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“Soldiers are ingenious animals.


American Civil War Campaign Shelters

John U. Rees

2nd Lieutenant Sebron Sneed, 6th/10th/15th Texas Consolidated Regiment, 8 June
1864, Gilgal Church, Georgia, “The officers in the field doing active duty are a
different looking set of men to the gilt and tinseled crowd you are likely to see about
a town like Austin. If you will call Pete [a dog] in wet some day when he is well
muddy … you will have a fair sample of the looks of the clothes of your ‘precious’
with perhaps a stray rag or two that denotes military. In messing we all sop out of
the same pan, a thing I once thought disgusting. When we stop for a while you will
see in a little while every sort of shelter made of Bunk Blankets, etc. Soldiers are
ingenious animals.”1

Cartographer Robert Sneden, Federal III Corps HQ, 2 September 1862. After
participating at 2nd Bull Run “about 3 p.m., arrived safely at Accotink village, and
halted the wagons in the main street while we built fires and cooked dinner … We
had not taken a meal inside of a house for a year … We had been used to eating our
meals in the woods or under bough houses or tent flies, off of logs or cracker boxes,
on tin plates and iron forks.”2
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Contents

1. Comparative Use of Makeshift Shelters, 1755 to 1812
2. "To[o] much expence to haul them these day’s.”: Civil War Soldiers' Tents
a. ”More like a chicken-coop er a dog-kennel": Civil War Soldiers' Tents
b. “We got a supply of boards”: Soldier–Built Supports and Shelter Tent Amenities.
c. “We stretched a blanket and kept dry.”: Southern Tents and Substitutes.
d. “Made shelters out of our India rubbers.”: Federal Troops and Tent Substitutes.
3. "Ther' ain't no use lyin' 'n the mud.": Soldiers' Bedding Arrangements With and Without
Shelter
4. "Their shebang enclosures of bushes.": The Variety of Brush and Board Huts
5. "It is so awful hot here to-day": Soldier-Built Shades
6. ”The shelters were … quite generally pitched.": Conclusions.

Through the ages soldiers have shared much in common, this despite innovations like
automatic weapons, satellite communication, and packaged MRE's (Meals–Ready–to–
Eat). While lightweight sleeping bags and modern tents have advanced sleeping quarters
in the field, present–day soldiers sometimes bivouac for the night as did their
predecessors and in survival courses learn to construct makeshift shelters similar to those
built by armies of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. In this study we will look at the range
of Civil War soldiers' shelters, and some of their historical antecedents.
Comparative Use of Makeshift Shelters
1755 to 1812

American soldier–built board or brush shelters predated the Revolution and
Continental soldiers' military descendants used very much the same constructs during the
Civil War, eighty years later. Armies resorted to such structures since time immemorial
and they were commonly used in pre–18th century Europe. Some early examples can be
seen in an illustration of a circa 17th century military camp showing a cluster of makeshift
huts at one corner, all reminiscent of shelters used by North American soldiers. Gary S.
Zaboly, in his work "A Lodging for the Night: A Brief Study of Some Types of
Wilderness Shelters Used During the French and Indian War," noted "references to brush
shelters, bush tents and brush tents abound in diaries" from that conflict. Among the
shelters built by British and Provincial troops were familiar A–frame constructs, open–
faced half–shelters, and conical wigwams. Chaplain Robert Treat wrote of provincial
soldiers' huts at Lake George in late 1755, "Their lodging is various, some using an
artificial couch and others preferring the feathers the land produces, so that truly it may
be said of some that their houses are fir and their bed is green."3 Fifty–seven years later
Captain John Scott, 15th U.S. Regiment, wrote in December 1812 from the Saranac River
above Plattsburgh, New York,

We are building huts … which we will have finished in 3 or 4 weeks. I am writing this at
the root of a large pine tree with a few sticks set up to keep off some of the winds, and a
fire to put my feet to at night. This with my blanket defends me from the weather. We
have not one tent in our Regt. I wish you could see the style in which we live. The snow
is six inches deep.4

During the American War for Independence (1775–1783) soldiers often built
makeshift shelters to cover themselves when tents or buildings were unavailable.
Continental troops had a number of names for these dwellings, such as "brush Hutt,"
"bush housen," "hemlock bowhouses," and "huts [of] brush and leaves." Union troops
used similar names – "brush shanty," "houses of boughs and blankets," "shelters of
boughs," and "brush shelter." "Shebang" was a popular Federal term that, like the
Revolutionary War British "wigwam," was used for a variety of constructs including
brush and plank huts. Most of the terms listed above described enclosed lodgings with
frames made of cut trees or tree limbs, covered with leafy branches or pine boughs.
Several appellations denoted different kinds of shelter, some similar to brush huts but
made of boards and other materials: booth (used by soldiers of both wars) seems to have
referred to a particular form of brush hut, and may have indicated an open lean–to shaped
like a Civil War shelter–half, sometimes used for overnight lodging and in other instances
as simple sunshades; during the Revolution sheds were similar in construction to brush
huts, but covered with different materials, such as milled lumber, fence rails, cornshocks,
or straw – in the Civil War some shebangs and shantys were built of those materials.
Another shelter type was the bower, a flat–topped structure used primarily as a sunshade.
Soldiers of the 1860's also used bowers, though one man referred to "booths of gum
branches" as shades, too. But before examining Civil War makeshift shelters in detail, we
will first discuss army tentage.5
" To[o] much expence to haul them these day’s.”
Civil War Soldiers' Tents

Tents were preferred for covering the armies and several Union soldiers provided
colorful descriptions. Among the foremost is author and veteran Wilbur Hinman, who,
like John D. Billings of Hardtack and Coffee fame, vividly recounted the minutia of
soldier life. Hinman's work is not widely known so some credentials are in order. He
served with the 65th Ohio Regiment, enlisting as a private in October 1861. Making first
sergeant in 1862, Hinman was promoted to lieutenant in February 1863; he fought at
Stone's River, was wounded at Chickamauga, and later served as a captain in Sherman's
1864 campaigns. In the 1880's Wilbur Hinman wrote a serialized feature based on his
experiences for the Union veteran's newspaper The National Tribune, described by
historian Brian Pohanka as "a beguiling mix of comic misadventure and poignant
authenticity." Hinman's fellow veterans and the public were won over, and the popular

Army tents: (Left to right), Sibley tent, wedge tent, shelter tent.
Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 577.

series was published in book form as, Corporal Si Klegg and his "Pard.": How They
Lived and Talked, and What They Did and Suffered, While Fighting for the Flag.6
Among other things, Wilbur Hinman discussed the evolution of army tentage during
the war, starting with Sibley tents:

In 1861 most of the troops, on taking the field, were furnished with the 'Sibley' tent.
This was a spacious pavilion, large enough for a good–sized circus to show in. When
pitched it was a perfect cone in shape, the apex being fully twelve feet from the ground.
The foot of the center–pole rested upon an iron tripod, the limbs of which straddled out ...
covering a great amount of territory ... Five or six Sibley tents were supplied to a
company, and the men were packed like sardines in a box, from fifteen to eighteen in
each.7
John Billings, 10th Massachusetts artilleryman and author of Hard Tack and Coffee
(published the same year as Si Klegg), described the tepee–shaped Sibley as being
eighteen feet in diameter and twelve feet high; a stove could be accommodated in the
center, the stovepipe sticking through an opening at the top.

These tents are comfortably capacious for a dozen men. In cold or rainy weather, when
every opening is closed, they are most unwholesome tenements, and to enter one of them
of a rainy morning from the outer air, and encounter the night's accumulation of
nauseating exhalations ... was an experience which no old soldier has ever been known to
recall with any great enthusiam ... In the daytime these tents were ventilated by lifting
them up at the bottom.8

Billings noted that Sibley "tents went out of field service in 1862," partly because of
their expense but mostly because they were too large and cumbersome.9 Wilbur Hinman
expounded upon this:

The Sibley tents were cumbrous things to handle, and enormously bulky. A regiment
with sixty of them, and all other baggage in proportion, required a train of wagons
sufficient to transport a menagerie. The lumbering vehicles, crammed to the top of the
bows, with camp–kettles, knapsacks, and odds and ends of all kinds ... made a
picturesque and imposing parade as they filed out upon the road ... the Sibley tent had to
'go.' The armies grew rapidly, and it bacame a grave question whether there were ...
enough mules available to haul Sibleys for a million men.10

Wedge tents, according to John Billings, were "perhaps six feet long" and covered
"when pitched, an area nearly seven feet square. ... Four men was the number usually
assigned to one of them; but they were often occupied by five, and sometimes six ... [and]
six or even five men were a tight fit ... unless they 'spooned' together." These tents "were
in quite general use ... the first two years of the war, but, like the Sibley, they required too
much wagon transportation to take along for use in the field." A third type, the wall tent,
came in different sizes, some quite large, and most often were used for field hospitals and
officers quarters.11
Civil War soldiers sleeping in a wedge tent, spoon-style. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 49.

Shelter Tents: "More like a chicken–coop er a dog–kennel". "But there was another
tent ... which was used exclusively in the field ... the Dog or Shelter Tent"; so writes
Cannoneer Billings. This tent is the type most often associated with Federal soldiers, and
the most serviceable for campaigning. As Captain Hinman notes, "the unique shelter tent
... was as near to the point of none at all as it was possible to reach."12 Billings described
them in detail:

Just why it is called the shelter tent I cannot say ... [as] there is little shelter in this variety
of tent ... [which] was invented late in 1861 or early in 1862. I am told it was made of
light duck at first, then of rubber, and afterwards of duck again, but I never saw one made
of anything heavier than cotton drilling. This was the tent of the rank and file. It did not
come into general use till after the Peninsular Campaign. Each man was provided with a
half–shelter, as a single piece was called, which he was expected to carry on the march if
he wanted a tent to sleep under. ... One I recently measured is five feet two inches long by
four feet eight inches wide, and is provided with a single row of buttons and button–holes
on three sides, and a pair of holes for stake loops at each corner. A single half–shelter ...
would make a very contracted and uncomfortable abode for a man; but every soldier was
expected to join his resources for shelter with some other fellow ... By means of the
buttons and button–holes two or more of these half–shelters could be buttoned together,
making a very complete roofing ...13
Wilbur Hinman humorously described the reactions of his fictional hero Si Klegg and
comrade Shorty when they first encountered dog–tents. "It will be readily understood that
it was indispensable for two men to 'go snacks' on the tent business, and that 'pards' must
have two pieces that would go together."14 Once Si and his "pard" traded so they had two
matching halves, they buttoned them together.

'Wall,’ said Si, 'I don't see nothin' yet 't looks like a tent.' ... his curious eye critically
surveyed the cloth that lay spread out upon the ground.
'Jest you wait a bit, 'n' I'll show ye a trick.' said his comrade '... You hunt up a couple o'
forked stakes 'bout 's high's yer bread basket, 'n' I'll squint 'round fer a ridge–pole.'
Si was not long in finding his part of the outfit, and Shorty soon appeared with a stick
an inch in diameter and six or seven feet long. They forced the stakes a little way into the
ground and put the ridge–pole in place.
'Now stretch 'er over,' said Shorty, ''n we'll have a tent 'fore ye know it.' ... they threw
the cloth across the pole and pulled it out each way at the bottom, fastening it to the
ground by pegs driven through the loops of stout twine provided for that purpose. ...
'Looks to me more like a chicken–coop er a dog–kennel 'n it does like a house fer two
men ter live in,' said Si.
It could not be denied that there was force in Si's remark. It was three feet high to the
ridge, and the 'spread' at the bottom was about four feet. ... They went in on their hands
and knees and squatted upon the ground. Their heads rubbed against the sloping sides.15

Once inside, Si gave the final verdict on their new shelter. "Beats all creation, don't it
Shorty? Ef we had the man here 't built that thing we'd toss him 'n a blanket t'll he
couldn't tell which end his head was on; 'n' then we'd set the fifes ter playin' tha Rogue's
March 'n' ride him out o' camp on a rail."16
Two renderings of a shelter–tent camp; note some are supported by muskets, others by
stick frames. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 580; Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 142.
Despite shelter tent shortfalls, in time soldiers were glad to have them. Robert Sneden,
a cartographer on General Samuel P. Heintzelman’s division staff, noted at Harrison’s
Landing, James River, August 10th 1862, as they prepared for a move to Northern
Virginia, “All infantry are ordered … to move in light marching order. No tents will be
carried, shelter tents for the men, and six tent flies per regiment or staff headquarters
each.” Poet Walt Whitman observed the Army of the Potomac near Fredericksburg in
December 1862, noting, “most of the regiments lodge in the flimsy little shelter tents.”
He described those in the 26th Pennsylvania’s camp as “quite comfortable, [in] such
moderate weather as we are having now.“17 Whitman

examined [a] little shelter tent through the open entrance – the ground strewn with pine
twigs and protected on each side with a pine log for an entrance; the knapsacks piled at
one end for pillows (three men asleep in one of the tents), I thought, rough as it was, that
men in health might endure it and get along with more comfort than most outsiders would
suppose 18

Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Dodge, 101st New York, wrote of his changed regard for
shelter tents at Goose Creek in 1863, 18 June, “We have had a thunder shower this
afternoon and ‘tis raining still. Dr. Ayme and I are under my shelter tent, on the roof of
which this rain is pattering heavily and about a tenth part coming in through the thin
canvas. Altogether I feel very uncomfortable.”19 Two days later he noted,

I got a shelter tent out of the trains today and set up an establishment all by myself …
Now, if you at home could look down upon us here … when taking our meals, or
sleeping during a thunderstorm in a shelter tent, you would dub us the most miserable of
mortals. But really I am happy and contented … I manage on what I have very well
indeed.20

One western soldier related a peculiar name given shelter tents. In May 1863 44th
Indiana sergeant George Squier wrote from Murfreesboro, Tennessee,

Don’t know whether I wrote you that the baggage of Noncommissioned officers and soldirs
are cut down to one hat or cap, two Shirts … one coat jacket or blouse, 2 pr. Drawers, 2 pr.
Socks … one pr. Pants, and one pr. Shoes or boots. Allso one w[oo]len blanket, one rubber
blanket, and one ‘purp’ [possibly a corruption of “pup”] tent, which is substanually the same
as last Summer.21

In June he mentioned the term again. After giving a speech to the troops Squier’s captain

proposed three cheers for ‘Old Rose’ [Major General William S. Rosecrans] and his purps,
which was given with a right good will … The term ‘Old Rose’s purps,’ may need a little
explanation. Some months since all the [Sibley] and [Bell?] tents were turned over to the
QM and the shelter tents issued which is coarse, heavy muslin about 6 x 5 feet. Two of these
put together make a shelter for the men which the boys call a purp tent.22
"From the ruins of a house ... we got a supply of boards, and made us beds elevated from
the ground in regular summer style ...," Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 53.
A "shanty" built by Si Klegg and his "pard." Similar shelters were built by Continental
soldiers during the War for Independence. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 338.

