Tentage in the Civil War: Unusual Types

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#1
Yes, yes I know some people will probably complain about my interest in the unusual, off the wall, and motley bits of equipment that on ocassion found itself wrapped up in the war, often from more prosaic civilian usage. But to heck with them. Not Everyman was a hardened veteran who slept on a blanket roll in the pouring rain, and some civilians on occasion went camping too.

This post was somewhat a inspired by a pair of recent discoverys of mine, specifically a print from Wisconsin showing a walled bell tent that is definitely not merely a Sibley with log walls, and thus a rare creature indeed, and a reference to “French Bell Tents” in both the Ohio Militia regulations and the 1851 regs on which they are based. I believe that these are the so called French double bell ended wedge tents, but honestly I am not sure if that actually is the case and have seen no evidence to corroborate that.

Nevertheless it got me thinking about tents outside the wedge, wall, baker, Sibley, and dog. Anybody know about or have period photos of odd tents or odd tent set ups during the war? I did spot one I thought might be a bell end tent but equally could be a pair of Sibley with a fly between them.

F98C4686-8B76-4111-A1DC-83394E6F9ECA.jpeg


AE6FD4FF-806B-4788-9070-5CF6A0949074.jpeg
 

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captaindrew

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#4
I’ve always found this type of set up fascinating, I can however see an inherent risk, it’s probably not a great idea to use your weapon as a tent pole.
View attachment 306488
Those are Federal shelter halves buttoned together (dog tents). Each messmate would carry a half. The guns are stuck in the ground using their bayonets.
 

captaindrew

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#5
I’ve always found this type of set up fascinating, I can however see an inherent risk, it’s probably not a great idea to use your weapon as a tent pole.
View attachment 306488
Here is a great photo from the Liberty Rifles site of examples of Confederates in the field. On the left Federal shelter halves (I'm sure borrowed from Yankees that no longer needed them) set up just like in the drawing you posted and the CS issue fly that would be shared by several messmates.
reproduced-tents.jpg
 
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#7
On the left Federal shelter halves (I'm sure borrowed from Yankees that no longer needed them) set up just like in the drawing you posted and the CS issue fly that would be shared by several messmates.
That could actually be a reproduction of the shelter half that belong to Alfred May of the 61st NC. Confederate shelter halves were produced in Richmond and numbered around 27,000 for the ANV in 1864. It is different from the Federal shelter half in construction and I believe dimensions.

The fly tent is probably one of the most under represented things in the field. We easily fit 10-15 guys under it this past weekend. Also, one of the most interesting things was seeing guys tear the fly tents apart in order to make shelter tents per Lee's orders on April 27, 1864
 

captaindrew

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#8
That could actually be a reproduction of the shelter half that belong to Alfred May of the 61st NC. Confederate shelter halves were produced in Richmond and numbered around 27,000 for the ANV in 1864. It is different from the Federal shelter half in construction and I believe dimensions.

The fly tent is probably one of the most under represented things in the field. We easily fit 10-15 guys under it this past weekend. Also, one of the most interesting things was seeing guys tear the fly tents apart in order to make shelter tents per Lee's orders on April 27, 1864
Thanks for the reply. I knew Richmond made some shelter halves but didn't realize they made that many. You're right about the flys being underrepresented but I am starting to see them more often with the campaigners. I can't say much though, I'm guilty of the old A-frame, my other half likes to come sometimes so I have to be able to make it comfortable for her and afford a few moments of privacy to change. I know the Liberty Rifles have directions how to make a fly but do you know anyone who produces them for sale?
 
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#9
Thanks for the reply. I knew Richmond made some shelter halves but didn't realize they made that many. You're right about the flys being underrepresented but I am starting to see them more often with the campaigners. I can't say much though, I'm guilty of the old A-frame, my other half likes to come sometimes so I have to be able to make it comfortable for her and afford a few moments of privacy to change. I know the Liberty Rifles have directions how to make a fly but do you know anyone who produces them for sale?
Wambaugh, White & Company, S&S of Gettysburg, and I believe Regimental Quartermaster
 
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#15
You know I was thinking of mentioning Tents like that the others day, but could not find any evidence of them outside of ol’ Jack Coggins’ book where he calls them “umbrella Tents”. Now I know where he saw them, at least. I sort of wonder if some answers might be found from the civilian end of the hobby, and research of period tent making companies?
 
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#17
On further research, I might have a better idea what the odd, bell-like pavilion tents on the Civil War Times are. Somewhere on the net there is a period document written by a British surgeon on the suitability of different tents for hospital use. Anyways, he describes the “umbrella tents” in a way that makes me think that they are put together a bit like later circus tents, with big rings or frames that are on a central pole and help to raise the tent.

I am still fairly certain that the “French Bell” tents referred to in the 1850s regulations are just visible in the picture of a camp I posted at the head of the thread.

Now I’m curious had anyone used a bell end tent in reenacting this or any other time period?

I have to say that the Confederate fly tent seems like a nicer digs than the usual shelter half. Though if I had to carry it I might have a different opinion! I wonder if any Union men ever extenporized their tent flys into a similar abode?

I think I have come across a interesting cott-tent I think intended for feild hospital use as a tent & stretcher but have not been able to relocate the illustration I’ve seen online fleetingly, does such a doodad sound framilliar to anyone in the know?

Edit: Wisconsin May have the answer to the umbrella tent id, see below:

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#19
Wow! That definitely is a neat one... looks like a Sibley or similar with low log walls, that lack the central poll (maybe an adaptation for more space?) and has been replaced with 3 tipi style polls with a small wall tent with stove tacked on the front. Definitely unusual and very roomy!

I found this tent on a page about people wearing dark blue trousers... is it bell ended or are my eyes deceiving me? I thought it was at first but on close inspection may just be an normal wedge with droopy ends...

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James N.

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#20
… I have to say that the Confederate fly tent seems like a nicer digs than the usual shelter half. Though if I had to carry it I might have a different opinion! I wonder if any Union men ever extenporized their tent flys into a similar abode?

I think I have come across a interesting cott-tent I think intended for feild hospital use as a tent & stretcher but have not been able to relocate the illustration I’ve seen online fleetingly, does such a doodad sound framilliar to anyone in the know?

Edit: Wisconsin May have the answer to the umbrella tent id, see below:

View attachment 307390
I have to say the Haskell's Patent pictured looks quite a bit like those on the cover of the book I posted. As for variations on uses of the shelter half, I'm reminded of the German army's zeltbahnn which in case you're unfamiliar with it, is/was a triangular sheet with a LOT of buttons and buttonholes up and down all three sides and grommets in each corner, allowing it to be assembled in a variety of ways depending on how many men it was going to accommodate. I can easily imagine several shelter halves being similarly buttoned together to make larger tents to cover a larger area and more occupants, though I've never heard of such actually being done.
 



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