Edwin Forbes sketch of a Civil War Soldier in Winter Camp. . .
(Library of Congress)
Many years after the war, Sergeant William Wells of Company F left a vivid account of what the soldiers experienced that frigid winter of '63-'64 and how they did their best simply to stay warm and get something to eat:
|William Wells, Company F, 48th PA|
For shelter, two heavy logs, placed slightly apart, gave support for fence rails, which, inclining forward, served as a support for a thick covering of pine boughs, of which the woods gave a plentiful supply. Underneath this shelter additional pine boughs served for a bedding. To keep warm at night, heavy logs were laid in front of the shelter to form the fire-bed, which was kept burning by one comrade while the others slept. Thus the time passed, while the camp and picket guard "kept up their dreary rounds." To-day it seems like a dream, yet what a stern reality!
The lack of proper clothing, for want of a change, was a source of much annoyance to the men; but there was no remedy, as soap in that camp was almost an unknown commodity. Many tried, covered only with a thin blouse, to wash their shirt in the mountain streams, using clay as a substitute for soap, but with poor results. As "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," they succeeded but poorly in living up to the adage.
Their feet were in but little better condition than their bodies and stomachs, for many a foot was but poorly clad, some wrapped in rags. Raw beef-hides, when obtainable, cut into moccasin form and tied with strips of the same, or string, covered many a foot to keep it from the biting cold or frozen ground. Yet but few complained, complaint being useless, no betterment in sight. Never did men bear greater hardships in camp life than did the troops in East Tennessee in the winter of 1863-1864. Hungry, half-clad, shelterless and footsore, they bore all uncomplainingly for the land they loved so well and the flag they followed."