“We got a supply of boards”: Soldier–Built Supports and Shelter Tent Amenities.
While shelter tents were an army–issue item, the methods used to erect them shared
certain features with the various soldier–built makeshift dwellings. Captain John De
Forest, 12th Connecticut Regiment, noted that shelter tents were set up

by the infantry in the following simple way: two muskets with bayonets fixed were stuck
erect into the ground the width of a half–shelter apart. A guy–rope which went with every
half–shelter was stretched between the trigger–guards of the muskets, and over this ... the
tent was pitched in a twinkling. Artillery men pitched theirs over a horizontal bar
supported by two uprights. This framework was split out of fence–rails, if fence–rails
were to be had conveniently; otherwise, saplings were cut for the purpose.23

New York Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Dodge confirmed the use of firearm supports:
15 June 1863, Centerville, Virginia, “We are … in front of the Centreville fortifications.
The men have put up their shelter tents on their muskets, inverted, with the bayonets
stuck in the ground.”24
As Wilbur Hinman noted above, infantrymen also used locally scrounged stick frames.
Private Wilbur Fisk, 2nd Vermont, was a correspondent to the Green Mountain Freeman
published in Montpelier. From "Camp near Warrenton, Va.," 10 August 1863, he
described how his regiment set up shelter tents:

If you can imagine a pole or rail, whichever happens to be the handiest, elevated a little
higher than one's head and held horizontally by two crotches, or by being strapped to
two other rails that are perpendicular, which are inserted in the ground, one at each end,
you have an idea of the first starting point in putting up a tent. The principal difficulty in
all this is to get an ax or hatchet to cut a pole or sharpen the stake that is to be driven into
the ground; but sometimes a big jack–knife will answer the purpose. The next thing is to
throw our tent, which is nothing more nor less than two pieces of cotton or linen cloth,
about five feet square buttoned together, over this ridge–pole and fasten the lower edge,
or eaves, to small stakes as near the ground as we have calculated to have the tent come.
The boys generally prefer from two to three feet. Here then is a tent for two men.25

A soldier in the 61st New York Regiment also spoke of forked stick supports: “Camp in
the field, Va., Nov. 18 [1864] … This afternoon while Company I were out on drill, a
bullet came from the Rebel picket–line, and went through four of their tents, and at last
brought up in the crutch of a tent …”26
The tent's supports were not their only makeshift element. John Billings reported that,

In summer, when the army was not in proximity to the enemy, or was lying off
recuperating, as the Army of the Potomac did a few weeks after the Gettysburg
campaign, they would pitch their shelters high enough to get a free circulation of air
beneath, and to enable them to build bunks or cots a foot or two above the ground.27

Vermonter Fisk echoed this, noting from "Near Petersburg, Va.," 2 July 1864, that just
before being ordered out the previous week to tear up enemy railroads,

We had begun to fix us up a very pretty summer's camp ... We had been there but two
days ... We went to work with a will, cleaned off the ground and put up our tents. From
the ruins of a house, or rather from a house that we ruined, we got a supply of boards, and
made us beds elevated from the ground in regular summer style ...

Shortly thereafter Fisk's brigade was ordered to oppose Jubal Early's raid on Washington;
from the "Steam Transport Webster Off Fortress Monroe," 11 July 1864, he wrote, "That
very afternoon we commenced improvements in our camp, arranging our streets and
raising our beds from the ground ... we had just laid down and were comfortably at sleep,
when the order came to pack up and march."28
Lieutenant William Savage’s regiment, the 10th Connecticut, camped on St. Helena
Island, South Carolina, in late winter 1863. He wrote of the cold weather, and noted,

We live in what are called shelter tents. Each man has a square piece of tent (one half of
one it is about [five] feet square) with buttons on the edge. Four men button their halves
together and make quite a whole but the ends are open. Sometimes six go in together
taking two of the pieces to cover the ends. Others use rubber blankets. Those are the ways
that just presented themselves to us … But Yankee genius has improved very much on
these first plans. As the tents were first pitched they were about three feet high and very
little room in them. Scarce room for four men and their knapsacks and accoutrements.

Savage went on to tell of

Our improved shelter tents … to make them higher, we went out into the wood and cut us
some poles about four or five inches through, four in number. We then placed two on
each side of the tent, and banked the dirt up against them; then stretched the tent over
them. To cover the end we make a frame of small sticks the size of one half of the end of
the tent, then get the palmetto leaves (which are very plenty) and weave them in through
the sticks, making a thatch tight enough to keep out the water. These palmetto or palm
leaves are like those from which palm leaf fans are made. This answers first rate until the
leaves begin to get dry, then it gets lose and wants repairing. Nearly every day we put
some improvement on it ... the floor (of) our tent is as about five feet wide ... all the floor
we have is palm leaves and straw. A thick layer of leaves and then a good quantity of
straw (or Secesh grass) on the top constitute our floor and bed. Sergt. Long who I sleep
and tent with at present has a rebel blanket made from a piece of carpet. This we spread
over the straw. We have a bundle of straw bound up for a pillow. On each side we have
some shelves arranged to keep various articles on which we do not wish to keep in our
knapsacks.29

An image of “deployed” shelter halves (courtesy of Frederick C. Gaede). North Anna River,
Virginia. Interior view of Confederate redoubt commanding Chesterfield bridge. Captured
by 2nd Corps under Gen. Hancock, 23 May 1864. (Library of Congress
Private Fisk described camp arrangements in Virginia in August 1863,

Since we formed our new camp we have been employed principally in making our tents
comfortable and convenient. I would like to introduce the reader in to our camp this
morning that he might see what pleasant houses we can improvise at short notice and
very little expense.30

Once one shelter tent was in place,

Others can join on to the ends indefinitely, thus making a continual line of tents and have
it all one. Along the centre of this we can build our bunks, running lengthwise, if we have
tents sufficient, at a convenient height from the ground, making us a good seat or lounge
in the day–time, and a bed for the night, or we can build them crosswise, if we prefer, and
thus economize the room. Being open all around, the tent has the freest circulation of air,
and we escape the unhealthy damp of living on the ground. Some of the boys fix
themselves up stands for writing–desks, and cupboards for their cups, plates, and
fragments of rations.31

On 12 July 1862 New York Lieutenant Dodge described a bedstead he improvised:

I managed before the rain … to secure an old condemned tent from the Brigade Q.M. and
erected therein a bed … It is fabricated of 4 upright crutch sticks, about 2 feet from the
ground, which represent the posts. Across these are two poles, one at the head and one at
the feet and from one to the other are laid supple young trees so that the horizontal
section on which I lie is something like a mattress – as you can imagine, a most soft and
flexible couch.32

Some shelter tent longhouses were quite impressive. Pvt. William Bentley of the 104th
Ohio, wrote from ”Mount Vernon, Kentucky May 15th 1863 ... We left our old tents
standing in the other camp and fixed up a sort of shed (or rather 2 of them) for a
company. They are about 7 ft. wide on the ground, 6 ft. high in the front and 3 ft. in the
back. We set up forks and laid poles on them lengthwise of the shed which is over 60 feet
long and laid small poles across for rafters over this we spread our shelter tents buttoning
them together. The whole length we closed the ends and backside with cedar boughs
woven close. There are six messes in the company, 3 on each side of the street between
the sheds. We have partitions between the messes and in ours we have little stalls one for
4 of us....”33
The need of wood for structures and furniture caused the "rapid disappearance ... of
barns and sometimes houses in the vicinity of where a new camp is being formed"; as
Fisk explained, "'where there is a will there is a way' and where there is plenty of boards
only two miles distant, who would be willing to lie in the dirt and go without them?"34
One final item of Civil War soldier architecture echoes “hurdled” huts and tents used
by Hessian and British troops in the Revolutionary War. In October 1861 Sergeant
Francis Donaldson, 1st California Regiment (71st Pennsylvania Volunteers), noted near
Pollsville, Montgomery County. Md. … We have pitched camp according to regulations
… Our tent is a marvel of neatness and comfort and was made so by dint of hard work
and the practical experiences gained in former campaigns. Sergeant Stiles was the
architect and straw the material used. By a complete system of organized raids upon a
neighboring farm, we borrowed (some would call it stealing) a dozen ‘battons’ of straw,
which, after being matted together, were spread along the sides and floor. We also made a
door of straw, well bound together and fastened by straps, in an ingenious manner …
Over the top we fastened our oil cloth blankets, and are now able to bid defiance to the
rude blasts of ‘old Boreas.’

These quarters were only temporary, and by mid–October Donaldson’s regiment was on
the move.35

For detailed information on shelter tents see, Frederick C. Gaede’s excellent work, The
Federal Civil War Shelter Tent (Alexandria, Va.: O’Donnell Publications, 2001).
“We stretched a blanket and kept dry.”: Southern Tents and Substitutes.
By comparison, Confederate Army tentage was a mixed lot indeed, due to uneven
early–war supplies, campaign attrition, and replacement difficulties. Shelter tents (like
rubber blankets) were scarce, except for captured Federal items. Texas Sergeant Charles
Leuschner summed up one of the typical problems, writing at Lost Mountain, Georgia,
June 3rd 1864, “Heavy rain all day. We had not even the least thing to protect us from the
rain, without [a] tent, for tent’s were to[o] much expence to haul them these day’s.” Ninth
Kentucky soldier John Jackman’s diary gives an overview of southern soldiers’ lodgings,
mentioning several varieties of tents and stand–ins. Jackman began the war as a private,
and his first camp near Bloomfield, Kentucky in September 1861 was described as “on a
no very public road … [with] an old log church in the centre of the bivouac, which was
used for an arsenal and commissary depot. The men, (who were mostly dressed in gay
uniforms,) were sheltered by rude arbors made of tree–branches.” At month’s end,
marching to a height where “we could survey the Green River valley. Far away we …
could see the tents of the Confederates dotting the valley …” For the remainder of the
year his company lodged in tents at a series of camps. In January 1862 Jackman noted,
“we moved camp to ‘Clear–Water,’ two or three miles off the railroad … The first thing I
did after the tent was pitched, was adding a sod chimney, which answered us a good
purpose, while there encamped. We had a little A tent, and seven in the mess – two being
very large men.” At Corinth, Mississippi in late May baggage was reduced, “Cooking
four days rations. Mystery about the movements. Nearly all the tents taken from us – 12
to a tent. Some say we retreat – some say fight,” and on June 5th Jackman noted, “All the
tents taken from us, but three to a company. Cooked four days rations for a march. There
is no rest for the soldier.” At the end of June the 9th Kentucky moved by train to the
vicinity of Vicksburg, “where we dismounted … and went into camp. We pitched our
tents in [a] beautiful dell, under wide–spreading liveoaks.”36
South Carolina soldier David Logan wrote of his tribulations from Kinston, North
Carolina in December 1862,

Since last Thursday week we have not had a tent and only a Single blanket & been
exposed to the worst incliment weather. We have passed thro three fights & thank God I
am still unhurt … I am one of the dirtiest looking smoked creatures you most ever saw
… My Jeans pants … [are] badly scorched and split open about the front. I am nearly out
of shoes too. I am … in a pretty bad fix, but I shall take it as best as I can.

At the end of January 1863 he was finally able to note,

Our Regiment has wonderfully improved in the way of comfort … The Quarter Masters
have been stirring, and all the wrath I have been nursing for them has been cooled by the
excellent tents we now have. Every private now has a canvass roof between him and the
vault of Heaven, for the first time this winter.37

For the remainder of his war Private (later adjutant’s clerk) Jackman mentioned only
fly tents or various substitutes. The day before the Battle of Stones River he noted,
… misting rain. Started for the regiment, and found it had moved. I then went back to
where Billie A. was having some coffee made by his boy … The enemy shelling our lines
during the day. Our army kept quiet … We had a tent–fly, which we put up temporarily
to shield us from the rain. Sometimes the shells would make us seek shelter behind a big
rock. In the afternoon, the rain having slacked up, I sought out the regiment, which I
found lying about in a cedar thicket, grumbling at the weather … At last, night came on,
and we moved back into the ravine, in rear of the line … near where Billie and I had been
all day. Here the boys had fires – Rain ceased at dark. I slept with Billie A. under our fly.

Several days after the action Jackman wrote, “Jany. 6th. … my Mess did not put up the
tent – we slept on it.”38

Confederate troops in camp. (1st Alabama Regiment) (Library of Congress?)

