Light Marching Order

By: Mark Popish



" In fact a soldier on the march resembles a pack mule" Pvt. Washington Ives 4th Regt., Florida Volunteer Infantry

"We can get along without anything but food and ammunition. The road to glory can not be followed with too much baggage."
Brigadier General Richard S. Ewell, C.S.A., during Jackson's Valley Campaign, 1862.

". . . an army is efficient for action and motion exactly in the inverse ratio of its impedimenta."
General William T. Sherman, Memoirs, 1875

Reduced to its essentials, light marching order consists of leather accouterments, musket, haversack, canteen, tin 'dipper' or boiler, and a blanket roll. The American veteran infantryman of the 1860s, no matter what flag he fought for, was able to live tolerably, even comfortably with these essentials for months on campaign. It is just as possible for a reenactor to do so.

Haversack - Only food and eating utensils should be carried in the haversack, as that is its sole purpose - see last month's article on period rations.  If you need to carry more items than will roll in a blanket or fit in your pockets, you need a knapsack.

Blanket Roll - Inside your blanket you can roll a spare shirt, socks, drawers, housewife, and musket cleaning kit . Lay your blanket flat on your gum blanket, then fold the sides up to keep the blanket and your gear inside dry. Then roll it up and secure the ends with light cotton or sisal rope making a sling. The roll should not exceed 10 pounds. You can use this if you do not have a knapsack. Whether it is worn right shoulder to left hip or left shoulder to right hip seems to have been a matter of personal choice.


Mess mates - A four man mess provides an equitable way of dividing responsibilities for cooking, tending the fire, rations, &etc.  Ideally, you'd be a set of "comrades in battle" so you can stay together on picket duty. One man needs to carry a sharp hatchet . One man can carry a small folding lantern.

"It is necessary from time to time to inspect the baggage and force the men to throw away useless gear. I have frequently done this. One can hardly imagine all the trash they carry with them year after year. . . It is no exaggeration to say that I have filled twenty wagons with rubbish I have found in the review of a single regiment." Field Marshal Maurice, Comte de Saxe, My Reveries, 1732.

Both historic and modern experience shows that the infantryman kit should be light as possible. Look at all your gear that you drag to an event and just ask yourself if you really need it or not. Have you used it at the last three events you've been to?

Could you leave it in your car so that you'd have it if it suddenly became "essential?"

Experiment with blanket rolls. Put your kit on and adjust for comfort and remember - your traps should be worn high.

Sources (many of these are available in local public libraries)

John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, (Lincoln, NE: Univ. Of Nebraska Press, 1993). Reprint in paperback.

Gregory A Coco, The Civil War Infantryman; In camp, on the march, and in battle, (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas, 1996).

Carlton McCarthy, Detailed Minutea of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 (Lincoln, NE: Univ. Of Nebraska Press, 1993). Reprint in paperback.

Sam R. Watkins" Co. Aytch" - A Side Show of the Big Show (reprinted Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1987). Widely available in paperback.

Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank (reprinted Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 1983)

Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb (reprinted Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 1983)