- Jan 8, 2012
That's always been my understanding as well. An online dictionary states:It was more slang, I think, than anything specific. Pretty much anything other than a standard tent from a brush shelter to a log shelter with a canvas roof.
The informal phrase"the whole shebang" means "everything," which you could also call "the whole ball of wax" or "the whole enchilada." Shebang is an American word, first used by Civil War soldiers (and the poet Walt Whitman) to mean "rustic dwelling" or "hut." In 1872, Mark Twain used shebang to mean "vehicle," but that same year it appeared in a newspaper with its current meaning, in the first known use of "the whole shebang."
A reenactor told me years ago that because soldiers carried half shelters, when they put theirs together with another soldier's half shelter, they had a full tent, or "the whole shebang" and that's where the term came from. Sounds plausible, but I suspect its a reenactorism--an explanation that sounds good and gets repeated, but has no historical basis.