John U. Rees The Federal Civil War Shelter Tent, by Frederick C. Gaede.

Available from O’Donnell Publications, 7217 Popkins Farm Rd., Alexandria, Va., 22306. 2001. Softbound, 144 pp., with endnotes, color cover, 128 black and white illustrations, 6 appendices. $19.95 + $2.00 shipping.. ISBN: 0-9670731-3-8. Review by John U. Rees (published in Military Collector & Historian, vol. 54, no. 4 (Winter 2002-2003), 197.) How could a simple cloth assemblage play such an important role in easing Federal army transportation needs, while at the same time providing soldiers with shelters, and eventually becoming (like that other Civil War icon, hardtack) a symbol of hardship, comradeship, and pride of service? For the answers to these and other questions you need look no further than Fred Gaede’s study of Union shelter tents. This work has something for everyone interested in the Civil War: as a study of the army supply system viewed via one item of equipment; as an overview of soldiers’ tentage during the war; as a narrative of the antecedents, descendants, and evolution of the 1860s Federal shelter tent; and as a collection of contemporary accounts detailing soldiers’ opinions and use of shelter tents, both in the field and during winter cantonments. Over and above those fine and varied topics is the monograph’s detailed examination of 32 extant shelter tents in public and private collections. Information gleaned from these artifacts is used throughout the narrative to highlight construction details and support identification of differences according to the date of manufacture, and the particular contractor or depot of origin. For those who wish to construct a shelter tent for a specific unit, time period, and/or campaign Mr. Gaede provides detailed information on typology, construction methods and materials used, thread counts, button holes, buttons, etc., etc. There are also many episodes that show the war’s human side, such as the fond memories and ambivalent feelings evoked by shelter tents, the often humorous descriptions the men gave of them (including the origin of the “dog tent” appellation), and a brief mention of the women, some of them soldiers’ wives or widows, who eked out a tenuous living doing piecework for government contractors. The study includes 128 photographs and drawings, comprehensive endnotes, and an appendix with, among other things, additional information on tent contracts and a listing of the 32 studied shelter tents along with descriptive information. Although the author notes in his forward that the shelter tent’s “story is by no means complete” his study provides a solid foundation of factual information and intelligent insight to which further details may be added as they come to light. On a personal note, I must say I found the work wonderfully informative, interesting, and even entertaining, The photographs, drawings, and range of artifacts are impressive and compelling. Obviously a labor of love, based on field experience, knowledge of extant artifacts, and exhaustive research.

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