Civil War/Camp Life
QUESTION: What are the similarities and differences between Confederate and Union soldier camp life/moral/supplies, and how did the camp life affect the war?
ANSWER: If you have not been to a Civil War Reenactment you should make a serious attempt to attend. Why, whatever you see being portrayed is nothing close to the truth; the women all wear gowns (instead of skirts and blouses or day dresses) the camps are full of children (never happened) and best of all, every tents has chairs, tables, beds, stoves (never happened).
There are countless myths about the war and one of the prime drivers are the text books from our schools; just for the record the second biggest source for myths and lies are biased web sites. If the site is say a United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC); Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) anything where the site owner is a Northerner or Southroner then be cautious. They don't purposely lie but most take what they have been told and repost it so you’ll find many examples of myths and lies. For example search for “The Reverend William Mack Lee” 99% of your results of your search will say he was General Robert E. Lee cook; that is a falsehood and one fostered by many people including the Virginia Historical Society. This gentleman was in actuality a flim flam man he went across the South making the claims he was Lees cook collect money and build black churches. Lees' servants during the war were Perry and William Parks along with Billy Taylor.
Anyway, the Confederate soldier was never the rag tagged vagabond described in the text books they seldom needed uniforms and even munitions #though what we had was not of the quality or quantity as the union soldier#. Our biggest problem was the supply line getting the material, food and medicine to the field. The second biggest problem was the shortage of leather; shoes, harnesses, ammunition cases, etc.
Union troops were well outfitted may-be even over burdened with equipment. They usually carried a knapsack with extra clothes, winter coat, blanket, mucket #coffee cup with a cover#, haversack, canteen, rations, rubber blanket, shelter tent, tin plate, knife, fork, spoon, stationery, photographs, journal, Bible, tobacco, pipes, comb and brush, shaving tools, sewing kit, toothbrush, soap with the musket and a full cartridge belt that is about 80 pounds. With a greater industrial base and resources they had more and better transportation many of the yankee troops would load their equipment aboard a wagon and could expect it to be accessible at the end of the day.
The Confederate soldier many times were responsible for feeding themselves due to that transportation problem many times even when we had rations it was difficult getting them to us. The same with uniforms many times we would, have to have family or friends make and send it to us. Most Southron boys did without tents relying instead on one to two blankets and rubber blankets; laying the rubber blanket, then a blanket then laying down and covering yourself up with the other two. While it beats sleeping exposed to the elements it makes for a cold miserable night, I have woke up many a night with a half inch of show on my face or wet and cold, you stay that way the rest of the day. I have marched along with each step water squirting out of my shoes and my toes and fingers turning blue.
Other then that camp life was pretty much the same for everyone. Boring! They would have role call, sick call then drill three to four hours be assigned errands filling canteens,policing the area. At the end of the day, they would gamble, pray, write letters, horse around just like todays soldiers.
I always think about the three boys #they estimated their age to be 15 to 20, found at Franklin their tracks in the snow could be tracked by the blood from their shoeless feet and when searched all they had to eat were a few handfuls of acorns. I resent the people who want the Confederate soldier memory erased, the monuments removes, labeled a traitor or racist. All they were where a soldier answering their countries call giving their all and now even their reputations.
With the comments about reenactment this about covers everything, if you need additional information feel free to contact me. If anyone contests anything please let me know I’ll help you with a response.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: But how did the camp life and soldier moral effect the war? Thank you so much for your time.
I am not so sure camp life had any real impact on anyones morale and especially the war. Due to the close proximity it resulted in the spread of diseases like mumps and measles and that certainly would cause you to be depressed. Sitting around camp gives you time to dream about home and pardon the pun and "The Girl I left Behind" not to mention mom, home.
Morale overall can win or lose you the battle or the war. When Lee came back from surrendering, Confederate boys were in tears and begged for another chance to break out of the entrapment. Like a football game in a battle something could spontaneously occur and win the battle.
In May 1864 there was heavy fighting at Spotsylvania, Grant with over 100,000 men was trying to flank Lee and take Richmond, Lee had only 54,000 men but had beaten a day march on Grant and had fortified a line at Spotsylvania. We were holding when Longstreet was seriously wounded and when the yankees found a weak spot at the “Mule Shoe”. It was hand to hand fighting with men standing on tier after tier of dead men, men drowning in their own blood; the difference in the armies became apparent as they began to overpowered us. The day appeared lost when Private Stepp, part of Gen. Ramseur's North Carolina brigade, stepped forward and until shot down began singing the "Bonnie Blue Flag" he was replaced by another and as each one was killed another took his place with everyone singing; the line steadied and the day was saved. Morale is important on any mission, any day and could save your life.