Thousands of soldiers left their homes for many months, living in tiny tents and fighting in bloody battles. Many faced disease, starvation, and death while in camps and on the battlefield. Soldiers went through these tremendous challenges and gave up many luxuries Just to fight for their cause. Camps in both the North and the South were laid out uniformly.
Army regulations called for camps to be set out in a grid-like pattern with the officers’ quarters at the iron and the soldiers’ quarters near the end; similar to the lines of battle. Most camps had their own medical cabin, baggage train, and mess tents which was where the soldiers ate. Soldiers’ tents were created out of canvas and were very cramped. They provided little protection from rough weather and were commonly damp. The tents were called dog tents by the soldiers because the men would say, ‘only a dog would go under it to stay dry from the rain’. The military camps on both sides were regularly reported as filthy and unsanitary.
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Smells from the latrines and garbage were evident all throughout the area. Soldiers, who sometimes went weeks without bathing, were infested with fleas and lice. Widespread sickness was common because people failed to realize that germs caused diseases. At the end of the war, it was found that the majority of the casualties were caused by diseases. On the other hand, food in camp was usually plentiful. Meat such as beef, chicken, and pork was served to the soldiers most every day. Flour was readily available as well. Even fruit and vegetables were provided along with coffee, salt, and sugar.
Clean water was scarce, however, and led to many diseases throughout the camps. Union soldiers were often given better quality foods because of an abundance of railroads and trains. Confederate forces were often forced to take donations or steal food from farmers and townspeople. The daily life of a soldier was very rigorous. Everybody would wake up at dawn and attend roll call. Then, the soldiers would eat breakfast and begin drilling. The average man would go through five drills a day during military camp. Each drill would last approximately two hours and taught the men to how to shoot their weapons and perform various positions.
Between drills, the soldiers would do chores. Some would dig latrines, clean the camp, and collect firewood. Finding clean water was a very important task for the soldiers as well. Conditions on the battlefield were no better than life in a military camp. Soldiers who once ate a well balanced diet were now forced to eat dried bears and hardtack. The hardtack was frequently infested with maggots and maelstroms after being stored in trains for months. Scurvy, typhus, and internal diseases were common due to the lack of fruit, vegetables, and clean water. Water was often filled with bacteria from latrines and dead bodies too.
Soldiers in the field were often muddy and cold from marching in severely cold weather. Many didn’t even nave shoes and marc De n through ice and snow barefooted. Some didn’t have any uniforms at all and others had cheap, poor quality outfits. It wasn’t unusual for a soldier to take clothes from the dead while on the battlefield. Days out of camp were spent marching dozens of miles on freezing or blistering roads to reach battlegrounds. Some would starve or freeze to death while on these long marches. Even more died in the 10,455 military actions throughout the Civil War.
Soldiers were most commonly shot to death with rifles or received a fatal wound from a bayonet. Conditions were intense and hardships were frequent in the Civil War. Not many people could take the gruesome military life. However, soldiers from both the Union and the Confederacy did because they wanted to fight for what they believed was right. Union soldiers wanted to preserve their country and the Confederate soldiers wanted to protect their way of life. These brave people will always be honored for their courage to live in these conditions and their will to fight for their cause.