July 10th, 2012: Camp Near Bull Run, Virginia

Posted on: 07/10/2012

Today we’ll share another fascinating image of what life was like for hundreds of thousands of Civil War soldiers 150 years ago today.  Candid photos of camp scenes are not all that common, but occasionally you find one that gives a great view into 1860’s soldier’s life.  One such image was taken near Blackburn’s Ford along Bull Run in July 1862.

Above is the whole image.  Although it’s not as clear as we might like it to be, under high resolution there’s still a lot to get out of it.

In the foreground are three soldiers sitting in front of a dog tent.  This tent was usually the best shelter an enlisted man in either army could hope for during a campaign.  Dog tents were two shelter halves buttoned together, each half being carried by one soldier.  This means it was designed to sleep two men.  Soldiers were issued one tent pole along with their shelter half, but the pole shown here look much more substantial than what the quartermaster issued.

More towards the background is a fire with some soldiers cooking.  Large mess equipment can be seen at bottom left where soldiers would have cooked their rations collectively.  With the excessive hear we’ve had lately around Gettysburg it’s easy to sympathize with the men in this photo.  Wearing wool, sitting out in the sun, and forced to crouch over an open fire to cook your food must have been utterly miserable.

We think there’s a chance this was actually a small cavalry camp, as horses can be seen to the right hand side obscured by the blanket hanging from the tree and the saddle towards the left.  Only about 3% of a soldier’s service might have been spent in battle, so scenes like this made up a huge share of these men’s time in the field.

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