Campaign Camping

By Cpl. Andrew Jerram

Campaign camping as it is simply defined, is camping in the minimum, as it pertains to Civil War Reenacting. We get the name "Campaigning," because the style we strive for is as similar as possible to that of the real soldiers on campaign. Campaign Camping can be divided into several categories, and will be detailed later.

1) Equipment- is very important. You need the right equipment to live comfortably, but you also need to recognize, that when marching, the minimum amount of equipment is paramount to being comfortable as possible. On Red River, I noticed large tin cups, shirts, frying pans, extra haversacks, and such being discarded within the first mile.

2) Sleeping ĖWould have been paramount to a soldier living three years in the field, still very important to us today, especially when we have to drive home 13 hours!!!

3) Eating ĖOf the utmost importance. Period.

4) Attitude-Didnít see that one coming, did Ya???

Equipment on Campaign

General William T. Sherman said that. "Öan army is efficient for action and motion exactly in inverse ratio of its impedimenta." This attitude is the one that we as campaigners should try to emulate. It has many advantages, 1) lower overall cost, 2) Better and more realistic for the public, and 3) itís much more fun.

When I campaign, as opposed to heavy camp, my equipment only changes in two major areas. My haversack, and my knapsack. Into my haversack, go only those things that relate to food, cooking and consumption. Food for campaigners differs from event to event, and from person to person. Some people are happy with period rations, while others like more palatable fare. If you plan to march from campsite to campsite, then yes, period rations are the way to go. Period rations can include, but are not limited to, salt pork, (available at the grocery store), hardtack, (which you can make yourself, or buy), coffee, apples, potatoes, (sweet or Irish), cornbread, rice, and beans. Most raw vegetables grown in the eastern US are also okay. On the other hand, if you are campaign camping alongside the heavy campers, it is no trouble at all to take an extra haversack, or burlap sack with "normal" food in it. I am sure I am opening myself up to Stitch-Nazi criticism, but it my opinion, a well-fed campaigner is less prone to wanting to "borrow" food off of heavy campers, or run down to the burger vendor, both of which are much more inauthentic than an extra haversack, lying at the bottom of a tree. As for utensils, and the such, I recommend the following things.

1) Matching set of Round butter knife, spoon, and 3-prong fork. Yeah, It seems that they would be the first things to go, but I was corrected on this matter. It seems that  1860ís etiquette required the eating of certain things, such as peas, with the round knife, (donít ask me how) and that for a soldier to be without a set, was a no-no.     There are several collections that back this claim up.

2) Canteen Half- shed that tin plate\pie plate and grab a canteen half. Digs suggest they were very popular as they could hold more, cook more, cook better and were much more durable.

3) Cup\boiler-I suggest that if you have a one-quart mucket, stick with it and ditch the tin cup. If you only have a tin cup, make sure it is a durable one and put a wire loop on it for cooking.

As for Knapsacks vs. Bedrolls, it is primarily a personal choice. Some criteria to look at are, what your unit primarily carried, cost, and comfort level. Most knapsacks can carry more than you can. In other words it is relatively easy to over pack one. If you are going to carry a knapsack, you should keep the contents to a minimum. I carry 1 extra shirt, 1 extra pair of drawers, and 2 pairs of socks, (1 wool, 1 cotton), 1 blanket, and one poncho\ gum blanket. If it looks like rain looms, and you want to carry one, a shelter half can be added. In addition to this, the essential items that you took out of your haversack can be replaced here. In my knapsack, I have some lye soap, a large cotton rag, a pocketknife, and a soldierís housewife.

In General, the best policy is to keep looking at your equipment, and removing that which you donít need. Some culprits that I have noticed frequently, are bowie knives, pistols, gaiters, hat cords, and the like.

