Has anyone ever built Winter Quarters/Soldier's Huts?

Claude Bauer

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
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.
That's always been my understanding as well. An online dictionary states:

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.
 
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Dave Hull

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Location
Northern Virginia
As a member of the 3rd US Infantry, I had a chance to help out with dragging and cutting timbers a few times and have spent several weekends down at the winter quarters, erected by the 1st SC Infantry, 3rd ANV at Montpelier VA. The huts were clay chinked and canvas covered, erected in the area of winter quarters McCowan's Brigade occupied for the first four months of 1864.

winter quarters hut I.jpg


winter quarters hut.jpg
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
As a member of the 3rd US Infantry, I had a chance to help out with dragging and cutting timbers a few times and have spent several weekends down at the winter quarters, erected by the 1st SC Infantry, 3rd ANV at Montpelier VA. The huts were clay chinked and canvas covered, erected in the area of winter quarters McCowan's Brigade occupied for the first four months of 1864.

View attachment 390452

View attachment 390453

Those are awesome!
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Confederate armies were always short of axes, picks, spades and shovels. There are MANY demands for hundreds of each for one army or another. The Engineers helped supply the tools, but it was the QM Department's job. The result would be much less cutting and serious digging in Confederate camps. I'm sure saws were in even shorter supply.
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
Confederate armies were always short of axes, picks, spades and shovels. There are MANY demands for hundreds of each for one army or another. The Engineers helped supply the tools, but it was the QM Department's job. The result would be much less cutting and serious digging in Confederate camps. I'm sure saws were in even shorter supply.
@DaveBit .... I did not know that, but it makes a lot of sense. I am an old relic hunter and the winter camp holes in most southern camp sites are usually deeper in depth to the bottom of the original hole than the Union ones.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Confederate armies were always short of axes, picks, spades and shovels. There are MANY demands for hundreds of each for one army or another. The Engineers helped supply the tools, but it was the QM Department's job. The result would be much less cutting and serious digging in Confederate camps. I'm sure saws were in even shorter supply.

I don't think the Confederacy's QM was any different than any other QM in any army tool wise.

Whether its the Union or whoever, tools were always going a problem. I just got done reading of the British Army in the Peninsular War, and tools were an absolute nightmare for them. They didn't have enough and what they did have was inferior quality, thus making captured French tools worth their weight in gold. I wouldn't be surprised if the Union had a similar problem.

The Confederacy had the advantage of fighting on its own home turf which was more stocked with the needed tools and the army filled with more experienced soldiers than most populated regions of the US at that time. When going into Winter Quarters, I've no doubt the QM supplied what it could and the soldiers borrowed or bought what was needed from the surrounding area.

As for digging deeper, the South wasn't exactly overflowing with trees, which would also necessitate digging deeper. The South is probably more forested now than it was back then. Farms, firewood, firewood for cities, wood for tools, wood for trains, wood for boats. The South being comparatively deforested back then can be seen in pictures.

I wonder if Federal Armies used the railroads to bring logs in....
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
View attachment 390234
(One of the two huts at Fort Donelson 2020)

2020 really screwed up events, and I have a sinking feeling 2021 won't be much different. For a couple months I've been trying to get all the other reenactors here in NE Texas for a weekend camp out and drill, which was gonna happen in December, but I got called away to provide guns for western last minute, I pulled a Stonewall and did all the organizing and planning myself without including anyone else in it, and everyone decided to wait saying "Oh events won't be a problem in 2021!"

Events have already been cancelled, and I don't care what anyone says, till I see it I refuse to believe one will happen in my region at least, and I know WAY too many reenactors still terrified out of their minds with this pandemic mess. But the past couple days clearing property and burning logs, it occurred to me, why not build some semi-permanent winter quarters for weekend camp outs?

A buddy real into Mountain Man/Indian stuff has already decided its an awesome idea, (as long as him and the few others into that can play with it for that stuff), so I got to ask if anyone here has experience with it.
@Rusk County Avengers - a part of Hancock’s II corps constructed earthworks on my property in Spotsylvania Virginia on the late morning of May 10 1864. Here are two of the trenching tools they left behind. I recovered them in a relic hunt a few years back.

FA423B05-47AE-4896-8B24-A65C14E10D25.jpeg


9197685F-6604-438C-B31E-809BE0AFF85A.jpeg


C222C4EF-EFB2-42DA-AFA9-06B241D0EB29.jpeg
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
Interesting. Am I remembering correctly that there was an entire thread dedicated to the shebang here on CWT a while ago? I just watched a PBS show on shebangs last week..the program was sloooow...
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Interesting. Am I remembering correctly that there was an entire thread dedicated to the shebang here on CWT a while ago?

 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX

Johan weighing in made me think of that thread and look for it the other day. I might try something along those lines, but @Dave Hull's pictures have the wheels rolling in my head in that direction as well...
 
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Joined
May 12, 2018
I’d love to do something like this. There are so many interesting and different constructions that we reenactors could build that I think would be a interesting activity in and of itself. I wish I was able to meet more regularly with my unit, too, so that like when I used to be in the SCA we could have weekly meetings and practice skills. But our unit is too dispersed to make that practical and I am busy with school at the moment anyways.

Which makes me think... before 2020 there was a lot of talk about how the Boy Scouts were selling off camps, and how this offered a opportunity for other organizations to acquire their own campus. I really think that there is potential in buying one of those places and turning it into a “training camp”... maybe a summer camp for teens that also hosted a annual reenactment?
 

Lampasas Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Back when I was reenacting, a fellow member of Holmes' Brigade who owned some rural property in Nebraska, proclaimed that when he eventually "retired" from reenacting, he planned to open an "Old Reenactors Home." His land had a nice stream in a narrow valley and we were all invited to come live there in our old age and build dugout shebangs on the hillside so we could live out the remainder of our lives telling "war" stories and reliving the days of damp wool and half-done beans. Seemed like a plan...
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
I’d love to do something like this. There are so many interesting and different constructions that we reenactors could build that I think would be a interesting activity in and of itself. I wish I was able to meet more regularly with my unit, too, so that like when I used to be in the SCA we could have weekly meetings and practice skills. But our unit is too dispersed to make that practical and I am busy with school at the moment anyways.

Which makes me think... before 2020 there was a lot of talk about how the Boy Scouts were selling off camps, and how this offered a opportunity for other organizations to acquire their own campus. I really think that there is potential in buying one of those places and turning it into a “training camp”... maybe a summer camp for teens that also hosted a annual reenactment?

First I've heard of the Boy Scouts selling off camps, I suppose that'd be on option. The CW summer camp seems like a grand, if ambitious in today's political climate, idea to try. Be one way to get kids interested and educated, if they could get inspired to come.

I know for this winter hut idea, I'd love to get some acreage out in the middle of nowhere to build some and have annual winter camp's for the unit, and any other unit that wanted to participate.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Back when I was reenacting, a fellow member of Holmes' Brigade who owned some rural property in Nebraska, proclaimed that when he eventually "retired" from reenacting, he planned to open an "Old Reenactors Home." His land had a nice stream in a narrow valley and we were all invited to come live there in our old age and build dugout shebangs on the hillside so we could live out the remainder of our lives telling "war" stories and reliving the days of damp wool and half-done beans. Seemed like a plan...

"And there I was, the last of the company after the battle on Sunday nothing between me and the funnel cake stand but a dozen spectators. But they didn't see me comin with my bayonet! See they came in handy on those summer days, you kids should've been at the 125th Gettysburg!"
 
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