Throughout the Civil War soldier’s spent a great deal of his or her time in camp or marching from destination to destination. Their war struck life was full of hardships, a person can really see what hardships the typical Civil War Soldier went through when one looks at the soldiers’ daily lives in camp. To really understand their life at camp one would look at what a soldier ate, where he or she slept, and what they did in their free time.
As a person in the year 2003 we pride ourselves in eating a variety of foods, both at home and at a restaurant. Unlike us, a Civil War Soldier normally did not have a variety of foods to eat throughout the typical day. A soldier fighting for the North, as a soldier in the Union, was normally better feed than the normal soldier fighting for the South, also known as a Confederate. An Union Soldier often ate salt pork, which was also well known as either side meat or sowbelly, and hardtack. Most Union Soldiers had a hard time eating the hardtack due to the rock hard consistency and so many soldiers first crumbled the hardtack and then fried it. Along with the food most Union Soldiers drank coffee, on average a soldier would drink a quart or more of coffee a day. On the other hand a model Confederate soldier would eat corn pone and bacon, pork, or beef upon availability. The Confederate government did not do a good job feeding the soldiers even though the south had an abundance of agriculture and a large amount of food. In addition to the normal food eaten by the Confederate and Union soldiers both sides stole food from fields and forged money to buy food in the opposing sides territory.
Soldiers did not sleep a whole bunch through out the average day but when they did they didn’t have the best of shelter. Normally a soldier slept under what is known as a “pup-tent.” A “pup-tent” was normally shared between two people, each person carried a half. They slept on the bare floor and each person’s half connected to the other person’s half. Two other types of tents were used for the average soldier to sleep in. One was known as a wedge tent and the other a Sibley tent. The Sibley tent was a big tent that could fit a dozen men and a stove.
When a soldier was not fighting, marching, eating, or sleeping he or she had to fill their time. The soldiers were often bored out of their minds. Everyday they had to drill, but an average drill only took up about six hours of the day. In addition to drilling soldiers had to guard and maintain the camp that they were staying at for the moment. Most of the soldiers gambled with cards, mumblety-peg ( throwing pocket knives at a target), and even chess or backgammon. Other than gambling they also started playing an older version of baseball and attending religious services. There were a variety of different religious services a soldier could attend such as preaching services, prayer meetings and “experience” meetings. Last but not least the soldiers spent time reading all kinds of things from the bible to typical literature and law. Although they spent lots of time doing all kinds of things like gambling, religion, and reading most of them spent most of their time reading and re-reading their letters from home.
A soldier’s life was kept interesting, not always in a good way, throughout their service for either the Confederates or the Union. They spent most of their time in camp, keeping busy with worrying about the necessities of life and trying to fill their free time. A Civil War Soldier’s daily camp life was an important part of the war and is a very interesting topic to learn and understand.