Sleeping, heretofore, mentioned as a necessity must be comfortable in order to be effective. Many people donít believe me, but I maintain that it is possible to sleep comfortably in the field. When I chose a site to camp on, I look for many things. If rain looms, I search for the tree with the densest branches, preferably fairly low. The Hemlock tree is ideal. When I put my kit down, begin by using my bayonet to loosen the soil, and to make sure the ground is free of rocks, and sticks. Make sure that in the event of rain, you wonít be sleeping in a puddle. (or a creek, as is known to happen. Or a river for that matter which HAS happened to me in my first few years of reenacting) If any straw, leaves or pine straw is readily available, rake it up into a level bed. I usually put my shelter half on top of the bedding and then fold myself into my blanket like a taco. If I have my gum blanket on hand, which I usually do, I lay it over myself, black side up to keep in the warmth. Some people like to trade shelter half with gum blanket, i.e. gum on ground, shelter half on top. I prefer this arrangement to setting up my shelter tent for several reasons. 1) it keeps you drier in almost all rains, 2) It keeps you warmer if it doesnít rain, and 3) Iím lazy and this way I donít have to set up a shelter tent. Some other tips to keep you comfortable when you sleep include

-Putting your hat over your shoes to keep them dry.

-Loosen suspenders.

-Use a cotton bag with extra clothes as a pillow. My dad stuffs his extra shirt with clothes. This also gets the shirt warm for the next morning.

-Wear a smoking cap, or a flannel cap to keep the warmth in. Your mother was right, you do lose 75% of your body heat there.

-Get out of the wind.

-Keep cut wood by the fire, and keep it going.

-Spoon with a pard. They did!

Napoleon said " an army moves on its stomach." That is probably why he lost, the British moved on their feet! Iím only kidding, in French, it meant that the army responded to its stomach, or was at the mercy of it. Eating was one of the most important things to a Civil War soldier. The rations they received were often poor, or inadequate, so improvisation was critical. As previously mentioned, salt pork, hardtack, cornbread, and beef were the most common items to be found in either army. Other items though were frequently picked up, issued, foraged, and received from home. You can incorporate many of these into your impression to avoid the diseases that killed half of the 670,000 casualties that occurred in the War. If you are going to be campaigning in a moving camp, (Red River, and the such) then you are probably best to go with strict issue rations as they are lighter, and less bulky. If you are going to be in a stationary camp, next to the heavy campers, it is probably best to take a few extra rations in an extra haversack. Many "stitch-Nazis" will foo-foo this idea, but I believe that it is better, and more authentic, to eat well, and have an extra anonymous haversack lying around, then it is to have to bum food off a heavy, or visit the hamburger stand. Some fairly period foods that are suitable in camp include, but are not limited to, vegetables (native to area), apples, (smaller the better), fresh meats, and baked bread. I know that many will also foo-foo those ideas, but I know as well as they do, that there were so many random events such as foraging, packages from home, and private purchases that they can be reasonably justified.

Cooking is of similar importance. There were several ways of cooking available to a Civil War soldier.

-Frying-Used on meats (sliced thinly), potatoes (sliced), cut onions, hardtack (after soaking in water) and cut vegetables

-Boiling- Red River experience said that this was by far the easiest and tastiest way to cook anything. Rice, beans, chopped meat, cabbage, carrots, vegetables, coffee, and hominy

-Broiling-Can be used on meats (rather unwieldy)

-Cook-in-the-Coals- corn in the husk, and potatoes

Attitude is an often-overlooked aspect of campaign camping. One of the responsibilities of being a campaigner is educating the public, and your fellow reenactors. To fully educate the public, you must educate yourself as much as possible. This can be done through research, experience, discussion, and with help from your fellow reenactors. In educating other reenactors, i.e. the "heavy" campers, we must remember that perhaps, they have never been exposed to those things which we have, or they plain just "donít want to change." In order to prevent (more) rifts in reenacting, NEVER get into a confrontation about uniforms, tents, boxes, coolers, etc., etc. Nothing is worth alienating a friend. Remember, even though it may be an obsession for you, it may be "just a hobby" for them.