At Dalton, Georgia, “Nov. 30th.[1863]” Jackman wrote, “To–day our wagons came up
from Resaca. Johnnie G. and I immediately fixed up our fly – we had no tent – by
weather–boarding the back end and building a large fire in front. At night, we had our
blankets spread down on a bed of leaves, and slept ’40 miles an hour.’” Following a June
1864 wound and extended hospitalization, Jackman returned to his regiment in January
1865, sleeping in fly tents that month, and using no canvas shelter at all after that.39
John Jackman and other soldiers occasionally mentioned substituting makeshift tents
for the real thing. On 21 July 1863 Private Jackman told of
bivouack[ing] 4 miles east of Morton [Mississippi] … Looking like rain we put up our fly
and just as we drove the last pin, a heavy storm of rain came pelting down. The
companies have neither flies nor tents, and the boys have to weather the storm as best
they can. They generally … stretch their blankets up in the manner of a ‘dog–tent,’ which
shelters them very well from the inclement weather.40

Near Dallas, Georgia, Jackman noted, “May 25th [1864] … At noon moved half mile
nearer town and bivouacked near a good spring … Set in raining about dark. Adjt. C.,
Johnnie G. and myself made a ‘fly’ out of blankets, which kept off the rain. Slept very
well.” And in February 1865 Jackman wrote at Graniteville, South Carolina, “The
country around here is very poor – nothing but sand–hills. – We made a shelter for
ourselves by putting up fence–rails, & spreading blankets over them.” Kentucky private
John Green related that near Brandon, Mississippi in July 1863, “We went into camp by
the road side while the rain was coming down in torrents. I stretched my blanket over a
young pine sapling bent down, making a dog tent of it, & crawled under to sleep on …
pine boughs …” Samuel Burney of Cobb’s Georgia Legion told of a similar shelter at
Resaca, Georgia in December 1863, “We are still camped in the woods without tents,
cooking utensils or any comforts. We have had several days of rain. We stretched a
blanket and kept dry while many without blankets stood out in the rain like you have seen
frizzly chickens.”41

“Made shelters out of our India rubbers.”: Federal Troops and Tent Substitutes. Union
soldiers used their government–issue rubber blankets to make coverings. Sergeant
William Phillips, 90th Pennsylvania Volunteers, May 1862, Fredericksburg, Virginia:
“We left Belle Plain on the morning of the 9th … kept on until we arrived at this place,
where we met the balance of the regiment. That night we laid down without tents and the
next day we commenced and made shelters out of our India rubbers. That is all the tents
we will have this summer.”42 The 40th New York “Mozart Regiment,” left ship at
Hampton, Virginia on 13 April 1862,

about ten o’clock, in a drenching rain … marched about a mile and a half from the
Fortress, where we encamped. When we arrived in the ground we were wet through, as
well as hungry. We left our tents behind us, and we have to substitute our oil–blankets
instead. Two men club together, joining their blankets, which form a kind of tent – open
at both ends – and about two and a half feet high. In these we passed several wet nights.43

Seventh Connecticut Corporal Henry Glines noted in South Carolina, 13 June 1862,

crossed over to Johns Island about three in the morning, we started from the beach …
marched six miles we encamped on a large Cotten field, Tuesday morning it commenced
raining very hard we had no tents nothing but our ruber blankets, we took some rails and
set them up put our blankets over them and made us quite an house, it rained so hard in
the night that the Blankets came down and let the water on to James Howard, I took and
held them up the best I could Jim was about half asleep he began to cry, prety soon down
they came again and Jim cried youl strangle me youl strangle me, how I laughed at him.44
Rhode Islander Elisha Rhodes had to make do without an oilcloth:

Harrison’s Landing, James River, July 3/62 – We left Malvern Hill last night and in the
midst of a pouring rain marched to this place where we arrived early this morning. O how
tired and sleepy I am … We stacked arms and the men laid down in the rain and went to
sleep. Lieutenant–Colonel Viall threw a piece of canvas over a bush and putting some
straw upon the ground invited me to share it with him.45

Federal Army Camp at French’s Bridge near Chickahominy River, Virginia, 1862

Two small tents (one made from a blanket) with wood frame buildings in the background.
(Andrew Russell photographer, Library of Congress)
"Ther' ain't no use lyin' 'n the mud."
Soldiers' Bedding Arrangements With and Without Shelter

Civil War troops often lay down to rest without any shelter at all. Captain Hinman
noted that

The second year of the war the shrinkage began. In the writer's experience there was a
disastrous collapse that was sudden and complete. Caught in a tight place, the tents and
baggage of three or four brigades were burned that they might not fall into the hands of
the enemy ... During the twelve weeks that followed, of almost constant marching –
amidst the chilling rains of fall and winter, often bivouacking in cultivated fields, with
mud over shoe–tops – those men did not once sleep under the friendly cover of a tent.46

Early in 1862 Private David Armstrong was marching with the 49th Ohio under
General Buell to assist General Grant's forces, and "left our wagons knapsacks and over
Coats behind ..." After taking part in the second day's fighting at Shiloh the unit returned
to their knapsacks, only to find most of the blankets had been stolen, "… we laid down
and it rained and when I a woke the water was a runing under me a bout 2 inches deep
and I got up and sat by a stump under a blanket with another soldier[.] this was my nights
rest and we did not get our tents till 6 or 7 day[s]." From “Camp at Bolivar Tennessee,”
Sergeant Cyrus Boyd, 15th Iowa, described another instance in which shelter was
unavailable: 30 August 1862, “This afternoon there was a big scare and grave rumors that
an attack was momentarily expected ”47 Boyd’s regiment marched to the other side of
Bolivar, then later was ordered to return towards town, near which they stopped

and formed again in line of battle. By this time the sun had set  About 2 o’clock this
morning [31 August] Col Reid came ‘whispering’ around the tents and warned the men to
be prepared to fight In a short time most of us in line went to sleep and slept until
morning. We had no blankets with us and our bed was in an old Rye field. We just
wallowed around in the dirt and slept ‘bully’.48

As usual, Confederate troops generally fared worse than Federal forces. Kentuckian
John Green told of his experiences in February 1862:

–15th marched 14 miles to Goodletsville, bivouacked with six inches of snow on the
ground. We were fortunate enough to get a lot of wheat straw for our beds. We were
completely covered with snow when reveille sounded in the morning. …16th … We
halted 4 miles south of Nashville to camp for the night. Our wagons with tents & camp
outfit had been sent ahead so we had cold comfort in prospect for the night … but we cut
cedar boughs & piled under bushy cedar trees … Two of us would bunk to–gether, one
would spread his blanket on the cedar boughs & the two would cover with the other
blanket & soon we slept the sleep of the just.49

Robert Patrick, 4th Louisiana Regiment, served variously as clerk to the regimental
quartermaster, divisional quartermaster, and commissary. He often followed the army
into the field, noting soldiers’ shelter, or lack thereof. While with the Army of Tennessee,
near Vicksburg, in June 1863, he wrote, “Last night it rained very hard. There are only
two tents in the Brigade. Gen. Maxey has one and Col. Hunter has an older one, that
leaks very badly.”50 Later that year the regiment moved into Louisiana: 12 September
1863,

We arrived at Mobile about 10 a.m. and went into camp on Government Street near
battery N. 9. We are to have lumber furnished us to build winter quarters here  I hope
we will not be ordered away before next spring because it is really awful to move about
in cold weather and I always dread it. We have no tents and we are compelled to take the
weather as it comes.51

In October 1864 Patrick told of losing his “old tent” while camped near the “battle
ground of New Hope Church. ”I had a troublesome time with my old tent during the
night and while Doc and I were sleeping some–one rode over the tent ropes and broke
them down and we had to sleep the balance of the night in the open air and this morning
we left the old thing lying there.”52
Soldiers, north and south, made the best of a bad situation. Private Alfred Bellard, 5th
New Jersey Volunteers, recalled sleeping arrangements early in November 1862: "we
bivouacked at Bull Run Creek between the same shantys [old Confederate huts] that we
had occupied in August. Tearing down what was left of them, we built fires and laying
down beside them were soon fast asleep." They moved on the next day, eventually
reaching Bristoe Station; "We lay here until the 6th when we had orders to move again,"
this time "to within 3 miles of Warrenton Junction, where we went into bivouac. ... As the
night was bitter cold, we proceeded to make ourselves as comfortable as possible. Some
of the boys had found a hand car on the road and it was pressed into the service, to bring
logs for the fires."53 The soldiers brought load after load of railroad sleepers to camp,
where

Each company helped themselves to the sleepers, and piling up 8 or 10 of them, the fire
was started. After it had got into a good blaze, the beds were made. Our rubber blankets
were placed on the ground to keep out the dampness (in a circle round the fire) with some
of the woolen blankets over them to keep us warmer. We then lay down spoon fashion,
with our feet to the fire, and after covering ourselves with the balance of the rubber and
woolen blankets ... [were] fixed for the night. Although it was a terrible cold night, we
slept very comfortable. The only trouble with the spoon fashion of sleeping being that
when one man wanted to turn over, all the rest had to turn with him, or else loose our
covering.54

Herman Melville left a wonderfully pungent account of sailor’s spooning on board an
American man–of–war in the 1840’s under conditions similar to those experienced by
foot soldiers during a wet–weather campaign. U.S. seamen usually slept in hammocks but
occasionally the officers’ relented due to harsh weather conditions or particularly trying
duties. During “three days of the stormiest weather” while rounding Cape Horn, Melville
and his comrades

were given the privilege of the berth–deck (at other times strictly interdicted)  we
endeavoured to make ourselves as warm and comfortable as possible, chiefly by close
stowing, so as to generate a little steam, in the absence of any fireside warmth  so we
laid; heel and point, face to back, dove–tailed into each other at every ham and knee. The
wet of our jackets, thus densely packed, would soon begin to distil  it was like pouring
hot water on you to keep you from freezing  Such a posture could not be preserved for
any considerable period without shifting from side for side. Three or four times during
the four hours I would be startled from a wet doze by the hoarse cry of a fellow who did
the duty of a corporal at the after–end of my file, ‘Sleepers ahoy! stand by to slew round!’
and, with a double shuffle, we all rolled in concert  But, however you rolled, your nose
was sure to stick to one or the other of the steaming backs on your two flanks. There was
some little relief in the change of odour consequent upon this.55

To provide some comfort and keep off the wet ground, the men often sought rails,
planks, or logs to sleep on. Near Richmond in late May 1862 New Jerseyan Bellard gave
fence rails a try. Having finished a tour of picket duty at midnight, he

looked around for something to keep me out of the wet, and finally found two three
cornered rails. These I laid down on the ground and wrapping myself up in my blanket,
laid down to get a little sleep and rest ... I got neither. The rain pouring down soon had
my blanket as wet as a dish rag ... while the edges of the rails found their way into my
bones ...56

At Gaylesville, Alabama in October 1864, a Union soldier remarked, "Where there is
plenty of rail fences there is no trouble keeping warm ... The first thing [we do] after
going into camp and stacking arms is to pile rails for a fire, and [gather] boards to sleep
on. We make the houses and barns suffer." Private David Armstrong, 49th Ohio
Regiment, wrote of the campaign for Forts Henry and Donelson in March 1862, "... we
have laid out in the storms and cold weather, we have laid on the bare ground and we
have cut brush to lay on to kee[p] out of the mud ..." In 1864 Armstrong fondly recalled a
comrade with whom he had spent "meny a happy and peaceful hour together or have
slept with ... upon the ground or rails poles or brush for nearly three years ..."57
Quartermaster clerk Patrick told of Confederate soldiers using the same ad hoc measures
during the battles around Atlanta, Georgia, in July 1864.

It is now about 70 days since the opening of the campaign beginning at Dalton. Few of
these days but what there has been fighting along our lines. These were followed by
weary nights of incessant toil  Our men have seen a hard time, passing wearied nights
of restless anxiety with the cold, damp ground for their beds, sleeping on wet leaves or
branches of trees, sometimes on rails to keep them out of the mud 58

Such measures did not always work out. Operating in the rear of Sherman's army in the
spring of 1864, Private William Fletcher, 8th Texas Cavalry, described one night's attempt
at comfort.

We ... dismounted in a small enclosure – found the same wet and muddy. There were
several small logs on the ground and they were in one layer, touching each other, which
made a log flooring four or five feet wide. They had been in this position some time, as
was evidenced by vegetable growth that had come up between them. This we mashed
down; we spread on two blankets, stretched a small fly tent about 5 X 7 feet, to protect
from rain.59
Unfortunately for Fletcher the logs were infested with bees which commenced to sting
him but didn't bother his companion. After several attempts to stay in the log enclosure
he "spent the balance of the night on top of a near by rail fence – by placing two rails side
by side and rolling up in my blanket and lying on my stomach and using my arms for
pillows. The ground was too wet and sloppy to lay on, when there was better
accommodation so easily arranged."60 Illinois private Robert Strong also experienced wet
weather difficulties during the 1864 Atlanta campaign.

If it rained very hard while on guard or picket, we would build up a pile of rails, lay some
more rails slanting against the pile with their bottom ends in the mud, and lie down on the
slanting rails to rest with our rubber blankets pulled over us to keep the rain off. We were
all right unless our knees weakened and gave out. Then down we would slide, into the
mud and slush. We built such a place in Georgia once and were on duty all that day and
night, only a little way from the Rebels. Oh, how it rained! The mud was half knee–deep,
we were wet through to the skin, and didn’t dare to build a fire or make any noise.61

Confederate soldiers were particularly vulnerable in rainy weather. Louisianan Robert
Patrick complained in June 1864 near Atlanta, Georgia,

Rain, rain, rain  I know that the troops in front are suffering sadly from this weather 
The infernal Yankees have plenty to eat and that of the best quality, and heavy blankets,
and good oil clothes to protect them from the weather. Not so with our men. If they have
one blanket they are lucky and oil clothing is rarely seen except in the possession of some
officer.62

Living conditions could change rather quickly, and Private Bellard wrote of sleeping in
the open, and under cover of two different style tents in the space of a few days. In
November 1862 his regiment was near Warrenton Junction. After laying down for the
night without tents, reports of a large enemy force nearby caused the Federals to be
"routed out" at one o'clock the next morning; they marched in a daylong snowstorm,
stopping at Bristoe Station until 7 PM, when they proceeded to Manassas Junction,

where we bivouacked. In the morning we pitched our shelter tents and got under cover. A
tents had been sent for our use, but as yet had not been unloaded. ... On the 10th we
pitched our new A tents and were quite comfortable, four men occupy[ing] each tent, two
on each side. We laid a floor of boards, over which we put plenty of hay or straw, and so
slept quite warm.63

Soldiers suffered discomfort even when they had tents. Orrin Stebbins, with the 13th
Pennsylvania "Bucktail" Regiment, wrote of sleeping in shelter tents near Washington,
D.C., in spring 1862, noting it was not unusual "if one wakes up in the night, and finds a
little brook running on each side of him, and the water dropping in his face about as fast
as sap drops from a maple tree." One morning before reveille he was moving through
camp to picket duty, and observed that many men "were actually lying [in] the water,
some one, some two, and some six inches deep."64 A Connecticut captain wrote of
problems with drunken soldiers in camp at Carrollton, Louisiana, in September 1862, and
told his wife
If you could look into our tents you would not wonder that consolation is sought for in
whiskey. The never–ceasing rains stream at will through numerous rents and holes in the
mouldy, rotten canvas. Nearly every night half the men are wet through while asleep
unless they wake up, stack their clothing in the darkness, and sit on it with their rubber
blankets over their heads, something not easy to do when they are so crowded that they
can hardly move.65

Wilbur Hinman was familiar with such conditions and revealed them through Si
Klegg's adventures. Camping in tents after joining their regiment, Si's "pard" Shorty
figured "Ther' ain't no use lyin' 'n the mud," so they procured some rails to sleep on. "Si
and Shorty laid down the rails, spread their blankets upon them, placed their knapsacks
for pillows, and stretched themselves out. It was a hard bed. Si's bones were well
cushioned with flesh, but the sharp corners of the rails made great furrows in his body."
The next day they "built a 'bunk' a foot high out of the rails they had purloined ..."66

