Cigar History and War: How Soldiers, Battles, and Strategy Shaped the Tobacco Industry

Cigars have a long and fascinating history, dating back centuries. Throughout history, cigars have been associated with power, wealth, and luxury. They have also played a significant role in war, particularly in soldiers’ lives.

During war, cigars were often used as a form of currency, traded among soldiers and used to barter for goods and services. They were also used as a morale booster, providing soldiers comfort and relaxation during times of stress and uncertainty. In addition, cigars were often used for soldiers to bond, sharing stories and experiences while smoking together.

Today, the history of cigars and war continues to be a fascinating topic, with many stories and legends surrounding their use in battle. From the Civil War to World War II and beyond, cigars have played a significant role in soldiers’ lives, providing them comfort, camaraderie, and even strategic advantage on the battlefield.

Cigars in War

Cigars in the American Civil War

During the American Civil War, cigars were popular among soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Union General Ulysses S. Grant was known to smoke up to 20 cigars a day during the war, and it was reported that he smoked a cigar during battle. Cigars were also used as a form of currency among soldiers, with some soldiers trading them for food or other items.

At the Battle of Antietam, a Union soldier discovered a copy of the Confederate battle plans wrapped around three cigars. This discovery gave the Union army a significant advantage and helped turn the tide of the battle in their favor.

Cigars in World War I

Cigars were a luxury item during World War I and were often given as gifts to high-ranking officers. Winston Churchill, a British officer during the war, was known for his love of cigars and would often smoke them during meetings with other officers.

Some soldiers also used cigars to help cope with the stress of war. They would smoke them to help calm their nerves or pass the time during long downtime.

Cigars in World War II

Cigars continued to be a popular item among soldiers during World War II. General George Patton was known for his love of cigars and was often seen smoking them during the war.

Cigars were also used as a form of currency during the war, with some soldiers trading them for food or other items. In some cases, cigars were used to bribe enemy soldiers or gain information.

Cigars in the Vietnam War

Cigars were not as popular among soldiers during the Vietnam War as in previous conflicts. However, some soldiers still smoked them as a way to relax or to pass the time.

One notable story from the war involves a group of soldiers discovering a cache of Cuban cigars in a bunker. They were initially unsure what to do with them, but eventually decided to smoke them and enjoy the rare treat.

Cigars in the Gulf War

Cigars were still used as a form of currency during the Gulf War, with some soldiers trading them for food or other items. However, they were not as widely smoked as in previous conflicts.

One notable story from the war involves General Norman Schwarzkopf, who was known for his love of cigars. He would often smoke them during briefings and meetings with other officers, and was even given a special humidor to keep his cigars in while he was in the desert.

The Role of Cigars in Soldier Life

Throughout history, soldiers have relied on various items to help them cope with the stresses of war. One such item is the cigar. Cigars have played a significant role in soldiers’ lives, serving as a currency, a comfort, and a bonding tool.

Cigars as Currency

During times of war, soldiers often need necessities, such as food, water, and shelter. In many cases, cigars have served as a currency, allowing soldiers to trade them for these essential items. For example, during the American Civil War, cigars were often used as a form of payment among soldiers and in trade with civilians.

Cigars as a Comfort

War is a stressful and traumatic experience, and soldiers often turn to cigars to relax and unwind. Smoking cigars can provide peace and solitude in an otherwise chaotic and dangerous environment. Additionally, smoking a cigar can be a comforting routine for soldiers, helping them feel a sense of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal situation.

Cigars as a Bonding Tool

Smoking cigars has long been a social activity, and soldiers often use cigars to bond with fellow soldiers. Sharing a cigar can be a way to build camaraderie and strengthen relationships. Many soldiers have reported that smoking cigars together has helped them to form lifelong friendships.

In conclusion, cigars have played a significant role in soldiers’ lives. Whether used as a form of currency, a comfort, or a bonding tool, cigars have helped soldiers to cope with the stresses of war and form strong relationships with their fellow soldiers.

Cigar Brands and Their Connection to War

Cigar Brands Popular Among Soldiers

During war, soldiers often turn to smoking to cope with the stress and anxiety of combat. Many cigar brands have become popular among soldiers throughout history, including:

  • Camel: In Korea, Camel sought to establish the brand as the smoke of choice among discriminating infantrymen.
  • Marlboro: With its flip-top box, Marlboro was the most popular brand in Vietnam, despite COMUSMACV General Creighton W. Abrams’ penchant for cigars, a preference dating back to his World War II service as a tank battalion commander.
  • Cohiba: Fidel Castro himself is said to have given these cigars to visiting dignitaries, and they are rumored to have been a favorite of Che Guevara.

