ON the 5th of September, 1862, Hawkins’ Zouaves, as a part of Burnside’s corps, from Fredericksburg, landed at Washington to assist in the detail, then threatened by Lee’s first invasion of Maryland, and, as events proved, to join in the pursuit of the invaders. Here, in pursuance of a measure for shortening the baggage train which had lately been decided on, we were deprived of our Sibley tents — those cumbersome, conical caravansaries, in which eighteen men lie upon the ground with their feet toward the center.
Shelter tents came soon to replace the “Sibleys,” and with them came marching orders — the army was moving west. At dusk we set up our new houses. A shelter or dog tent is like a bargain— it takes two to make it. Each man is provided with an oblong piece of thick, unbleached muslin about the length of a man—say six feet— and two-thirds as wide, bordered all round with buttons and button-holes alternately matching respectively the button-holes and buttons of his comrade’s piece. To set it up, cut two crotched stakes, each about four feet long, point them at the uncrotched end, and drive them into the ground about six feet apart; cut a slender pole to lie horizontally from one crotch to the other, button the two pieces of muslin together and throw the resulting piece over the pole, drawing out the corners tight and pinning them down to the ground by means of little loops fastened in them. You will thus get a wedge-shaped structure—simply the two slopes of an ordinary roof—about three and a half feet high at its highest point, and open at both ends. This will accommodate two men, and in warm, pleasant weather is all that is needed. In rainy weather a third man is admitted. A piece of rope about four feet long is then tied to the top of one of the stakes and stretched out in the line of direction of the ridge pole, the free end being brought down to the ground and pinned there. The third man then buttons his piece of muslin to one slope of the roof, carries the other edge of the piece out around the tightened rope and brings it back to the edge of the other Slope, to which it is buttoned. This third piece is shifted the tent to the other, according to the direction of the wind or storm. You thus get an extension to your tent in which knapsacks can be stored, leaving the rest of the space clear for sleeping purposes. This is large enough to accommodate three men lying side by side.
But will such a structure keep out rain? Certainly, just as your umbrella does—unless you touch it on the inside when it is soaked. If you do, the rain will come in, drop by drop, just where you have touched it. To keep the water from flowing in along the surface of the ground; dig a small trench about three inches deep all around the tent, close up, so that the rain shed from the roof will fall into it. Such a louse is always with you potentially, for you carry the materials on your back and can snap your fingers at the baggage wagon. For three-fourths of the year it is all the shelter needed, as it keeps out rain, snow, and wind perfectly, being penetrable only by the cold.
IN THE RANKS TO THE ANTIETAM
By David L. Thompson, CO. G, 9th New York Volunteers