Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Civil War Militaries: The Do-It-Yourself Armies

A Civil War soldier had to do everything himself, almost literally. I was inspired to write this post by an article in the Civil War Interactive about reenactors building their own huts.

When he went into winter quarters, a soldier had to build his own hut. As described by George Anson Bruce in the Regimental History of the 20th Massachussetts, the blowing of the autumn winds sent the men into nearby forests. They cut the trees and began the work of making the wood into housing blocks. They used a material called mother wit to keep out the drafts. They stayed in these self-made huts for months until the spring campaign season began. The men received a course each winter in logging and carpentry.

They also had to make their own meals. At any rest period, the coffee grounds went into mugs tied to pieces of wire. The fires were lit and the men made their own coffee. Many soldiers carried skillets over their shoulders as part of their gear. They would enjoy(?) a meal of coffee, bacon or salt pork leavened by hardtack. One historian quipped that this was a diet designed to create acute indigestion.

It was a different military. You did not have the legions of outside contractors to build the quarters or make the meals. Naturally, soldiers now have more specialized jobs so the contractors have become necessary. The amount of necessary support staff is much higher.

However, the Civil War clearly turned our soldiers into jacks of all trades.

No comments:

Post a Comment