What Soldiers Carried and Wore

By 1862, most Union soldiers expected to receive federally-issued uniforms and other necessary items: haversacks, knapsacks, weapons, tents, bedding and canteen. Soldiers also took personal items with them or had them sent from home as needed.

The haversack in which soldiers carried necessary items like a cartridge box and rations, along with the rifle, and extra clothing could weigh as much as 50 pounds. Since most soldiers movements were on foot, they usually got rid of unnecessary items. Soldiers often wrote home to say they would be sending warm clothing that was no longer needed or were just shedding extra items.

For some marches, soldiers left items behind, expecting them to be transported by cart and catch up with the items later. Several diaries suggest soldiers sometimes never saw those left-behind belongings again.

Officers generally were better dressed because they had their uniforms custom made.