Living in camp :
- Existing day to day: Basic human needs have changed little over the years. Food, clothing and shelter have always been a primary concern of soldiers living in the field.
From reveille to taps, soldiers endured the daily round of roll calls, meals, drills, inspections, and fatigue duties. Throughout this tedious and seemingly endless routine, it was often the personal necessities sent or brought from home, or purchased from sutlers [licensed provisioners to the army] that made camp life tolerable. Many items were used for personal hygiene, grooming, and keeping uniforms in repair. These objects give us a personal and tangible connection to Civil War soldiers.
Like soldiers of all wars, games of chance and the exchange of money were popular in both
armies. A successful gambler could send money home to help in the hard times shared by
Soldiers could pass several hours away playing games with friends. Many games from the Civil
War era are still popular today. Soldiers played board games including checkers or draughts,
chess, dominoes, and cards, and other games of chance
Although many officers forbade gambling in their regiments, the practice couldn't be stopped. It
wasn't unusual for some soldiers to lose a month's pay on unlucky wagers.
-writing: The arrival of mail played a large part in the soldier's life. Letters from home were
critical to boost soldier morale, although there never seemed to be enough news from
home or about the war.
For those who could write, letter writing was a common pastime. Mail was uncensored. Letters
contained military information as well as many personal feelings and words from the heart.
Writing was the only means of contact with family and friends. It was a good way to maintain
morale. Although writing materials were sometimes hard to come by, the effort was always
worth it, if it generated a letter from home.
Journals, diaries and letters connect us directly to the soldiers who wrote them during their days
in camp, on the march, and in battle.
- Drincking and smoking: rinking intoxicating beverages and smoking tobacco was common in
both armies. In moderation, they instilled a sense of well-being and normalcy.
There was a lot of social drinking and some hard drinking, particularly among officers. Officers had more privacy and disposable income. Whiskey, gin, beer, and wine were the favored drinks. However, drunkeness was not tolerated in either Federal or Confederate camps.
Tobacco use was prevalent in both armies. It was not always available to the soldiers due to lack of money or a place to buy it. During periods of quiet along the front, Confederate and Union soldiers often exchanged items of value. Union soldiers swapped coffee with Confederate soldiers for tobacco.
- Tacking Pictures:
The American Civil War was the first closely recorded war in history. Despite technical limitations, intrepid photographers captured many aspects of the conflict, including officers and their men, in camp, on the battlefield, and in the studio.
Photographs quickly became an easy way to preserve a moment during tumultuous times. During the Civil War, cartes-de-visite (French for "visiting card" or photographs, usually an albumen print] captured images of fathers and sons gone to war, children and wives left behind, and heroes living and dead.
Soldiers took advantage of any opportunity to have their "likeness" made for the folks back home. Photographs were made in studios in towns or cities as troops marched through. Itinerant photographers came to the camps in search of business. Thousands of photographs were sent by mail in both directions.
If a soldier didn't have a photograph of a loved one available, he could buy a copy of his favorite pinup.
- Wittling: Whittling is an age-old pastime. Skilled hands and idle hours often resulted in surprising displays of what has come to be known as 'soldier art.'
The American habit of whittling was commented on by European and British observers. Everybody whittled, from the commanding officers including General Grant, on down to the enlisted men.
- macking Mucic: Music played an important role in the Civil War army. Individually, and in groups, music and singing were common in the soldier's life in camp and on the march. Soldiers entertained themselves by singing and playing musical instruments. Musical instruments such as drums and bugles were used to issue commands. Some regiments had their own bands play for parades and concerts. Fife and drum corps and regimental bands often performed concerts for entertainment. Smaller instruments were popular because they were portable and easy to play.
- Praying: It was not surprising that soldiers living with the possbility of death or injury in battle, sought spiritual comfort and assurance.
In camp, religious services were held whenever possible. Worship at camp was much like worship at home. Each soldier could spend his free time studying the scriptures or in private prayer.
Religious activity centered on the Army chaplain. . Initially in the war each regiment had a chaplain. Regiments started sharing a chaplain as the war progressed. Although most soldiers were Protestant, regiments with a Catholic majority had a priest. The 82nd Illinois, with a large number of Jews, had a rabbi.