Edwin Forbes' "A Christmas Dinner" on the picket line. "The fence rail shelter is
typical. Each time Yankee soldiers stopped at night, there was a rush for fence rails.
The rails were used under the bed roll to keep the soldier off the damp ground.
They were used over the lean–to as supports and ribs on which to lace the pine
boughs that kept out the cold ..." Dawson, A Civil War Artist at the Front, plate 8. A
similar open–faced brush lean–to is pictured in Winslow Homer's "Playing Old
Soldier" (1865).
"Their shebang enclosures of bushes."
The Variety of Brush and Board Huts

Soldiers sought shelter from the weather when tents or buildings were unavailable.
Sometimes the solution was crude but effective; near Resaca, Georgia, in May 1864,
Louisianan Robert Patrick wrote of sleeping “on top of a hill in an open field, and this
morning I found myself quite wet with cold dew. When I am exposed to the dew it
generally makes me feel very unwell  As long as I can get a tree or bush to sleep under
I do very well, but somehow I cannot stand the dew.”67 At other times soldiers applied
native ingenuity and available materials to build coverings anew. Patrick also described a
crude windbreak he built on the road between Jacksonville and Gadsden, Alabama, in
October 1864:

Weather clear and cold. I have found a plan by which I can sleep very warm the coldest
night that comes  [my shelter] is made by leaning 5 or 6 rails near the fire at an angle
of about 45 degrees, and laying upon these rails a sufficient number of blankets to cover
the rails. An old tent cloth that is worthless in its legitimate use serves the purpose
admirably. This concern is placed on the side of the fire whence the wind blows, and
prevents the wind from carrying away the heat of the fire. Under one of these things a
man can sleep quite comfortably on a very cold night.68

Poet Walt Whitman told of similar shelters in the Federal army. In “Virginia, on the
Falmouth side,” December 1862, he observed

the camp of the 26th Pennsylvania  I talked with a couple of the men, part of a squad
around a fire, in the usual enclosure of green branches fencing three sides of a space
perhaps twenty feet square – breaking the wind from north and east. Where there are
boughs to be had, these sylvan corrals are to be met with in all the camps, some of them
built very finely and making a picturesque appearance for a camp. They serve as the
company kitchens and the same purpose of rendezvous of an evening that the public
house, the reading room, or the engine house did at home 69
(Previous page and below) A "shanty" built by Si Klegg and his "pard." Similar shelters
were built by Continental soldiers during the War for Independence. Hinman, Corporal Si
Klegg, 338.

Half-shelter board lean-to (Artist unknown)
Temporary huts were commonly used by soldiers on picket duty, and several drawings
or paintings picture them, notably Edwin Forbes' "The Picket Line," "A Christmas
Dinner," and "Coming into the Lines," as well as Albert Bierstadt's "Attack on a Picket
Post" (1862). Forbes' huts are all freestanding lean–tos or A–frames, while Bierstadt's
rendering shows a structure made of brush–covered poles leaning against a large tree. A
photograph of a Federal picket at Lewinsville, Virginia, clearly shows a six foot high
half–shelter built by the men; Wilbur Hinman pictured a similar half–shelter in Si Klegg.
The only pictorial southern example I have found is in a sketch by Conrad Chapman of a
Confederate soldier on picket duty. In the background is a lean–to of poles or fence rails.
An anonymous Federal officer gave this advice on shelter in the 5 September 1863
United States Army and Navy Journal, “A good arrangement is to have a cross–bar
supported by two upright forks driven into the ground; against the cross–bar a number of
poles are made to lean, on the back of which fir and pine branches are laid horizontally;
and against the branches are to be placed another set of leaning poles to secure all of their
weight.” Continental soldiers are known to have used this same type of construct. An
American officer near Valley Forge in December 1777 lodged in a brush hut "made with
two forked saplings, placed in the ground, another [sapling] from one to the other.
Against this, fence–rails were placed, sloping, on which leaves and snow were thrown,
and thus made comfortable."70
John Billings pictured another type of shelter in Hardtack and Coffee, simply
comprised of fence rails leaned against a still–standing fence; such constructs had also
been built by Continental soldiers. Ensign John Markland, 6th Pennsylvania Regiment,
recorded that his unit

from the Battle of Brandywine [in September 1777] until their encampment near
Skippack ... were constantly engaged in heavy, rapid, and severe marches, without tents
or baggage. These articles having been sent far into the rear, their shelter at night being
frequently nothing more then a few rails placed slantwise against a fence, with a few dry
leaves, if they could be procured.71
A Civil War fence rail shelter similar to the ones described by Ensign John Markland as being
built by Continental soldiers in autumn 1777. John D. Billings, Hard Tack and Coffee (Boston,
George M. Smith & Co., 1887), 142.

Widespread use of brush, plank and cornstalk huts is corroborated by Civil War
soldiers' accounts. On their way to take up winter quarters on the lower Potomac in
December 1861 the 5th New Jersey Volunteers took ship downriver and "disembarked at
a place called Indian Head, Md. The Regt. having to march 10 miles lower down to Rum
Point Landing." After an exhausting march over muddy roads, they reached their
evening's camp. Alfred Bellard recounted, "we had no tents put up and [were] ... too tired
to build a shelter ... The next day the 4th … we set to work and built ourselves a
substantial brush shanty to keep off the wind and rain, and with a large fire in the center,
made a very respectable shelter that was both warm and cozy."72 Of "Rum Point
Landing" in February 1862, Bellard noted,

The shanty used by the reserve picket for sleeping purposes or to keep out the cold wet
weather, was built entirely of corn stalks, fastened over a wooden frame. It was very
warm and would have been very comfortable, had it not been for the large amount of
fleas and other varmints that infested it, and made the boys pass the hours in scratch,
scratch, scratch.73

That summer, after General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac reached the
safety of Harrison’s Landing on the James River, Robert Sneden, a cartographer in
General Samuel Heintzelman’s division, noted soldiers’ living conditions, including
shelter: 13 July 1862,
… At 2 p.m. I went over to the camps of [the] 3rd Maine and 40th New York regiments.
The iron ovens were in full blast baking wheat bread for the division. We have good
bread now, or ‘soft tack’ (the army biscuit is called ‘hard tack’ or ‘monitors’) … I …
rode down to the landings … Trees had been cut down for bough houses along the river
bank.74

Captain John De Forest, 12th Connecticut Volunteers, wrote of using a variety of
makeshift shelters while serving in the deep south in 1862 and 1863. “Near Thibodeaux
[Louisiana], November 9, 1862,”

We have no tents and are still sleeping on the ground in the open air, except so far as we
have been able to make shanties out of rails, boards and rubber blankets. My residence is
a lean–to of three stable doors, side by side, one end on the ground and the other
supported by posts. It keeps off the sun, and the wind also, when they are in the right
quarter; but when I lie down it has not depth enough to shelter my feet from the rain. All
the same, I am delighted with it, and sit cross–legged by the hour under its shade, and
sleep comfortably in it at night.75

In April 1863 Union forces under General Nathaniel Banks attempted to support the
Vicksburg siege by moving against Southern forces at Camp Bisland, near Pattersonville,
Louisiana. After an attempt to trap the Confederates failed on the 13th Banks’ troops
pursued their enemy to Alexandria. Captain De Forest reported,

When we bivouacked at night came the severest trial. Our regiment was on the left of the
brigade, and as we always slept in line of battle, this threw us half a mile from the bayou,
along which we marched  Shelter tents were as yet unknown in the Department of the
Gulf, and our wall tents, as well as every other article of not absolutely essential baggage,
had been left at Brashear City [Louisiana]. For cover, our servants made hasty wigwams
or lean–tos of rails, over which we threw our rubber blankets to keep out of the ‘heft’ of
the showers. If it rained we sat up with our overcoats over our heads, or perhaps slept
through it without minding. Not until August, three months later, did we again enjoy the
shelter of a tent … during that time we had only two brief opportunities for providing
ourselves with board shanties. Meanwhile we became as dirty and as ragged as beggars,
and eventually as lousy.76

After Port Hudson was captured, De Forest’s regiment returned to Brashear City: 29
July 1863, “The heat is tremendous. Flies are thicker than in Egypt, and mosquitoes
thicker than in Guilford. But it is astonishing how healthy and contented our bronzed
veterans are. They build themselves hovels of rails and boards, bake under them like
potatoes in hot ashes, and grumble at nothing but the lack of tobacco.” In August 1863 he
wrote his wife, “We have no tents as yet, but some of my soldiers have put up a board
shanty for me, and I feel as if I were in a palace  But I am afraid I shall catch cold
sleeping under a roof, or that I shall get demoralized by so much luxury, like Hannibal’s
army at Capua.”77
Private Wilbur Fisk, 2nd Vermont, described living conditions, with and without huts,
on picket in April 1863:
Camp near White Oak Church, Va. ... Last Tuesday we were on picket. We picket now,
the whole regiment at a time, and generally remain out three days. Tuesday morning
brought with it a nasty, disagreeable snow storm. We could barely make ourselves
comfortable in our tents by a warm fire, but on picket, nothing need be anticipated but
wet clothes, numb fingers, and the prospect of shivering away the long hours over a
comfortless fire of green pine, if we are lucky enough to get even that to burn. ... Part of
the regiment stopped at the big reserve, part went on still further to some smaller
reserves, and some went and took their post at once. On the big reserve, where it came
my lot to stay the first twenty–four hours, we built us houses of boughs and blankets to
protect us from the wind and storm, and made us large fires, so we managed, the most of
us, to pass the day quite pleasantly. Night came, clear, windy and cold. Some had their
houses uncovered of their blankets and boughs, and awoke in the morning, as the
Irishman said, to find themselves sleeping outdoors.78

Occasionally makeshift shelters were found in large, settled camps. Winslow Homer's
"Playing Old Soldier" (1865) shows a brush lean–to seemingly a surgeon's hut, while
Sanford Robinson Gifford's painting "The Evening Meal of the Seventh Regiment New
York in Camp near Frederick, Maryland, 1863" (completed in 1864), portrays an
encampment consisting of two large Sibley tents surrounded by at least twenty straw–
covered shelters, whose basic structures were comprised of boards or fence rails. Most
are simple open–faced lean–tos of various sizes, although several A–frame structures can
also be seen (see accompanying illustrations). A wooden tent pictured in the 1788
German military manual, Was ist jedem Officier waehrend eines Feldzugs zu wissen
noethig ("What it is necessary for each officer to know during a campaign") was similarly
built. Some of the shelters pictured by Gifford resemble straw huts photographed after the
battle at Sharpsburg, Maryland, in 1862.79
(Preceding page and below) Union soldiers' lodgings pictured in "The Evening Meal of the
Seventh Regiment New York in Camp near Frederick, Maryland, 1863" (Sanford Robinson
Gifford, 1864). Letter from Gifford to Elihu Gifford, "In camp near Frederick, Md", July
9, 1863, "We came into this field ... in the rain and bivouacked in the mud. It did not take
long to strip the neighboring fences of their remaining rails, and thatch them with sheaves
of wheat from the next field. It seemed a pity to waste the rich grain, but after all it was not
wasted, for it made very comfortable beds and pretty good thatches. Many of our men, who
were not in an enterprising `Mess’ rolled themselves in their blankets and soaked all night
in the mud in a drenching rain. Our men ... got themselves up a very secure shelter with a
five-barred gate, some wheat sheaves and some rails. The next afternoon it cleared and the
ground is now fast drying up”
The encampment consists of two large conical Sibley tents surrounded by at least twenty
straw–covered shelters, whose basic structures are probably comprised of boards or fence
rails. Most are simple open–faced lean–tos of various sizes, although several A–frame
structures can also be seen. As judged by soldiers standing nearby, Figure A is
approximately five feet high, Figure B about seven feet high, and Figure C six feet high.
Sears, The Civil War Treasury of Art and Literature, 172–173. (Details redrawn by the
author. Angela R. Commito, "After the Storm," Catoctin History Magazine, no. 5
(Spring/Summer 2005). Citation for the quote is: letter from Gifford to Elihu Gifford, "In
camp near Frederick, Md", July 9, 1863, in Robert Wilkinson, Edith Wilkinson, and
Eleanor Peckham, eds., "Gifford Family Records and letters" vol. 1, (Collection Sanford
Gifford MD, Cambridge MA) quoted in Kevin J. Avery and Franklin Kelly, eds., Hudson
River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford (New York: Metropolitan
Museum of Art, 2003), 158. (Courtesy of Stuart Dempsey)
Wooden tent pictured in the German military manual Was ist jedem Officier waehrend,
1788). Courtesy of Charles Beale.

A soldier of the 38th New York Regiment described hay huts near Alexandria, Va., in
February 1862,

Last week, while on picket duty near Accotink Village, we had a grand conflagration on
our post. It happened thus: The house was dug out of a hay–stack, which was supported
by rails. We had the fire inside of the house, in order to conceal it from outsiders; and the
straw being scattered around the place, it was in danger of taking fire at any time. But
luck was in our favor; and the shanty did not take fire in the night. But just at daybreak,
when part of us were making our coffee and toasting our bread for breakfast, and the rest
making a late visit to dreamland, the flames from the fire communicated with that part of
the picket–house which was made of both rails and straw. What fun! Guns, overcoats,
haversacks, and canteens flew out of the place into the snow beyond, in a manner that
reminded me of a New York fire.80

We turn to Si Klegg for another lively description. Mentioning the common practice of
removing the topmost rail from local fences till nothing remained, at the end of a march
"Si and Shorty and the others of their 'mess'," built "out of rails and cornstalks, a shelter
that was really inviting."

Shorty ... directed the work as chief architect. He was ably seconded by Si, who engaged
in the enterprise with great ardor. 'I jest tell ye,' he said, viewing it with satisfaction, 'that
ain't no slouch of a shanty!'
They kindled a big fire in front of it, laid some rails within, covered them with stalks,
and on these spread their blankets. It was unquestionably the best that could be done
under the circumstances, but as a dormitory it had its drawbacks. The rain continued to
drizzle down during the dismal night, and trickled upon their faces and soaked through
their blankets as they lay in their saturated garments, under their rude and imperfect
shelter. Wet, clammy and altogether wretched, they passed the long hours, and were glad
when morning came.81
"The Picket Line" by Edwin Forbes. Dawson, A Civil War Artist at the Front, plate 7.

