How do you carry a blanket and a gum blanket?

Johhny Quest

Nov 11, 2020
I'm a private. I know nothing. My mess mates are as ignorant as I am. I seek help from a grizzled veteran sitting by the fire, quietly smoking his pipe. I introduce myself and soon the questions flow.

1) I've tried different ways of carrying the blanket as a donut roll. No matter what, on hot days, I sweat through my uniform and create a wet spot on the blanket. Not only that, but the blanket creates a hot area across my chest, causing me to sweat even more. It's not bad during drill or short movement, but on a long march of 10-12 miles, the blanket slung over one shoulder creates heat and gets wet. If it was cotton . . . like I'm thinking of switching to . . . it would be a wet, soggy mess when the march was over. It would be like carrying it through a downpour!

Any advice from a veteran on how to keep cool and protect the blanket when slung over the shoulder?

Should I switch to a cotton blanket in the summer?

2) I've tried and can't find a comfortable way to carry that gum blanket. I've tried to copy what some veterans do. But I find it's too hot to carry over a shoulder. I've hung it off my belt and that seems to pull my belt down as I walk. I've tried draping it over my haversack and that's not too bad but I don't see many doing that.

Any advice from a veteran on the BEST way to carry the gum blanket? Again, not during drill or a short move, I'm talking about how to carry it on a long march of 10-12 miles?

3) Before enlisting, I was a student of history and I learned about the Battle Of Solferino. I've read pamphlets by Henry Dunant, a Swiss gentleman who organized the local population to help the wounded. He introduced the idea of carrying a small kit to clean and bind up wounds.

Should I carry a small kit with small bandages to bind up my cuts and wounds? Where could I carry this little kit?

4) As you see, I wear spectacles. I'm sightless without them.

If I don't carry a knapsack, where should I carry a spare set?

5) Finally, I'm still unsure how to handle my business in the woods. Here in camp we have sinks with newspaper or you can always get a pard to give you some old paper.

Should I carry paper with me in case I have to relieve myself on a long march? How do I protect it from the rain? Where do I carry it?

Dan Kohli

May 5, 2021
Hi Johnny,
For questions 1 I have not experimented with blanket rolls all that much due to the getting my first blanket and a knapsack close together time window.
For question 3: I don’t recall seeing evidence of any bandage kits, but I think it would be a good idea.
For question 4: if you could sew a pocket onto/into your Jacket/coat that is custom made for your glasses.
There are garments that are field modified to have extra pockets in them.

For question 5: if you are are marching through a place with leaf cover use those as paper if you’re uncomfortable with that you should bring paper. I would suggest getting reproduction “medicated” paper made by at least a couple of vendors. I’m not too sure where is a safe place to store the paper during the march.


Dec 16, 2019
Below is from Confederate Sources. However, many Union outfits received orders or otherwise marched light as well...

From Alexander Hunter, 17th Virginia, regarding the summer of 1862.

"The troops were all in light marching order; a blanket or oilcloth, a single shirt, a pair of drawers and a pair of socks rolled tightly therein was swung on the right shoulder while the haversack hung on the left. These, with a cartridge-box suspended from the belt, and a musket carried at will, made up Johnny Reb's entire equipment. As for uniforms, there were not two men clothed alike in the whole regiment, brigade or division; some had caps, some wore hats of every imaginable shape and in every stage of dilapidation, varied in tint by the different shades of hair which protruded through the holes and stuck out like quills upon the fretful porcupine; the jackets were also of different shades, ranging from light gray with gilt buttons, to black with wooden ones; the pants were for the most part of that nondescript hue which time and all weathers give to ruins, or if with the eye of an artist you still sought to name the color, you would be apt to find it, with a strange fatality, like that of the soil; white shirts there were none, shirts of darker shade were scarce, owing to the stringency of the market; some of the men wore boots, others the army brogans; but many were bare-footed; all were dusty and dirty, for no clothes had been issued since the commencement of the spring campaign. This accounted for the rags and tatters, though the cones and pins of white pine must be held responsible for some of the holes. Human looks did not count for much in this crowd, with whom, though everything else were dull, eyes and gun-barrels yet flashed brightly…"

By 1864 the Knapsack was in general disuse, as reported in this North Carolina paper in June, 1864:

"Knapsacks have fallen into general disuse and discredit in the Confederate armies, and in derision of them the soldiers call them "hand organs." Whenever a company or regiment is seen marching with knapsacks slung, the taunt is sure to follow: "I say, you've got your organs, where's your monkeys? You left them behind, expecting to find bigger and better monkeys down here," etc. A blanket and oil cloth twisted into the shape of a boa constrictor, and slung about the shoulders of the soldier is the light equipment for heavy, rapid marching."

