The cavalryman's sword, intended for mounted combat, was the saber. Sabers were issued to cavalrymen usually with blunt blades, though many ingenous soldiers quickly learned to sharpen them for greater advantage. This weapon, however, was not widely used since cavalrymen rarely found themselves fighting in such close contact with the enemy.
This garment was loose and formless, extending halfway down the thigh, had a simple turnover collar and four large uniform buttons. The U.S. army sack coat carried no braid or decoration of any sort; it even lacked shoulder straps. Its greatest assets were comfort, simplicity of manufacture and cheapness.
The saddle was the most important piece of horse furniture. This type of saddle, the McLellan, was the regulation U.S. cavalry saddle throughout the Civil War. This saddle was issued with its seat open and covered solely with rawhide. A blanket was placed under the saddle for the comfort of the rider. The Confederate cavalry used a similar design.
The shell jacket was established as the upper garment of the Confederate enlisted man, though soldiers from both armies wore shell jackets. It was initially made of wool, uniform in color and shape.
Many soldiers in both the Union and Confederate armies were issued a shelter half or a half of a tent. Two soldiers would button their canvas pieces together to form a temporary shelter. While soldiers at Petersburg used these tents, they spent most of their time in the trenches. They would even sleep there!
The pull-over shirt was issued to the soldier as an undershirt since it was not intended to be worn as an outer garment. It normally had a simple turnover collar fastened by a single button, and sleeves with or without cuffs. Soldiers would often bring other shirts from home, since they were not issued enough shirts to keep clean and in good condition.
Wet sponges did a better job of extinguishing smoldering cartridge bag embers after firing the cannon. The sponge bucket was filled with water in which the number one man would dip the sponge before driving it to the bottom of the tube. The bucket could be attached to the carriage when the gun was moved.
Sponge and Rammer
The sponge consisted of a sponge-head of elm or poplar and covered with wool. The number one man of an artillery crew drove the sponge to the bottom of the bore and turned it numerous times to put out any embers from the previous firing of the piece.
The rammer head was made of hard wood, generally elm or beech. The number two man would place the cartridge inside the bore, and number one would use the rammer to shove it down the bore with a single stroke.
Field artillery weapons, the most widely used at Petersburg, would often have the sponge and rammer at opposite ends of the same stave as portrayed above. The were carried on the carriage, attached with a hook and chain.
When soldiers enlisted in the army, they were not always issued trousers that fit well. The trousers were provided with suspender buttons, so that suspenders could keep the soldier comfortably dressed, particularly with large trousers.
Did You Know?
The 4th Division of the Union 9th Corps lost 209 men killed and wounded at the Battle of the Crater. Poplar Grove National Cemetery is the resting spot for 331 United States Colored Troops. Most of these men are unidentified burials from the Crater battlefield. (Petersburg Nat'l Battlefield)