee still powers our troops—but more importantly, it’s become a life-line for many veterans struggling to transition back to civilian life.

Veteran Roasters, a veteran-owned and operated craft roaster, saw coffee as more than just a way to fuel their day. They saw a way to fuel a mission of combatting chronic unemployment in the veteran community. For these veterans, coffee is a beacon of hope—a foundation upon which they can build a community and learn a trade that supports their families.

The history of coffee and the Civil War is the Armed Services YMCA’s history—just as it’s the history of craft coffee roasters like Veteran Roasters, for it was from the ashes of the Civil War that the art of mass-producing roasted coffee was born.

It is in honor of this history, and of a shared mission of support for our military family that the Armed Services YMCA and Veteran Roasters have partnered to bring you “Battlefield Blend.”  $5 from each purchase of “Battlefield Blend” helps to power the ASYMCA’s mission of Strengthening our Military Family, and provides patronage to a veteran-owned small business that employs and mentors at-risk veterans.

This specialty roast is a well-balanced, medium roast blend, with good body and rich chocolate notes. Power your day, and power support for our military family with “Battlefield Blend” by Veteran Roasters.

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