most folks think of Civil War reenactments in terms of
cannons roaring and troops running around the battlefield,
in fact most battles last only for about an hour.
The rest of the time, we are enjoying life in our camp,
visiting neighboring camps, or paying a visit to a
sutler's tent. Thus, camp life occupies about 95% of
Unless one is
"hard core", and prefers to sleep out under the
stars, "campaign style" on a bed of straw or
just on the ground, the rest of us prefer to be tucked
into our 19th Century canvas reproduction tents of various
tentage generally comes in 3 varieties (although there
were other styles, such as the tall, teepee-like Sibley
tent). In the photo above, the center, open-front
tent is the cheapest and simplest, commonly known as a dog-tent.
It actually is in 2 halves - buttoned together at the
top. Usually one soldier carried a half, and shared
the tent with another. If you look closely, you'll
see the front pole of the dog tent is actually a
rifle-musket, stuck into the ground with it's bayonet
attached, and the ridge pole sitting on the back of the
lock. Hard-core, indeed. Dog tents are cramped
sleeping, and offer little in rain protection, but they're
certainly the lightest and most economical.
The ones surrounding it
are called A-frames. These are considerably
taller (6-1/2 - 7 ft.) and hold two quite comfortably -
even with cots, which are highly prized by the older
folks. They have a closed back and a closable front,
and will actually keep you quite dry in a passing
shower. They'll hold all of your gear, as
well. This is the most common.
In the distance, you can
see a wall-tent - unfortunately usually restricted
to higher-ranking officers. Even junior officers
must be content with an A-frame at most events.
Let's pause for an
authenticity note: The regular soldier "on
campaign" and ready to fight at the drop of a hat
didn't normally carry a tent of any kind. His whole
kit usually consisted of his rifle-musket, ammunition,
blanket, canteen, and a small haversack which slung over
his shoulder and held his worldly possessions and a few
rations. Whether marching or fighting, he didn't
generally leave anything behind.. because his unit might
never return to the same spot again. Plus, the hot
Virginia summer sun made trucking a lot of weight
something no one wanted to do. Neither did mounted
cavalry, for even though a horse could carry more, the
mounted trooper on extended scouting duty was much more
likely to borrow his mount's blanket at night.
"Boots and Saddles" meant just that - pull on
your boots and saddle your horse, and you're off. No
time to collect a lot of extra gear when those boys in
Blue are bearing down on you.
scouting and a few skirmishes, both sides retired to
Winter Camp when cold weather set in, as armies of the
1860's were not equipped for winter survival in the
open. That's when the tents, often with short
knee-walls and insulation around the edges came out for
the duration - including a lot of temporary wood
structures constructed from local materials and even more
than a few small houses... not fancy, but quite warm and
cozy. Men were often joined by their families,
particularly if the Yanks had recently burned the family
Thus, our reenactment
camps are a mélange of sorts. Yes, we fight each
day, but retire to a "summer encampment" with
many of the amenities of a winter camp... tables, chairs,
cots, musical instruments, plenty of cookware, and
such. It's a decent, and dare we say, more
comfortable compromise. There are hard-core
campaigners who disagree, of course, and lay their
blankets out in a multi-pointed star, heads toward the
fire pit, ready to move at a minutes' notice. But
our 1st Virginia Cavalry group generally treasures our
||Not far from
the military camps, you'll usually find a Living
History section. Members of this branch of the
hobby are interpreters of various Civil War characters and
activities. Reenactors stroll the street in their
leisure time, perhaps visiting with famous generals or
viewing interesting exhibits which might include a
blacksmith, undertaker, medical tent, photographer,
leather craftsman, or carpenter.
While we southern folks
might like to take a pot shot at old Abe, left, his
bodyguard with the double barreled shotgun makes
discretion the better part of valor.
Many reenactors also
serve as Living History interpreters back home, giving
talks to schools and organizations which are well received
by the public.
The possibilities are
back in camp, there's always plenty of things to keep us
Cleaning weapons after
the battle, reloading pistols, making cartridges, and of
course, discussing our weapons and other gear with the
visiting public keep us well-occupied.
just walk over to the kitchen faucet in a camp during the
civil war. There was always wood to haul and chop,
water to fetch, and horses to feed.
This young lady is the
beneficiary of some strong young lad who hauled a full
barrel of fresh spring water across the field.
company has a fire pit, carefully made by digging sod
pieces out and laying them upside-down beside the
pit. When we leave, we return the sod, none the less
the wear, to whence it came, and a couple of weeks later,
you'll never know we were there.
using typical 19th century pots and pans, and eat out of
tin plates while sipping our lemonade out of period
correct tin or ceramic cups.
No one ever
Ladies like to put on their better dresses and stroll the
camp, as visiting ladies from nearby towns might have
You may learn a lot more
about different ladies' wear by visiting our Civilians
section of this site.
contemporary hot air balloon is not period correct, we are
sometimes treated to a spectacular view at the end of a
balloons were utilized during the Civil War for
observation, generating the first recorded anti-aircraft
fire, as well, when ground infantry would open up at them
if they thought they might be in range.
||If a fiddle,
guitar, mandolin, or banjo happens to come out of a tent,
the camp is quickly on the spot, for live acoustic music was
all we had back in the 1860's, and everyone loves music in
out quickly thereafter, as no Cavalryman is ever too tired
after a hard day of fighting to cut a jig with a pretty
just before taps, the Artillery will treat us to a little
night firing of their pieces.
flame shooting directly upward from the touchhole, reason
enough to stand well away from the gun!
never a dull minute in Camp!
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