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water keg

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Billy1977, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. Billy1977

    Billy1977 Corporal

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    Hello everybody, I found this photo on Pinterest earlier which says it's a Civil War-era field water keg, I suppose like infantry on the march would use to refill their canteens. Would something like this really have been used during the Civil War or is the person who posted it "wishfully thinking" it would be of that era? Here's a picture of it:

    Civil War water keg possibly.jpg
     
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  3. James B White

    James B White Captain Trivia Game Winner Honored Fallen Comrade

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    I think it could have been the age of the Civil War (those with better knowledge about cooperage will be along to prove me wrong), but it's way too small to refill canteens on the march. I've been on a water wagon where canteens were refilled for the very small reenactor-size companies of 25-50 men or so, and they were using those whiskey-size barrels you see sold for planters in the spring at farm and garden shops, and using them up every few hours for a company. If one calculated a canteen-refill for a thousand-man regiment--no way. They'd be doing nothing but refilling little kegs and have dozens of kegs on a wagon.

    Also, I'm not sure how often canteens were refilled from barrels on wagons. Sometimes, certainly, but I thought most water was taken from rivers, creeks or wells.
     
  4. Billy1977

    Billy1977 Corporal

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    I've now found a photo of a water cart from the Civil War, apparently with its cask being refilled at a well.
    Civil War; Union.transportation,road- water.cart,Fredericksburg,VA,1864..jpg

    The barrel in this picture looks a bit smaller than the one in the original post. Also the barrel staves are different.
     
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  5. Billy1977

    Billy1977 Corporal

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    Thanks James B. White. I hadn't really contemplated the mechanics of refilling canteens from a water cask on the march but now that I think about it I'm sure you're right, it wouldn't really be practical. They'd spend all their time refilling the barrels like you said. Maybe that photo above of them refilling a water barrel from a well might be just a barrel for drinking water for an encampment or something, not to refill canteens on the march. Now that I think about it I have in fact heard numerous references to soldiers refilling canteens from creeks and streams but I haven't heard mention of refilling from a water jug on a cart.
     
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  6. FiremarshalBill

    FiremarshalBill Private

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    Could it have been used for carrying vinegar? I remember my grand father had a similar looking keg in his basement he used for storing vinegar.
     
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  7. Billy1977

    Billy1977 Corporal

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    I'm not sure FiremarshalBill but that's a good suggestion. I know vinegar was shipped and issued in barrels.
     
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  8. Redcoat

    Redcoat Private

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    I have been trying to get a handle on how water was provided and transported during the CW. There is no shortage of information on food stuff and equipment but water seems to be too mundane to research. The reality is that water would have been more important than food for survival, especially when you consider the effects of the heat.

    Obviously foot soldiers would fill their canteens at every available brook, stream etc. But much larger quantities would be needed for cooking, hospitals etc.

    I often see water "barrels" as the catchall term for everything, but in fact, barrels were designed to hold dry goods not fluids. Cask's were built so at to not leak and held a variety of liquids.

    One photo I found on the net was this ambulance water cask.

    Has anyone else looked into this topic?
     

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  9. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    I tend to believe "wishfully thinking" - note the steel barrel bands on the one in the OP, versus the much more likely wooden sapling bands on the barrel in the period photograph of the well and cart. It's unlikely steel bands would've been used - or even available! - for such a "homely" use as this.
     
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  10. Redcoat

    Redcoat Private

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  11. Specster

    Specster Sergeant Major

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    Antique salesmen are fond of throwing the words "civil war" in anything they sell because it usually means much more $$$$$
     
  12. Specster

    Specster Sergeant Major

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    I think Hannibal used such a devise to carry vinegar to great results!!!
     
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  13. Patrick H

    Patrick H Major

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    I think the staves and hoops of a collapsed barrel in the foreground of this picture are very interesting.
     
  14. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    And those hoops are iron, so maybe such really was used.
     
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  15. mofederal

    mofederal Captain

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    An interesting little barrel. I am sure it could have carried about anything liquid, well at least nothing highly flammable. Thanks for posting @Billy1977.
     
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  16. Specster

    Specster Sergeant Major

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    Nice observation
     
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  17. Redcoat

    Redcoat Private

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    Matthew Brady Photograph.

    Could these be makeshift water towers?
     

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  18. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    No - those are definitely CHIMNEYS! This was a notably bad idea that saw widespread use throughout the war on both sides. They often caught fire (as you might expect!) when sparks set the wood barrels afire. These "structures" were generally two-man affairs that were built by digging a 6' square hole 2-4 feet deep in the ground, then lining it with logs that were built up another few feet above ground, chinked around liberally with mud, stuffed with hay for insulation, then topped off with a shelter tent for a roof, making it possible for a man to stand in the center. Naturally, the tent toppers sometimes caught fire too!
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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  19. Package4

    Package4 Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    Unfortunately for the poor individual who acquired this piece, it is a late 19th century naval grog or lifeboat cask, most likely of British manufacture. The iron hoops have been galvanized for rust prevention in harsh sea conditions. I would be very suspect of any piece of supposed "ACW" provenance that had galvanization. The British perfected the process in the mid 1850s, but its acceptance in the US was extremely sparse.

    There were such casks or kegs that hung beneath ACW ambulances, but they had iron hoops and no feet.

     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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  20. Package4

    Package4 Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    Again the barrel depicted is a British Naval keg or cask, regardless of what the museum has on it. The museum collection was assembled in the late 1900s when knowledge of what we now know was limited. We used to go to the Medical Museum and depict ACW soldiers and the last time I was there that barrel was absent and it is no longer on their digital tour. The barrels beneath the ambulances were simple affairs and pictures that I have seen show 2 and 4 banded kegs without feet. There has been much confusion regarding these "hospital" casks.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  21. Redcoat

    Redcoat Private

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    I though it might be a chimney, but then thought, naw, it would catch on fire, only an idiot would do that. :smile:
     

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