Such Civil War shelters were variously described as shanties, "houses of boughs and
blankets," and "shelters of boughs"; they were also called “booths” or "shebangs."
Second Lieutenant Eugene Carter, 3rd U.S. Infantry, noted of the movement towards
Manassas, Virginia, in July 1861, that the day was "extremely warm ... [and] our men
built booths of bushes for us, which were very comfortable." Booths or shades were also
seen after the 9 August 1862 Cedar Mountain battle, when the wounded of both armies
were left on the field in the hands of Confederate forces. Although largely preoccupied
with their own men, southern troops were able to afford at least some care for their
suffering enemies. One Federal officer visiting the battlefield soon after, found northern
casualties "lying under booths of gum branches, each man with a canteen of water by his
side." Another northern soldier wrote that "some humane Confederates had brought
water, and built shelters of boughs to protect a few of the wounded from the hot sun."
Booths made from poles and blankets or tent cloth were photographed sheltering
Confederate wounded near Sharpsburg in 1862.82 And artilleryman Frank Wilkeson
recalled at the Battle of Spottsylvania, June 1864,

One day the battery I served with was parked for rest near a road down which wounded men
were streaming … These men, tired, weakened by loss of blood, and discouraged, tumbled
exhausted into the angles of worm fences, and spread their blankets from rail to rail to make
a shade. There they rested and patiently waited for their turn at the surgeons’ tables.83
“Coffee Coolers” by Edwin Forbes. A Civil War Artist at the Front, plate 16.

The term "shebang" is hard to pin down; defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as
U.S. slang, "A hut, shed; one's dwelling, quarters," in the eastern armies seems to have
meant a brush hut, half–shelter or any other hastily constructed campaign covering.
While visiting troops at Falmouth, Virginia, in late December 1862 poet Walt Whitman
saw them "Sometimes at night ... around the fires, in their shebang enclosures of bushes."
In January 1863 en route home from Falmouth, Whitman encountered "soldiers guarding
the [rail]road [who] came out from their tents or shebangs of bushes with rumpled hair
and half–awake look." Army cartographer Robert Sneden showed the versatility of the
term when he wrote of “the Sanitary Commission camp at a half demolished house [was]
known as ‘The Shebang’,” at Brandy Station, Virginia, 26 November 1863. In the west a
shebang was usually, though not always, more substantial, and was often applied to plank
shacks and winter huts.84 Joseph Glatthaar, in his book The March to the Sea and Beyond,
discusses shebangs, noting they

were shanties built by an entire mess, usually a group of four soldiers who cooked and ate
their meals together ... The men erected shebangs with whatever material was available,
mostly wood and nails that they stripped from nearby fences and barns. One soldier ...
boasted to his sister that his mess carried boards about a mile and 'tore down houses to
get them'; another helped dismantle a church ... shebangs were of simple construction,
with heavy wooden boards as the walls. Waterproof shelter tents buttoned together
usually provided the roof ... During the warm weather, when these shanties served mainly
to shelter the men from rain and the hot afternoon sun, soldiers had little more than a
couple of bunks, often made of railroad ties, leaves, straw, and cotton ... In the
wintertime, however, shebangs were slightly different. Since troops spent considerably
more time indoors, they built their shebangs with a little more care and designed them for
a little more comfort. The major accession in wintertime was a fireplace ... constructed
from clay and sod, or, if available, brick." A soldier from Iowa noted that in "one day
four men with a single small ax could build a shebang that could compare with almost
anyplace 'where the niggers had lived in days when Old massa was here.'" Another wrote
that where "people at home 'would not discover material fit for the meanest hovel we find
that from which we erect shelters … we esteem more than palaces.'85

Indiana Captain George Squier wrote from Nashville, “April 27th. [1865] For the past two
days I have been at work very hard putting up a new house which is 9 x 14 feet and very
pretty. Of course, we used old refuse lumber, but for all that it is the best ‘shebang’ in the
regiment.” 86 Confederate John Jackman, 9th Kentucky, recounted the trials of tribulations of
his board shebang at Sylvania, Georgia in winter 1865:

Feby. 4th. … The ‘Milish’ [Georgia militia] moved away this morning, and C. and I got
some of their boards to make us a shelter – We made a very good ‘chabang’ … [On the
6th four more men arrived in camp and joined Jackman’s mess group.]
Feb. 7th. – Raining all day – disagreeable. The new–comers enlarged our ‘shabang’ … At
night it fell down and mashed ‘Glubber.’ We were all out by the fire, except ‘Glubber.’
He is a Dutchman, and says it came down ‘mit a bang.’
Feby. 8th. – Rebuilt the ‘chabang.’87

Though this study focuses on campaign shelter, since some shebangs served as winter
huts a comparison with winter quarters in the eastern and western armies is in order.
Elisha Hunt Rhodes, 2nd Rhode Island, noted on “Sunday Feby 19/65 … After dinner I
took a long ride … and since returning I have entertained callers at my house, or
‘shebang,’ as Army huts are called.”88 New Jersey private Alfred Bellard described
dwellings soldiers built following the Battle of Fredericksburg:

On the 23rd [December 1862] orders were issued to make ourselves as comfortable as
possible, as we were likely to stay for the winter. Accordingly we commenced the next
day to raise our shelter tents into more of the dignity of a house ... on Christmas day we
took possession of our new hotel and passed a very comfortable night in it. Up to this
time we had nothing to keep out the wind, snow or rain, but the shelter tents, and had to
lay on the ground. We built a wall of pine logs, about 4 feet high, with a log chimney on
one side, and over the walls we had stretched and buttoned 4 shelter tents. This when
closed for the night made us as snug as possible. Inside we had built 2 bunks of pine
sticks and over this we spread spruce pine leaves. This made a bed almost equal to a
straw tick, and when our blankets were spread over and under us we had a very nice and
comfortable abode.89

Here are two more accounts of shebangs, one built of logs, the other of brush and rails.
Private Elisha Stockwell, 14th Wisconsin Regiment, wrote of his winter quarters at
Eastport, Mississippi, "The boys wouldn't let me help with the shebang, so all I could do
was parch the corn, make the coffee, fry the bacon, and warm my toes." He described
their shebang as follows:
Adam and Bill built us a log house and covered it with pieces of our tents. I don't
remember the size of it, but I think it was about seven feet square. They built bunks one
above the other on the back side, a fireplace in one corner, and a door in the other corner
on the front side. They got small logs and split them, notched the corners together, with
the split side in, and hewed the inside after getting it laid up, then covered it with the tent
pieces, and mudded it up on the outside. The fireplace was built of stone and mud
partway up, and split sticks and mud the rest of the way. We hung a blanket up for a door,
and it was nice and warm inside.90

Wilbur Hinman, who also served with the western army, spoke of shebangs through
his alterego, Si Klegg. The shebang in this case was a brush hut built for temporary
lodging.

One cold night in January ... The [fictitious] 200th Indiana was a long way from its base
of supplies, engaged in an arduous campaign. For many days the soldiers had been
without tents. At this time they were bivouacking in the woods, with no shelter save such
as they had made of sticks, boughs of pine and balsam, and a few rails and boards that
were picked up by scouring that desolate region." Hinman later noted that the soldiers
"disposed themselves as best they could for rest. Some crept into their dreary 'shebangs,'
wrapping themselves tightly in their blankets and overcoats.91
Soldiers’ huts and other ad hoc structure covered with shelter halves. (Source unknown)
Model of soldiers’ hut covered with shelter halves.
(Courtesy of Don Troiani, , www.historicalimagebank.com )

"If the camp was not in the woods, it was common to build a bower of branches over the
tents, to ward off the sun"; illustration of a Civil War shade. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee,
117.
"It is so awful hot here to–day"
Soldier–Built Shades

When all is said and done the most serviceable shelters (with the possible exception of
winter huts) were shades or bowers. These constructs could be used as overnight lodging,
though their primary purpose was for shelter from the sun. We have already looked at the
use of booths and shades for campaign lodging and to shelter the wounded in 1861 and
1862, now let us discuss bowers used mostly for soldiers’ daytime comfort.
Shades could be built as lean–tos or flat–topped shelters, standing alone or as an
adjunct to tents. Forty–Second Ohio soldier Owen Hopkins wrote that at Morganza,
Louisiana in June 1864, “Was in the woods all day with a detail of 100 men … to cut
brush for the purpose of making bowers in front of the tents; sent about 40 wagon loads
to camp …” During the Vicksburg Siege bowers were the only shelters for Hopkins and
his comrades,

June 4th. [1863] … In the Afternoon, we moved our Camp to a position farther to the
Right. Here, we had to make new Nests of Brush and leaves; digging a level place in the
side of the hill, we place four Forks in the ground, and on these we place poles, and cover
the whole with leaves, bark, and brush. These are our tents, and when it rains we lay Still
until the rain is over; just like they do in Spain, we let it rain!92

Bowers shading Confederate troops, 1st Alabama Regiment (Library of Congress?)
Regarding shades and tents, John Billings stated, "In summer ... If the camp was not in
the woods, it was common to build a bower of branches over the tents, to ward off the
sun." Orderly Sergeant Cyrus Boyd, 15th Iowa Volunteers, wrote from Bolivar,
Tennessee, on 3 September 1862, “Our camp is in an old field and the weeds are higher
than a mans head and no shade / Water a quarter of a mile off ”; 4 September,
“Weather hot. The men have been engaged all day in fixing up shade around their tents
digging wells sinks &c.” In July 1864 Wilbur Fisk wrote from "Near Petersburg, Va., ...
Strange as it may seem, the Vermont brigade is enjoying comparative quiet just now. For
the last twenty–four hours, we have had nothing to do but bring water, fix up shades and
endeavor to keep ourselves as cool as possible."93 A year later Fisk and his comrades
were still trying to keep cool. 30 June 1865:

Second Vermont Regiment Camp in the Field, ... it is so awful hot here to–day ... It melts
a man completely. His energies, mental and physical, droop in this hot sun, like a wilted
cabbage leaf. Perspiration actually rolls off in streams from a man's face and body ... The
ground, as you walk over it, feels as if it had been heated in an oven. ... The boys are
quite willing to keep under their shades. Our camp is protected from the sun as well as
the ingenuity of the boys could make it, and the most of us have learned considerably of
the art of keeping cool since we have been here ... We have fitted up our camps in the old
style, plus all the recent modern improvements ... We had plenty of shelter tents when the
last detachment of men went home, and when we have these we can very easily provide
the rest. We covered our tents all over with evergreens or other boughs, raised up on
poles and fastened to posts, and this, extending in front over our door, makes a very cool
bower. ... Almost any time … if you should happen along here, you would see us
under our bowers, smoking our pipes, or telling stories about the late war ...94

Southern enlisted men, too, used bowers with and without tents. Men of the
6 /10th/15th Texas Consolidated Regiment in July 1863 at Tyner Station, Tennessee, their
th

“tents having been burnt up at Tullahoma, we built brush arbors for shelter and made
ourselves as comfortable as possible. The Great quantity of commissary stores which
Bragg had been collecting for so many months at Tullahoma had also been burned up to
keep them from falling in to the hands of the enemy …”95 John Green, 9th Kentucky,
related that near Brandon, Mississippi,

July 18th. [1863] … We bivouacked here until July 12th, rain every day. We marched
about 4 or 5 miles & camped in a pine forest near a fine spring. We built Arbors for
quarters & arranged sleeping huts thatched with pine boughs to protect us from rain. We
would live in the Arbors until the rain would run us into our huts. This was called Camp
Hurricane.96

Fellow Kentuckian John Jackman recorded in August 1863:

Now commences another long term of camp life, nothing going on to break the monotony
[for four weeks] … ‘Camp Hurricane’ was situated among hills covered with pine … The
boys built arbors of pine boughs which shielded them from the sun and in a great measure
kept off the rain …
Aug. 26th. – At 5 P.M. consigned our arbors to the flames, and marched towards
Morton.97
Large reconstructed bower, Petersburg National Battlefield Park, Virginia, April 1997.
(Photograph by the author)

Larger bowers were commonly used for outdoor offices, dining, or rest areas. Division
cartographer Sneden noted that during the Yorktown Siege in April 1862, “Our bough
mess tents are constructed of pine poles with flat roofs of thick pine branches, and afford
much coolness and comfort when at meals. When it rains the sides are enclosed with
canvas.” Confederate John Jackman noted in 1863, “Aug. 21st. Being a day for fasting
and prayer, had divine service near camp, under a large arbor built for the purpose.”98 A
Connecticut captain recalled a gully during the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana (June
1863), where “There was but one spot in the hollow, and that only a few yards square,
where bullets never struck ” Denied this sanctuary,

I spread my rubber blanket in the mud or sun according to the weather, lighted my pipe,
and wondered when my bullet would come  Our brigade commander met with similar
tribulations in his search after a quiet residence. A large and comfortable–looking arbor
of boughs had just been erected for him, when screech came a 12–pounder ball, and
down came a great oak, smashing the dwelling into uninhabitability.99

And after a battle near Resaca, Georgia, Private Robert Strong, 105th Illinois Volunteers,
came across a Confederate field hospital and described it as being "simply a shade made
of limbs of trees thrown over poles."100
Occasionally, bowers were built during cool weather. At Camp Pierpont, near
Washington, November 1861, Sergeant Orrin Stebbins passed through the camps of the
33rd and 49th New York regiments. "A few rods further on is located a regiment of
cavalry ... with stables, 15 or 20 rods in length, or long enough to hold a thousand horses,
built out of poles, covered with green boughs and trimmed in the grandest style, forming
one complete bower." That same month, in a camp north of Alexandria, Virginia, Private
Alfred Bellard noted that "As the weather turned very cold, stables were built out of
brush to shelter the horses ..."101
There is extensive pictorial evidence of both sides using freestanding flat–topped
bowers. Winslow Homer depicted such constructs in several Civil War paintings
including, "Home Sweet Home," "The Sutler's Tent," "Portrait of Albert Post," and
"Pitching Quoits," while a chromolithogaph of an 1862 Confederate camp at Corinth,
Mississippi (after Conrad Chapman’s painting), shows several flat–topped bowers. Better
yet are the numerous extant photographs showing shades used over or next to officers'
and common soldiers' tents, or shading fortifications (see endnotes for a listing of
photographs from The Image of War: 1861–1865).102 For anyone interested in seeing a
reconstructed bower Petersburg National Battlefield has a large one at the Site 3 Union
camp exhibiting a bombproof and sutler's store.
One last shelter/shade was described by Lieutenant Savage of the 10th Connecticut
Regiment. Savage wrote from St. Helena Island, S.C., in late winter 1863, "I have just
returned from the service in our rustic chapel. Our chapel is built by placing crotches in
the ground, laying poles across them then covering the top and sides with pine boughs. It
is rather open but it is sufficient to keep the sun off. One side is left open. More crotches
are placed in the ground and piles [logs?] laid across which answer the purpose of seats.
For a pulpit, fo[u]r post[s] are placed into the ground and a hard bread [hard tack] box
turned over them, makes the top of it. Palmetto or palm leaves woven around the side
making a fine arrangement."103

Cock fight at Union General Orlando B. Wilcox's headquarters near Petersburg Virginia,
c.1865. (Library of Congress)
Shaded bomb-proofs at Petersburg. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 59.

