Sleeping Campaign Style

By: Charles Heath and Mike Murley


This works down to about 15 degrees. I realize "those people" have much colder weather up yonder, but the "teens" mean cold weather down here. Let's put the fresh fish to bed. If his feet are warm, you have won half the battle. If both his head and feet are warm, you've done well.

Bayonet & Pocketknife - Grub any roots, stems and rocks from your pallet footprint. Use the bayonet to loosen the soil, and level it if need be. Clear away pine cones, sticks, gum balls, galls, and other debris. The ground is your insulation, so you want to form a good weld between your ground cloth and the soil.

Canteen - In the winter, make sure it is only half full. A full canteen will split when it freezes solid. Place the canteen to the left of your head, so you may find it in the dark. (Right side if you are a lefty.) Remember to develop a placement pattern for your uniform and equipment items. This will serve you well in the future.

Shoes - Take your shoes off, and put your hat over them. The hat keeps out light rain and dew. They will ventilate normally with the hat covering.

Feet - Massage your feet thoroughly. Use your jacket as a feet wrapper on cold nights.

Socks - If you have a dry pair of socks, and you'd better, put them on just before retiring for the night. Take the old pair of socks and turn 'em inside out. Place these socks over your nice dry socks. They will wick away the sweat, and become your dry pair for the next night. Your feet will also have 2 layers of socks plus the jacket as protection.

Suspenders - Loosen the suspenders, so you won't pop a button in the night. You can do the toilet tuck, if you wish.

Knapsack - This is your pillow. Fluff it up a little, and enjoy. If no knapsack, then use the handy cartridge box.

Ground cloth / gum blanket / poncho - Use this as the first layer in the fold over sandwich. Lay the gum blanket / poncho rubber side down. The shelter half can be a good substitute, if the you do not yet have a groundcloth or gum blanket. Otherwise, keep the shelter half handy for a dewcloth.

Blanket - Your blanket should be long enough to cover your head and feet. If you are tall, curl up a bit. If you are short, be happy to have such an advantage. If you can sandwich into the blanket/ground cloth arrangement, then fine. If not, don't worry about it. The blanket is folded once on the long axis and you climb in like a sleeping bag. If you have a second blanket, fold it along the long axis and lay the whole thing on top of you - its the equivalent of three blankets - editor.

Headwear - Those funny little smoking hats have a purpose, but a good flannel or Monmouth cap is hard to beat in cool weather. Keep some kind of headwear handy, and use it. You'll lose a lot of heat from that old bald head, if you don't keep it covered. Less heat if you still have hair. I see pards use Crimean Balaclavas, and they look mighty comfy, too.

Wind - Find a place to sleep that is out of the wind. If you have to chose between a windbreak and a fire, go with the windbreak. A good cedar or other ground hugging tree works well for this in the woodland environment. If you are in a built up area, determine the wind direction, and bed accordingly. Avoid inside chimney corners as they are frequently used as urinals.

Fire - Spoking works well. Use your judgment as to whether you want toasty feet or toasty skull [editors note: the veterans of '61-'65 slept head out]. If you are my age, you'll get up once in the night anyway, so don't forget to toss a log on the fire. A good trick is to keep 3-4 pieces of firewood by your side to toss on the fire. This keeps you from making the trek to the woodpile, and you can just flip a log or two on the fire late at night.

Wood - Put dense wood on the fire before retiring. The fire should still be warm in the morning.

Musket - Put it in the fold of your blanket. This discourages thieves, and keeps your piece nice and warm.

Great Coat - If you happen to have one, you almost have a sleeping bag. Use it as a second blanket.

Optional Sweet or Irish Potato - Stick a sweet potato about 4" under the coals, so your breakfast is cooked and ready to eat when you open your peepers at the first tap of the drum.

Sleeping Campaign with a Pard

by Mike Murley

(all rights reserved)

The veteran "Boys of '61" usually had a 'pard' -- their inseparable companion who shared all the rigors of army life. Your pard toasted your bacon and made skillagee while you rustled up some fence rails or captured a fierce chicken that had challenged the pickets. Pards also shared their blankets on a cold night -- a common practice in a period when sharing beds to stay warm in drafty, unheated, and uninsulated houses was more common than sleeping alone. Once we put our knee-jerk 20th century reactions away, its a great way to sleep campaign.

The steps are really the same as sleeping alone - only doubled. Two (or more) pards mean twice the gum blankets, blankets and (sometimes) great coats.

Lay one gum blanket / poncho on the ground - gum side down. If you have straw, leaves or any other insulation, put the gum on that first. Place one (or two - if you have four) blankets down on that.

Now, you and your pard lay down. Use your knapsacks as pillows and follow all the good advice in Mr. Heath's piece above. Toss a blanket (or two) and your great coats (if you have them) over yourselves. Traditionally, pards 'spooned' back to front and the importance of staying warm brought them close together (Lee was known to sleep this way with one of his staff officers, as were Jackson and Longstreet - and no one called them anything). Moderns are too phobic to do that, so most modern pards sleep back to back or on their backs.

The "Boys of '61" often slept four to a dog tent or shebang, and often as many as six in a common ("wedge") tent in a fixed camp or winter quarters. Obviously, they got tight.