Cigar Brands with Military History

Some cigar brands have a rich history that is closely tied to military conflicts:

  Cigar Brand Military Conflict 

  La Flor de Cano Cuban War of Independence  

  Bolivar Venezuelan War of Independence  

  Sancho Panza Spanish Civil War  

 During World War I, the cigar industry suffered as mechanization led to the decline of the hand-made small-shop cigar. The war encouraged generations of men to smoke cigars, but World War I was a major factor in the cigarette addiction of Europe, England, and the United States in the 1920s and 1930s.

Overall, cigar brands have played a significant role in military history, both in terms of their popularity among soldiers and connection to specific conflicts.

The Future of Cigars in War

As the world continues to evolve, so does the role of cigars in war. With the increasing focus on health and wellness, the use of tobacco products has decreased over the years. This trend is expected to continue, and cigars may eventually be phased out of military culture altogether.

However, despite the potential decline in cigar usage, there will always be a place for cigars in the military. Cigars have long been a symbol of camaraderie and brotherhood among soldiers, and this tradition is unlikely to disappear. Some military organizations have even created cigar brands, further cementing the connection between cigars and the military.

One potential area of growth for cigars in the military is in the realm of mental health. Studies have shown that smoking cigars can have a calming effect on the mind, which may benefit soldiers dealing with the stress and trauma of war. As mental health continues to be a focus for the military, cigars may become a more widely accepted tool for promoting relaxation and stress relief.

Another area where cigars may find a place in the military is in the realm of diplomacy. Cigars have long been used as a tool for building relationships and establishing trust, and this is especially true in the world of politics and international relations. Cigars may continue to play a role in diplomatic efforts, both within and outside of the military.

History of Cigars and Fashion

Cigars have played an interesting role in fashion, often symbolizing status, style, and sophistication. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when cigar smoking became more prevalent among the upper classes, the act of smoking a cigar was considered a sign of wealth and taste. This was often reflected in the fashion of the time, with men portrayed in stylish suits, a cigar in one hand.

Over the years, accessories related to cigar smoking have also become fashionable items. Elegant cigar cases, cutters, and lighters have been crafted by luxury brands, turning these utilitarian objects into stylish accessories. Humidors, the boxes used to store cigars, have been made from fine wood and adorned with ornate designs, making them a fashionable addition to a home or office.

The resurgence of cigar culture in recent years has seen a return of cigars in fashion imagery, tying into a broader trend of vintage revival. High-end fashion magazines have published editorials featuring models with cigars, evoking a sense of retro glamour. And on the runways, designers have occasionally drawn inspiration from the cigar-smoking dandy archetype, using cigars as props to add a layer of sophistication to their collections. As such, the history of cigars and fashion is a fascinating interplay of style, trends, and accessories, reflecting the evolving societal perceptions of this indulgent pastime.

History of Cigars in Art

The art world has had a long-standing fascination with cigars, often portraying them as symbols of sophistication, power, and leisure. In the realm of painting, artists like Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso have included cigars in their works. Van Gogh’s “Still Life with a Bottle, Lemons and Oranges” features a cigar on the table amongst other objects, while Picasso, a known cigar enthusiast, often incorporated cigars into his paintings and drawings.

In photography, cigars have been used to convey a sense of character or mood. Iconic photographs of figures like Winston Churchill and Che Guevara with cigars have become enduring symbols of their personas. The image of Churchill, Britain’s indomitable wartime leader, with a cigar in hand, is among the most recognized of the 20th century, while the photograph of revolutionary leader Che Guevara, adorned with a cigar, has become an emblem of rebellion and revolution.

In literature, cigars have found their way into the narratives of many classic works. Mark Twain, a prolific cigar smoker, frequently referenced cigars in his writings. In his novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Twain uses cigars as a symbol of adulthood and maturity. Similarly, in the realm of detective fiction, Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was often described as enjoying a pipe, but he also smoked cigars in several stories. These references to cigars in painting, photography, and literature highlight how deeply cigars have permeated our culture and art, symbolizing various aspects of society and individual character.