”The shelters were … quite generally pitched.": Conclusions. With the information
above some general conclusions can be set forth. In a winter camp some type of
substantial shanty or hut had to be built by mess squads, both north and south, while in all
seasons soldiers generally resorted to brush huts or lean–tos for picket duty. For
campaigning armies, especially early in the conflict when wagons were necessary to
transport tents, brush shelters were built more often, but right to the war's end a shortage
or lack of tentage often forced soldiers to come up with alternatives. The widespread use
of booths, shades, and bowers is well substantiated for both armies throughout the war,
though the advent of easily carried shelter–tents beginning in 1862 lessened the need for
Union troops to build ad hoc housing. Alfred Bellard spoke of this in his memoirs:

[April 1862] Here we disembarked [at Ship Point, near Fortress Monroe on the Virginia
Peninsula], and marching a mile went into camp, using the shelter tents for the first time.
This tent is a great institution, as no matter where the soldier goes, he is always sure of
shelter from the storms and dews, as every man carrys a half tent on his back when on
the march. It is put up in a few minutes and does away with having to build a brush
shelter while waiting two or three days for the waggons to bring up your tents.104

Even when shelter–tents were on hand soldiers did not always use them. Artilleryman
Billings noted, "It was not usual to pitch these tents every night when the army was on
the march. The soldiers did not waste their time and strength much in that way. If the
night was clear and pleasant, they lay down without roof–shelter of any kind; but if it was
stormy or threatening ... the shelters were then quite generally pitched."105
In the end one thing is certain; in all their various forms and circumstances of use,
these rude shelters contributed to the soldiers' comfort and made their hard lot a bit easier
to bear.

”Bivouac of the 4th Regiment, Arlington Heights, April 1862" Sanford Robinson Gifford(?)
________________________

Acknowledgements

The following people contributed information and advice for this study: Charles Beale,
Kevin Coyle, Stuart Dempsey, Frederick C. Gaede, Steven Gilbert, Justin Grabowski,
Don N. Hagist, Ross Hamel, David McCloskey, Charles LeCount, Ken Pepper, Garry W.
Stone, Mark Turdo, and Marko Zlatich.
For those interested in more information on the precursors to Union and Confederate campaign
shelters, see:

“`They had built huts of bushes and leaves.’: Analysis of Continental Army Brush Shelter
Use, 1775-1782,” The Brigade Dispatch, vol. XXXII, no. 3 (Autumn 2002), 7-10.
Appendices
A. American Brush Huts.
B. Brush Huts and the British Army.
Addendum: List of articles and links for author’s series on soldiers’ campaign shelters (1775-1783, 1861-1865)
https://www.scribd.com/doc/299341406/They-had-built-huts-of-bushes-and-leaves-
Analysis-of-Continental-Army-Brush-Shelter-Use-1775-1782

"`We ... got ourselves cleverly settled for the night': Soldiers' Shelter on Campaign
During the War for Independence,"
part I, "`Oznabrig tabernacles’: Tents in the Armies of the Revolution":
1. “Put our Men into barns …”: The Vagaries of Shelter
2. "We Lay in the open world": Troops Without Shelter on Campaign
3. "State of Marquees and Tents delivered to the Army...": Varieties of Tentage
a. British Common Tents
b. American Common Tents
c. Horseman’s and Cavalry Tents
d. Wall Tents
e. Marquees
f. Bell Tents for Sheltering Arms
g. Dome, Square, and Hospital Tents
h. French Tents
4. "Return of Camp Equipage": More on Tents.
Appendices
Illustrations of French Tents
The Common Tent as Illustrated in a German Treatise
How to Fold a Common Tent for Transport (from a German Treatise)
Interior Views of Common Tents: Sleeping Arrangements in Three Armies
A Melange of Marquees: Additional Images of Officers’ Tents
Encampment Plans: Continental Army, Hessian, and British
Friedrich Wilhelm de Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of
the United States Part I. (Philadelphia, Pa.: Styner and Cist, 1779)
“A Correct View of the Hessian Camp on Barton Farm near Winchester … by Willm.
Godson, Land Surveyor to the Right Worshipful the Corporation of Winchester occupé
le 16 Juillet 1756”
Lewis Lochee, An Essay on Castrametation (London, 1778) (British treatise on tents
and encampments.)
Humphrey Bland, A treatise of military discipline: in which is laid down and explained
the duty of the officer and soldier, through the several branches of the service. The
8th edition revised, corrected, and altered to the present practice of the army (London:
B. Law and T. Caslon, 1762).
Military Collector & Historian, vol. 49, no. 3 (Fall 1997), 98-107.
https://www.scribd.com/doc/262657282/Oznabrig-tabernacles-Tents-in-the-Armies-
of-the-Revolution-part-1-of-We-got-ourselves-cleverly-settled-for-the-night-
Soldiers-Shelter
part II, “The great [wastage] last Campaign was owing to their being wet in the
Waggons." Allotment and Transporting Tents in the Armies of the Revolution
1. "The Allowance of Tents is not sufficient ...”: An Overview of Tents as Shelter
a. Tent Allotment, 1776 to 1779
b. Female Followers and Tents
c. Tent Allotment, 1779 to 1782
d. Tent Supply and Shortfalls
2. "The fewer the Waggons to the Army, the better...": Transporting Tents
a. Wagons
b. Pack Horses
c. Soldiers as Beasts of Burden
d. Watercraft
Appendix: ”British Army Wheeled Transport in the American War: A Primer”
Addendum
1. “No. 9 – Return of Drivers, Horses and Waggons furnished by Brigadr-General
William Dalrymple, Quarter Master General of the Army in North America in the
District of New York by order of His Excellency the Commander in Chief for the
General and Staff Officers and several Corps of the Army between 1st January & 31st
March 1781 inclusive being 90 days”
2. “Return of Drivers, Horses and Waggons belonging to the Quart. Master General’s
Department attached to the General and Staff Officers and Several Corps of Hessians
in the District of New York. – 26th August 1781.”
3. “Return of Drivers, Horses and Waggons attached to the several British Regiments in
the District of New York 26th August 1781.”
4. “Enclosure 2d Return of Drivers, Horses and Waggons that are with the Corps to the
Southward [Virginia] New York 23d August 1781.”
5. “Enclosure 4 Return of Conductors, Drivers, Horses and Waggons in the Quarter
Master General’s Department, attached to the Several Corps at and near the Six Mile
Stone. 26th August 1781.”
6. Enclosure No. 6, Johann Friedrich Cochenhausen (also Cockenhausen or
Kochenhausen), colonel and quartermaster general, Hessian forces, to Board of
General Officers, 14 May 1781 (regarding wagons for the German troops).
https://www.scribd.com/doc/301615108/We-got-ourselves-cleverly-settled-for-the-
night-Soldiers-Shelter-on-Campaign-During-the-War-for-Independence-Part-2-
The-great-wastage-l
Military Collector & Historian, vol. 49, no. 4 (Winter 1997), 156-168.
part III, "`The camps ... are as different in their form as the owners are in their
dress ...': Shades, Sheds, and Wooden Tents, 1775-1782":
1. "Not a bush to make a shade near [at] hand ...":
Bush Bowers, "Arbours," and "Shades," 1776-1782
2. "An elegant shade ...": Officers' Bowers
3. "The Men employed in making Bowers before their Tents ..."
Shades for Common Soldiers
a. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1777 to 1780
b. Virginia Peninsula, 1781
c. New York, 1782
d. Bowers and British Troops, 1776 and 1781
4. "The troops hutted with Rails and Indian Corn Stocks ..."
Sheds, Planked Huts, and Straw Tents, 1775-1777
Addendum
“The … roof consists of boughs, or branches … curiously interwoven
…”: The “curious edifice” Built at West Point to Celebrate French
Dauphin’s Birth, 1782
https://www.scribd.com/document/351091933/The-camps-are-as-
different-in-their-form-as-the-owners-are-in-their-dress-Shades-
Sheds-and-Wooden-Tents-1775-1782
Military Collector & Historian, vol. 53, no. 4 (Winter 2001-2002), 161-169.

part IV, "`We are now ... properly ... enwigwamed.': British and German Soldiers
and Brush Huts, 1776-1781":
1. Overview
2. "Laying up poles and covering them with leaves ...": Building Brush Huts
3. Comparative Use of Makeshift Shelters in the French and Indian War,
and American Civil War
Appendix
1. A Narragansett Wigwam, 1761
2. Recreated Brush Shelters
3. Additional Articles on Campaign Shelter, 1775-1865
https://www.scribd.com/document/350786577/We-are-now-properly-
enwigwamed-British-and-German-Soldiers-and-Brush-Huts-1776-1781
Military Collector & Historian, vol. 55, no. 2 (Summer 2003), 89-96.
part V, “`We built up housan of branchis and leavs ’: Continental Army
Brush Shelters, 1775-1777”
A. "This night we lay out without shelter ...”:
Overview of American Soldiers' Campaign Lodging
B. "We maid us some Bush huts ...": Brush Shelters, 1775 and 1776.
C. "Huts of sticks & leaves": Washington's Army in New Jersey and
Pennsylvania, 1777.
Military Collector & Historian, vol. 55, no. 4 (Winter 2003-2004), 213-223.
https://www.scribd.com/document/134028900/Part-V-We-built-up-housan-
of-branchis-leavs-Continental-Army-Brush-Shelters-1775-1777-Series-We-
got-ourselves-cleverly-settled-f

part VI, "`We built up housan of branchis & leavs ...’: Continental Army Brush
Shelters, 1778-1782
A. "Found the regiment lying in bush huts ...": Continental Troops on
Campaign and on the March, 1778-1780.
B. "Pine huts," "Huts of rails," and "Bush Tents":
Virginia and the Carolinas, 1781-1782.
C. "Return of Camp Equipage": More on Tents.
Military Collector & Historian, vol. 56, no. 2 (2004), 98-106.
https://www.scribd.com/document/133993824/Part-VI-We-built-up-housan-
of-branchis-leavs-Continental-Army-Brush-Shelters-1778-1782-Series-We-
got-ourselves-cleverly-settled