John Worsham, 21st Virginia...


John Worsham of the 21st Virginia's illustration of Confederate equipment in 1863 versus 1864. At left, the Johnny's oilcloth blanket is wrapped around a woolen blanket, drawers, and socks. The haversack contained his towell, soap, and needle case; a tin canteen, tin cup, and a tin can to cook in. By the close of 1864 the oilcloth contained a cotton duck shelter-half in lieu of a blanket. Worsham, One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry, 1912.

So if the woolen blanket is too heavy, consider a cotton duck "shelter-half" to carry in lieu of one...

Confederate Veteran Gideon H. Baskette, sergeant-major and acting-adjutant of the 45th Tennessee Volunteers, described the dress and equipage of the infantry of the Confederate Army as unique in military history.

"A face browned by exposure and heavily bearded, or for some weeks unshaven, begrimed with dust and sweat, and marked here and there with the darker stains of powder…around the upper part of the face is a fringe of unkempt hair, and above this an old wool hat, worn and weather-beaten, the flaccid brim of which falls limp upon the shoulders behind, and is folded back in front against the elongated and crumpled crown. Over a soiled shirt, which is unbuttoned and buttonless at the collar, is a ragged gray jacket that does not reach to the hips, with sleeves some inches too short. Below this trousers of a non-descript color, without form and almost void, are held in place by a leather belt, to which is attached the cartridge box that rest behind the right hip, and the bayonet scabbard which dangles on the left. Just above the ankles each trouser leg is tied closely to the limb—a la zouave—and beneath reaches of dirty socks disappear in a pair of badly used and curiously contorted shoes. Between the jacket and the waistband of the trousers, or the supporting belt, there appears a puffy display of cotton shirt which works out further with every hitch Johnny in his effort to keep up his pantaloons in place. Across his body from his left shoulder there is a roll of threadbare blanket, the ends tied together resting on or falling below the right hip. This blanket is Johnny's bed. Whenever he arises he takes up his bed and walks. Within this roll is a shirt, his only extra article of clothing. In action the blanket roll is thrown further back, and the cartridge box is drawn forward, frequently in front of the body. From the right shoulder, across the body, pass two straps, one cloth the other leather, making a cross with blanket roll on breast and back. These straps support respectively a greasy cloth haversack and a flannel-covered canteen, captured from the Yankees. Attached to the haversack strap is a tin cup, while in addition to some other odds and ends of camp trumpery, there hangs over his back a frying pan, an invaluable utensil with which the soldier would be loth to part.

Carlton McCarthy...



A.T. Goodloe, 35th Alabama, noted the oil-cloth when had was carried particularly WHEN it rained...





If the blanket roll cannot be acceptable, the other mode is to tie up and carry by a sling, as shown here:


Ross, a British observer at Gettysburg, notes another mode of wearing/carrying blankets of wool or carpeting:



If carrying the blanket and gum blanket is just too much, then the period correct thing to do is discard it and do without...

Freemantle on the Confederate Army:

Florida Brigade, Army of Tennessee, August, 1864; ". The command during the next month will be much in need of the blankets and shoes reported deficient..."

Phil Stephenson, Army of Tennessee, late 1864:

Regarding your uniform, etc. When it is hot, remove or discard your jacket or coat if necessary...

Freemantle notes this was done even on PARADE and INSPECTION; from Liddell's Brigade, Cleburne's division, Summer, 1863:


And was not uncommon on the march. Army of Tennessee troops, October, 1864 as described by a Union prisoner:

They were ragged and thinly clad, having as a general thing, only pantaloons, shirt, and hat in their inventory of clothing, the first too greasy and tattered, the last shocking affairs in multitudinous variety. As a general thing they were tolerably well shod, though in Stewart's divisions one of our officers counted over three hundred barefooted privates-Not more than one in ten had blankets, and much suffering must have ensued through the keen frosty nights now prevailing. In the line distinction as to apparel, between the officers and the men, was nearly obliterated."


J. Marshall,
Hernando, FL.
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