Endnotes

1. 2nd Lieutenant Sebron Sneed, 6th/10th/15th Texas Consolidated Regiment, 8 June 1864,
Scott McKay, “Food Documentation Relative to the 10th Texas Infantry,” William W.
Heartsill, Fourteen Hundred and 91 Days in the Confederate Army (Wilmington, N.C.,
1987) and R. M. Collins, Chapters From the Unwritten History of the War between the
States (Dayton, Oh, 1982) (World Wide Web), http://members.aol.com/cbbelt/Food/
2. Robert Knox Sneden, Eye of the Storm: A Civil War Odyssey, Charles F. Bryan, Jr. and
Nelson D. Lankford, eds. (New York and London: The Free Press, 2000), 131.
3. Illustration of makeshift huts used by European armies, circa 1550–1650, Geoffrey and
Angela Parker, European Soldiers 1550–1650 (Cambridge, London, New York,
Melbourne, Cambridge Univ. Press, N.D.), 29. Gary S. Zaboly, "A Lodging for the
Night: A Brief Study of Some Types of Wilderness Shelters Used During the French and
Indian War", Muzzleloader, March/April 1989, 47–51. Fred Anderson, A Peoples Army –
Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War (Chapel Hill and London,
Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1984), 92–93.
4. John C. Fredriksen, “The Letters of Captain John Scott, 15th U.S. Infantry: A New
Jersey Officer in the War of 1812,” New Jersey History, vol. 107, no. 3 (1989), 73.
5. John U. Rees, "'We ... got ourselves cleverly settled for the night': Soldiers' Shelter on
Campaign During the War for Independence," part III, "`The camps ... are as different in
their form as the owners are in their dress ...': Shades, Sheds, and Wooden Tents, 1775-
1782," Military Collector & Historian, vol. 53, no. 4 (Winter 2001-2002), 161-169,
https://www.scribd.com/document/351091933/The-camps-are-as-different-in-their-
form-as-the-owners-are-in-their-dress-Shades-Sheds-and-Wooden-Tents-1775-1782
part IV, "`We are now ... properly ... enwigwamed.': British and German Soldiers and
Brush Huts, 1776-1781," Military Collector & Historian, vol. 55, no. 2 (Summer 2003),
89-96, https://www.scribd.com/document/350786577/We-are-now-properly-
enwigwamed-British-and-German-Soldiers-and-Brush-Huts-1776-1781part V, “`We
built up housan of branchis and leavs ’: Continental Army Brush Shelters, 1775-
1777,” Military Collector & Historian, vol. 55, no. 4 (Winter 2003-2004), 213-223.
https://www.scribd.com/document/134028900/Part-V-We-built-up-housan-of-
branchis-leavs-Continental-Army-Brush-Shelters-1775-1777-Series-We-got-
ourselves-cleverly-settled-f
part VI, "`We built up housan of branchis & leavs ...’: Continental Army Brush Shelters,
1778-1782,” Military Collector & Historian, vol. 56, no. 2 (2004), 98-106.
https://www.scribd.com/document/133993824/Part-VI-We-built-up-housan-of-
branchis-leavs-Continental-Army-Brush-Shelters-1778-1782-Series-We-got-
ourselves-cleverly-settled
6. Wilbur F. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg and his "Pard.": How They Lived and Talked,
and What They Did and Suffered, While Fighting for the Flag (The Williams Publishing
Co., Cleveland, Oh., 1887; reprinted 1997), introduction by Brian C. Pohanka, i–vi.
7. Ibid., 575–576.
8. John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee (Boston, 1887), 47–48.
9. Ibid., 48. Orderly sergeant Cyrus Boyd recorded the tents owned by the 15th Iowa in
“Camp near Abbeville Mississippi,” 4 December 1862, “Rained all day We now have
three Sibley tents in the Company and the officers have one Wall tent.” Mildred Throne,
ed., The Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, Fifteenth Iowa Infantry, 1861–1863
(Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, 1998), 89.
10. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 576.
11. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 48–50.
12. Ibid., 51. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 577. Eastern Federal troops were issued shelter
tents before the regiments serving in the west and south received them. John Billings, an
artilleryman in the Army of the Potomac, noted they “did not come into general use till
after the [1862] Peninsular Campaign.” Some soldiers got them even earlier. Private
Alfred Bellard, also with the army in Virginia, remembered that at the beginning of the
Peninsular Campaign, in April 1862, his regiment (the 5th New Jersey) “disembarked [at
Ship Point, near Fortress Monroe on the Virginia Peninsula], and marching a mile went
into camp, using the shelter tents for the first time. Private Robert Strong, 105th Illinois
Volunteers, entered service in September 1862, and with his regiment spent eighteen
months doing garrison duty in Kentucky and Tennessee. He recalled that in the winter of
1862–1863, “Up to the time we left Frankfort [Kentucky] we had large tents, which when
we moved were carried on wagons. But when we left Frankfort, each man was given the
half of a shelter tent – pup tent, we called them – and we had to carry them ourselves 
Two of the halves buttoned together and stretched over a pole made a shelter from dew,
but were not much shelter from rain. Six of them, the length of two with one at each end,
would hold six men by a little crowding.” Private William Bentley, 104th Ohio Regiment,
described the shelter tents they were issued in Kentucky: “May 8th 1863 (Saturday) …
We have got our shelter tents at last and I think they are nice. They are very light–only
weight 5lbs. apiece. They are in 2 pieces and there are 2 poles about 4 feet long, jointed
like a fishing pole. When they are pitched they are about 6 1/2 feet long about the same
width and about 4 feet high in the middle. They can be buttoned together and by putting 2
of them together there is lots of room for 4 men and their fixins.” Captain John De
Forest’s unit, the 12th Connecticut Volunteers, was at Brashear City, Louisiana, in
September 1863 when he noted, “Various regiments belonging to the Thirteenth Corps
have joined us. We have lately received an issue of shelter tents, and shall no longer sleep
like a herd of buffalo ” Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 52–53. David Herbert Donald,
ed., Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard (Little, Brown
and Co., Boston, Toronto, London, 1975), 52. Robert Hale Strong, A Yankee Private's
Civil War, Ashley Halsey, ed. (Henry Regnery Co., Chicago, 1961), 9–10. Barbara
Bentley Smith and Nina Bentley Baker, eds., “Burning Rails as We Pleased”: The Civil
War Letters of William Garrigues Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Jefferson,
N.C., and London: McFarland & Co. Inc., 2004), 50–51. John William De Forest, A
Volunteer’s Adventures: A Union Captain’s Record of the Civil War, James H.
Croushore, ed. (Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1996), 155.
13. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 52–53. Connecticut captain John De Forest described
a shelter tent for his wife in an August 1864 letter: “Monocacy Junction, Maryland 
Our present camp is the dirtiest spot, for a dry one, that I ever saw. It is an old wheat
field, and the powdery soil blows incessantly through my ragged shelter tent, where I sit
cross–legged on the ground, penciling this letter on my haversack. A shelter tent, by the
way, is some such a figure as you make by leaning two cards against each other; it is
open at the ends, about six feet square on the ground and nearly four feet high at the
apex; it shelters one against the rain – sometimes. I lost mine on the train, but one of my
men ‘picked up’ another for me, and I suppose the true owner is now swearing about it.”
De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures, 164.
14. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 578–579.
15. Ibid., 578–579.
16. Ibid., 579.
17. For detailed information on shelter tents see, Frederick C. Gaede, The Federal Civil
War Shelter Tent (Alexandria, Va.: O’Donnell Publications, 2001). Sneden, Eye of the
Storm, 111. Walter Lowenfels, ed., Walt Whitman’s Civil War (Compiled & Edited from
Published & Unpublished Sources (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1960), 37.
Elisha Rhodes, 2nd Rhode Island, noted at “Harrison’s Landing, Va. Aug. 2nd 1862 …
Shelter tents have been issued to the men. Each man has one piece about six feet long and
four feet wide. Two men button these pieces together, and by throwing it over a ridge
pole, supported at each end, a shelter is formed. It is open at each end and serves to shield
from the sun, but makes a regular shower bath when it rains.” Lt. Charles Haydon, 2nd
Michigan, first mentioned them at Alexandria, Va., “March 14, 1862 At 10 last night
came orders to move … We expect to go down the river by transports … We have
accumulated a vast amt of baggage but a very small portion of which goes with us … Our
shelter tents are pitched for the first time. They consist of two oilcloth blankets with
eyelet holes to fasten them together with a string. The edges are pinned down. There are
no ends but they answer all purposes for this weather & save at least a dozen teams per
Regt.” He wrote later on the Virginia Peninsula, “May 24 [1862] The train did not come
up last night and we had no blankets. I however found some old cornstalks into which I
crept & slept well. The wagons came up early in this m’g & we at once pitched our tent.
It commenced raining after sunrise & has rained all day … Shelter tents are the soldier’s
friend. By carrying a weight of two & a half pounds on his back he has always a house
with him which he can with the aid of a comrade make complete & inhabitable for both
in three minutes. They were considered a poor affair at first but without them we should
have suffered greatly.” Robert Hunt Rhodes, ed., All For the Union: The Civil War Diary
and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes (New York: Orion Books, 1985), 75–76. Stephen W.
Sears, ed., For Country, Cause & Leader: The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon
(New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1993), 205, 243.
18. Lowenfels, Walt Whitman’s Civil War, 39.
19. Stephen W. Sears, ed., On Campaign With the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War
Journal of Theodore Ayrault Dodge (New York: Cooper Square Press, 2001), 289.
20. Ibid., 290–291.
21. Julie A. Doyle, John David Smith, and Richard M. McMurry, eds., This Wilderness of
War: The Civil War Letters of George W. Squier, Hoosier Volunteer (Knoxville: Univ. of
Tennessee Press, 1998), 57.
22. Ibid., 63.
23. De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures, 53.
24. Sears, Journal of Theodore Ayrault Dodge, 285.
25. Emil and Ruth Rosenblatt, eds., Hard Marching Every Day: The Civil War Letters of
Private Wilbur Fisk, 1861–1865 (Lawrence, Ka., 1992), 130.
26. William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence
to the New York Sunday Mercury (Kearny, N.J.: Belle Grove Publishing Co., 2000), 308.
27. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 53–54.
28. Rosenblatt, Hard Marching, 233, 236.
29. William Savage, lieutenant 10th Connecticut Infantry, from St. Helena Island, S.C.,
(with Port Royal, S.C. cancellation), date unknown (the regiment occupied St. Helena
Island from early February 1863 to 27 March 1863), to Mr. Selah Savage, Greenwich, Ct.
Eight–page letter in pencil offered for sale on Ebay, likely purchased by a private
collector. The regiment moved from Newberne, N.C., to Hilton Head, S.C., January 26–
29, 1863. Camp at St. Helena Island, S.C., until March 27 and at Seabrook Island, S. C,
to July 6. Union Regimental Histories: Connecticut (World Wide Web)
http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unctinf2.htm See also, Connecticut 10th
Regiment Volunteer Infantry (September 30, 1861 – September 5, 1865), Stamford's
Civil War: At Home and in the Field a 2003 Exhibit and more, The Stamford Historical
Society, Inc. (World Wide Web) http://www.stamfordhistory.org/cw_reghist.htm
30. Rosenblatt, Hard Marching, 129–130.
31. Ibid., 130.
32. Sears, Journal of Theodore Ayrault Dodge, 59.
33. Barbara Bentley Smith and Nina Bentley Baker, eds., “Burning Rails as We
Pleased”: The Civil War Letters of William Garrigues Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer
Infantry (Jefferson, N.C., and London: McFarland & Co. Inc., 2004), 52.
34. Rosenblatt, Hard Marching, 130.
35. Rees, “We ... got ourselves cleverly settled for the night,” part III, 167. J. Gregory
Acken, Inside the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Experience of Captain Francis
Adams Donaldson (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1998), 29, 31.
36. Lieutenant Burney, Cobb’s Georgia Legion, told of rubber blankets and captured
equipment in 1862: near Richmond, 17 June, “Mr. Porter & myself sleep together & he
spreads his India rubber down, which kept us perfectly secure from the damp ground.”; 3
July, “I have a fine rubber taken from the Yankee camp [on June 29th]. Our boys supplied
themselves many Yankee things …,” Nat S. Turner, ed., A Southern Soldier’s Letters
Home: The Civil War Letters of Samuel A. Burney, Cobb’s Georgia Legion, Army of
Northern Virginia (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2002), 180, 109–191. Charles
Leuschner, 3 June 1864, McKay, “Food Documentation Relative to the 10th Texas
Infantry.” William C. Davis, ed., Diary of a Confederate Soldier: John S. Jackman of the
Orphan Brigade (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990), 14–15, 17–20,
22, 25, 38, 42, 47.
37. Thomas, Samuel N. and Silverman, Jason H., eds., A Rising Star of Promise: The
Civil War Odyssey of David Jackson Logan, 17th South Carolina Volunteers, 1861–1864
(Campbell, Ca., 1998), 58–59, 76.
38. Davis, John S. Jackman of the Orphan Brigade, 68–69.
39. Ibid., 98, 153–155.
40. Ibid., 81.
41. Ibid., 129, 162. A.D. Kirwan, ed., Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade: The Journal
of a Confederate Soldier (Lexington, Ky.: The University Press of Kentucky, 1984), 82–
83, 84, 134. Turner, Civil War Letters of Samuel A. Burney, Cobb’s Georgia Legion, 258.
42. James Durkin, ed., “This War is an Awful Thing …”: Civil War Letters of the
National Guards, The 19th & 90th Pennsylvania Volunteers (Glenside, Pa.: J. Michael
Santarelli Publishing, 1994), 36.
43. Styple, Writing and Fighting the Civil War, 18.
44. Nina Silber and Mary Beth Sievens, eds., Yankee Correspondence: Civil War Letters
between New England Soldiers and the Home Front (Charlottesville and London:
University Press of Virginia, 1996), 35.
45. Rhodes, All For the Union, 73.
46. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 576.
47. Nat Brandt, Mr. Tubbs' Civil War (Syracuse Univ. Press, Syracuse, N.Y., 1996),
Armstrong to Tubbs, 17 April 1862, 68. Throne, Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, 64,
99. Boyd also commented on the ebb and flow of soldiers’ living conditions. “Camp at
Holly Springs Mississippi,” 24 December 1862, “From poverty and want we have
suddenly become rich and stuck up. We have been sleeping on slanting rails and on the
cold frosty earth or under a mule wagon or indeed we have slept in all kinds of places
with a stone for a pillow  we are above that now We have mahogany bedsteads and the
finest lounges that this Market affords The tents are not large enough to hold all the fine
furniture now on hands. Dan Embree, Gray, Harv Reid and I are all in one tent. We have
fine Carpet down, a stove and more stuff than we actually need.” Sergeant Downing, 11th
Iowa, wrote on 25 December, “ the boys are all enjoying themselves. They are taking
everything that they can lay their hands on, carrying to their tents couches, rockers,
chairs, tables, books, bric–a–brac – in fact, all kinds of household articles.” Lieutenant
Charles Haydon, 2nd Michigan, adapted early on, “… near the river between Alexandria
& Mt. Vernon … October 17 [1861] The night was very quiet … I slept under a large
chestnut log which hung on the stump. I filled upon the back side with fine bushes & in
front also except a hole large enough to crawl in. I never had a better sleep.” Sears, Civil
War Journal of Charles B. Haydon, 110. Lieutenant Theodore Ayrault Dodge, 101st New
York Regiment, also evinced the soldiers’ acceptance of campaign living: Harrison’s
Landing, Virginia Peninsula, 15 July 1862, “When you once get used to it, you have no
idea how delicious it is to sleep in the open air on these beautiful summer nights. I tried
to sleep under a shed last night … but before midnight I was fain to change my couch to
beneath a tree, where I enjoyed a sweet delicious sleep. Of course you know a portion of
the Reserve [picket] is allowed to sleep, one third of them watching all the time, and
hence one can sleep without anxiety.”; 17 July 1862, “You would be sorry for our poor
boys if you could see them in a thunderstorm. You know we lost all our baggage, tents
&c at White Oak Swamp … Well, since then our boys have not been able to get tents.
Either there are none, or the Quarter Master is not clever enough to get hold of them. It is
not hard sleeping out of doors these fine nights, in fact I much prefer it to a tent, but when
it rains as it did yesterday, our poor boys have to take it right out in the open, and when
the rain is over lie down wet through and often in the water, to sleep. They come to me
and complain. I of course cannot help them and it makes me feel how hard a soldier’s life
is, in active service.”; 12 August 1862, “After all was packed up and ready to start, we
got orders countermanding the first to march. So we slept last night under lofty pine trees.
Our harvest moon is so beautiful that this is really greater luxury than those who have
never tried it can imagine. Unless it rains, I always prefer taking my blanket and throwing
myself under a tree in the open air.”; Gettysburg Campaign, 15 June 1863, Centerville,
Virginia, 4 A.M., “Colonel Lockman and I slept in the open air last night, on an old
railway embankment … this morning when we got up we were soaked through with dew.
… 5 P.M. We are … in line in front of the Centreville fortifications … The Corps officers
are lying under a tree, very hot and uncomfortable, among them your humble servant.”
Sears, Journal of Theodore Ayrault Dodge, 61, 64–65, 76, 285.
48. Throne, Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, 64, 99.
49. Kirwan, Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade, 16–17.
50. F. Jay Taylor, ed., Reluctant Rebel: The Secret Diary of Robert Patrick 1861–1865
(Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1996), 118.
51. Ibid., 127.
52. Ibid., 233.
53. Donald, Gone for a Soldier, 167–168.
54. Ibid., 167–168.
55. Herman Melville, White Jacket or The World in a Man–of–War (Quality Paperback
Book Club, N.Y., 1996: first published 1850), 104–105.
56. Donald, Gone for a Soldier, 77.
57. Wiley Sword, Embrace an Angry Wind – The Confederacy's Last Hurrah: Spring
Hill, Franklin, and Nashville (New York, N.Y., 1991), 62. Brandt, Mr. Tubbs' Civil War,
Armstrong to Tubbs, 7 March 1862, 65–66; Armstrong to Tubbs, 14 July 1864, 52.
58. Taylor, Reluctant Rebel: The Secret Diary of Robert Patrick, 195–196. John Green,
9th Kentucky, noted on “Feb 17th 1862 Our tents were brought to us & we rested;
however it was the muddiest, most dismal place in the world. We cut poles & laid [them]
in our tent for a floor & put the cedar boughs over them,” Kirwan, Johnny Green of the
Orphan Brigade, 17. Captain John De Forest, 12th Connecticut Regiment, served in
Louisiana from 1862 to summer 1864 and then in Virginia beginning in July 1864. Here
are three passages in which he describes sleeping on the ground, with and without a crude
mattress: October 1862, near Georgia Landing, on Bayou LaFourche, above
Donaldsonville, Louisiana; after leaving that town “We made an easy march of twelve or
fifteen miles, without being disturbed by an enemy. The men, weak as yet from the
summer’s heat and quite unaccustomed to field service, complained of the weight of their
knapsacks and straggled wofully. At night the Twelfth had it first experience in
bivouacking. I got a bed of cornstalks, but supposed I was roughing it and slept badly
through cold and anxiety. It was the exposure to night air which worried me  And
when I was roused at dawn to continue the march, I felt more fearful of being broken
down by lack of proper rest than of being shot in the approaching engagement.”; After
spending the winter in Louisiana, the regiment (and the Nineteenth Corps) was sent to
reinforce Grant in Virginia; the First Division, of which the 12th Connecticut formed part,
was rerouted to Washington to defend against Jubal Early’s attempt on the city.
“Georgetown Heights, July 29, 1864, letter to his wife, “Don’t come on here unless I
write for you. You could sleep in a tent, you say. Not in mine; I have none. I slept out of
doors last night, lying on a blanket with my blouse for a cover.”; Memoir of the Battle of
Cedar Creek (19 October 1864), of the night after the action Captain De Forest noted that
“My bed was a board on the ground, under the beautiful chilly stars, with no covering but
my blouse thrown over my shoulders. Tents, baggage, rations and servants had all flown
to Winchester and had not returned.” De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures, 55, 162–163,
230.
59. William A. Fletcher, Rebel Private: Front and Rear (Meridian, New York, 1997;
originally published 1908), 125.
60. Ibid., 125.
61. Strong, A Yankee Private's Civil War, 94. Echoing Robert Strong’s experience,
Confederate John Jackman wrote from near Dallas, Georgia, “May 24th [1864] … Rained
nearly all night, and I slept on three fence–rails placed side–by–side, one end of the rails
resting up against a fence, to give inclination, so the water would run off. Did not sleep
very well.” Davis, John S. Jackman of the Orphan Brigade, 129.
62. Taylor, Reluctant Rebel: The Secret Diary of Robert Patrick, 186.
63. Donald, Gone for a Soldier, 168.
64. Brandt, Mr. Tubbs' Civil War, Orrin Stebbins letter (possibly 28 March 1862) to
Charles Tubbs; cited in Tioga County Agitator, 30 April 1862, 16–17, 218.
65. De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures, 41.
66. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 79, 81, 95. Cyrus Boyd noted a similar experience
sleeping in tents somewhere west of Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, 25 April 1862, “Late
this afternoon we received orders to move to the westward  The roads were awful 
Went two miles and pitched our tents in the swamp. We had to cut brush to lay over the
water before we could lay our blankets down to make a bed and thus will try to sleep. On
almost every side there are tents stretching away in a continuous line of battle ”
Throne, Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, 45.
67. Taylor, Reluctant Rebel: The Secret Diary of Robert Patrick, 161.
68. Ibid., 238.
69. Lowenfels, Walt Whitman’s Civil War, 36.
70. William Forrest Dawson, ed., A Civil War Artist at the Front: Edwin Forbes' Life
Studies of the Great Army (New York, Oxford Univ. Press, 1957), plates 7, 8, and 38.
"Attack on a Picket Post," by Albert Bierstadt (1862), Stephen W. Sears, ed., The Civil
War Treasury of Art and Literature (New York, MacMillan Publishing Co., 1992), 80.
William C. Davis, ed., The Image of War: 1861–1865, IV, “Fighting for Time” (Garden
City, N.Y., Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1983), 110; original photo source, Civil War Times
Illustrated Collection, Harrisburg, Pa.. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 338. Bruce Catton,
The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York, Bonanza Books,
1960), 374. Mark D. Jaeger, ed., “’Hints to Campaigners’: from the United States Army
and Navy Journal“ (unpublished Mss, submitted to The Watchdog newsletter, Winter
2004/2005 issue); The anonymous author gives advice on proper clothing, bedding and
blankets, where best to sleep, how to make oneself comfortable sleeping on the ground,
construction of simple shelters or windbreaks, and pitching and ditching a tent. Regarding
tents and bivouacs, he writes, “when in the vicinity of an enemy there can be no
comparison between the hazard of a tent and that of a bivouac. In the former, the man
sleeps heavy; he can see nothing, and he can hear but imperfectly. Moreover, his position
being accurately known, he is at all times in danger of an attack. The first NAPOLEON
was always in favor of the bivouac as being far more healthy than tenting.” "The Papers
of General Samuel Smith. The General's Autobiography," The Historical Magazine, VII,
2nd series, no. 2 (February 1870), 91.Other examples may be seen in the drawing,
“January 1863, Our camp at Night, drawn by Alexander Meinung … Twenty–sixth North
Carolina … Julius Lineback Papers no. 4547, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson
Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” Sarah Bahnson Chapman, ed.,
Bright and Gloomy Days: The Civil War Correspondence of Captain Charles Frederic
Bahnson, a Moravian Confederate (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2003), 48;
and, illustrations of eight makeshift hovels and shanties built by Union prisoners at
Andersonville, Georgia, Robert Knox Sneden, Images from the Storm: 300 Civil War
Images by the Author of “Eye of the Storm,” Charles F. Bryan, James C. Kelly, and
Nelson D. Lankford, eds. (New York and London: The Free Press, 2001), 204.
71. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 142. John Markland, "The Revolutionary Services of
John Markland," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 9 (Winter 1885),
106.
72. Donald, Gone for a Soldier, 34–35.
73. Ibid., 42–43.
74. Sneden, Eye of the Storm, 104. For other brush and log shelter references, see Otto F.
Bond, ed., Under the Flag of the Nation: Diaries and Letters of Owen Johnston Hopkins,
a Yankee Volunteer in the Civil War (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1998), 16;
Sears, Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon, 134; Silber and Sievens, Yankee
Correspondence, 103.
75. De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures, 74.
76. Ibid., 97, 119. Captain De Forest wrote a memoir of the 1863 siege of Port Hudson in
which he described the vagaries of sleeping in a fire zone with and without shelter. While
manning the fortifications in June, De Forest’s company occupied a gully: “There was
but one spot in the hollow, and that only a few yards square, where bullets never struck;
and by some awkward providence it rarely fell to the lot of my company, no matter when
we came off duty  It was a land of peace, a city of refuge, thirty feet long by ten feet
broad.” Denied this sanctuary, “I spread my rubber blanket in the mud or sun according
to the weather, lighted my pipe, and wondered when my bullet would come.
“It must be stated that, excepting the canopy of the heavens, there was not a tent in the
regiment. I do admit indeed, on recollection, that for two weeks or more I enjoyed the
shelter of a white bed–coverlet, abstracted by my colored henchman George from I know
not whose shanty or palace, which, being spread cunningly, kept off much sun and some
rain. But on the 14th of June, while I was engaged in the storming party, certain vagrants
from another regiment caused this improvised shelter tent to disappear. Little by little we
built in the treeless portions of the gully huts of branches just high enough to admit us in
a sitting posture. Over these we threw our rubber blankets during the showers and tried to
imagine that we were thereby the drier. Being about to occupy the bivouac of Company
F, which was going up to the parapet to relieve my company, I said to the commandant,
Lieutenant Clark, ‘What a palace you have left me!
“’It looks nice,’ replied Clark, smiling doubtfully at the newly built green shanty which
he was about quitting. ‘But it isn’t all my fancy painted it. I had scarcely got comfortably
settled in it and commenced reading a newspaper when a bullet went through the leading
editorial.’” De Forest also refers to these structures as “bough–built shanties.”
77. Ibid., 144, 151–152.
78. Rosenblatt, Hard Marching Every Day, 60.
79. Marc Simpson, Winslow Homer Paintings of the Civil War (San Francisco, Fine Arts
Museum of San Francisco and Bedford Arts, Publishers, 1988), 148. Sears, Civil War
Treasury of Art and Literature, 172–173. Davis, Image of War: 1861–1865, III, “The
Embattled Confederacy” (1982), 58; original photo source, U.S. Military History
Institute, Carlisle, Pa. A three picture collage, with the aforementioned photograph in the
center, shows a larger perspective of plank and straw structures among the houses and
barns sheltering the wounded of General William French's division. Ronald H. Bailey,
The Civil War: The Bloodiest Day, The Battle of Antietam (Time–Life Books,
Alexandria, Va., 1984), 138–139. Wooden tent, from a German military manual. Was ist
jedem Officier waehrend eines Feldzugs zu wissen noethig (trans., "What it is necessary
for each officer to know during a campaign") (Carlsruhe, 1788) Mit zehen Kupferplatten
(trans. "with ten copper plates"), plate 9; courtesy of Charles Beale.
80. Styple, Writing and Fighting the Civil War, 73.
81. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 337–338.
82. Robert Goldthwaite Carter, Four Brothers in Blue (Austin and London, Univ. of
Texas Press, 1979), 11. Elisha Rhodes, 2nd Rhode Island, also wrote of brush shelters
before Bull Run: 20 July 1861, “Today we left Fairfax Court House and encamped a few
miles beyond, near Centreville. Here we built shelters with pine and cedar boughs and
call the camp ‘Bush Camp.’” 21 July, “About two o’clock this morning we left ‘Bush
Camp’ …” Rhodes, All For the Union, 26. Robert K. Krick, Stonewall Jackson at Cedar
Mountain (Chapel Hill and London, Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1990), 337, 345–346.
Davis, Image of War: 1861–1865, III, “The Embattled Confederacy” (1982), 58; original
photo source, U.S. Military History Institute, Carlisle, Pa.
83. Frank Wilkeson, Turned Inside Out: The Reflections of a Private Soldier in the Army of
the Potomac (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 83.
84. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Glasgow, New York, and
Toronto, Oxford Univ. Press, 1971), 2776. Walt Whitman, Specimen Days & Collect
(Glasgow, Scotland, Wilson & McCormack, 1883), 27. Sneden, Eye of the Storm, 147.
85. Joseph T. Glatthaar, The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the
Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns (Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, 1995),
83–84.
86. Doyle, Smith, and McMurry, Civil War Letters of George W. Squier, 107.
87. Davis, John S. Jackman of the Orphan Brigade, 159.
88. Rhodes, All For the Union, 214.
89. Donald, Gone for a Soldier, 189.
91. Byron R. Abernethy, ed., Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., Sees the Civil War (Univ. of
Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1985), 144–145.
91. Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg, 554, 560.
92. Bond, Diaries and Letters of Owen Johnston Hopkins, 69, 131–132.
93. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 117. Throne, Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, 66.
Rosenblatt, Hard Marching, 232.
94. Ibid., 337–338.
95. William Heartsill and Jim Turner, 9 July 1863, McKay, “Food Documentation
Relative to the 10th Texas Infantry.”
96. Kirwan, Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade, 82–83.
97. Davis, John S. Jackman of the Orphan Brigade, 83–84.
98. Sneden, Eye of the Storm, 44. Davis, John S. Jackman of the Orphan Brigade, 83.
99. De Forest, A Volunteer’s Adventures, 119–120. 25.
100. Strong, A Yankee Private's Civil War, 18.
101. Orrin Stebbins letter (possibly 6 November 1861) to Charles Tubbs, cited in Tioga
County Agitator, 29 December 1861, Brandt, Mr. Tubbs' Civil War, 34, 219 (note 2),
220. Donald, Gone for a Soldier, 30.
102. Simpson, Winslow Homer, paintings; "Home Sweet Home," 145; "The Sutler's
Tent," 155, 156; "Portrait of Albert Post," 189; "Pitching Quoits," 209. Chromolithogaph
of a Confederate camp at Corinth, Miss., 1862, after a painting by Conrad Chapman,
Catton, American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, 376–377.
Bower photographs:
Davis, Image of War: 1861–1865, I, “Shadows of the Storm” (1981), bowers in
Confederate Army camps, Pensacola, Florida, April 1861, 357, line of freestanding
bowers, and 359, bower next to wall tent; 361, two wall tents fronted by bowers.
Ibid., II, “The Guns of '62” (1982): 226, large bower covering Union officers' wall tents
at Petersburg, Va., 1864; 234, bower in front of soldiers' wall tent, 1865.
Ibid., IV, “Fighting for Time” (1983): 79, large bower fronting Brig. Gen. Cuvier
Grover's wall tent, Port Hudson, Mississippi; 235, large bower next to tent in camp of
chief ambulance officer, IX Corps, Petersburg, Virginia, August 1864; 317, large bower
sheltering four wall tents of a Federal cavalry unit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
William C. Davis and Bell I. Wiley, ed., Civil War Times Photographic History of the
Civil War: Vicksburg to Appomattox (Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, New York,
1994), "The South Besieged" (originally vol. V in Image of War: 1861–1865), 676, 114th
Pennsylvania, wall tents with large bower; 799, headquarters, 19th Kentucky Volunteers
(Federal), Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1864, large bower by side of building.
Davis, Image of War: 1861–1865, VI, “The End of an Era” (1984): 246, bower covering
Brig. Gen. Orlando Wilcox's wall tent, August 1864; 252, large bower over Major Gen.
Benjamin Butler's wall tent, October 1864; 335, neatly made bower in front of General
George Meade's wall tent, spring 1865.
103. William Savage, lieutenant 10th Connecticut Infantry, from St. Helena Island, S.C.,
(with Port Royal, S.C. cancellation), date unknown (the regiment occupied St. Helena
Island from early February 1863 to 27 March 1863), to Mr. Selah Savage, Greenwich, Ct.
Eight–page letter in pencil offered for sale on Ebay, likely purchased by a private
collector. The regiment moved from Newberne, N.C., to Hilton Head, S.C., January 26–
29, 1863. Camp at St. Helena Island, S.C., until March 27 and at Seabrook Island, S. C,
to July 6. Union Regimental Histories: Connecticut (World Wide Web)
http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unctinf2.htm
See also, Connecticut 10th Regiment Volunteer Infantry (September 30, 1861 –
September 5, 1865), Stamford's Civil War: At Home and in the Field a 2003 Exhibit and
more, The Stamford Historical Society, Inc. (World Wide Web)
http://www.stamfordhistory.org/cw_reghist.htm
104. Donald, Gone for a Soldier, 52.
105. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, 53.