1854 - 1861
M1853 - 55 Knapsack
In the military manner, the knapsack was stenciled so that there would be no confusion either as to the unit or the individual to which the knapsack belonged. In the case of the Washington Artillery, two large letters - "W" and "A" - were painted in white on the back flap of the black tarred knapsack (unlike the Federal Artillery, which painted their information on the knapsack in yellow paint).
Herein is described the marking of knapsacks and the inspection procedures of knapsacks. In a double bag knapsack, all government property was to be packed in the bag closest to the wearer. Personal items - items which were not government issue - were packed in the other bag.
According to the 1861 US Army Regulations:
Article 13: Companies
110. All knapsacks are to be painted black. Those for the Artillery will be marked on the centre of the cover with the number of the regiment only, in figures of one inch and a half inches (1 1/2") in length, of the character called full face, with yellow paint. Those for the Infantry will be marked in the same way, in white paint. Those for the Ordnance will be marked with two cannon, crossing; the cannon to be seven and a half inches (7 1/2") in length , in yellow paint, to resemble those on the cap. The knapsack straps will be black.
111. The knapsacks will also be marked upon the inner side with the letter of the company and the number of the soldier, on such part as may be readily observed at inspections.
Article 30: Inspection of the Troops (Note: after inspection of arms and cartridge boxes)
314. The Captain will then command,
1. Shoulder... ARMS!
2. Close... order.
4. Order... ARMS!
5. Stack... ARMS!
6. To the rear... open order.
8. Front rank... ABOUT... FACE!
9. Unsling... Knapsacks.
10. Open... Knapsacks.
315. The Sergeants will face inward at the 2nd command, and close upon the centre at the 3rd, and stack their arms at the 5th command; at the 6th command they face outward, and resume their positions at the 7th. When the ranks are closed, preparatory to take arms, the Sergeants will also close upon the centre, and at the word, take their arms and resume their places.
316. The knapsacks will be placed at the feet of the men, the flaps from them, with the greatcoats on the flaps, and the knapsacks leaning on the greatcoats. In this position the Inspector will examine their contents, or so many of them as he may think necessary, commencing with the noncommissioned officers, the men standing at attention.
317. When the Inspector has passed through the company, the Captain will command, "Repack... Knapsacks!"; when each soldier will repack and buckle up his knapsack, leaving it on the ground the number upward, turned to him, and then stand at rest.
318. The Captain will then command,
3. Sling... Knapsacks.
- At the word "Sling...", each soldier will take his knapsack, holding it by the inner straps, and stand erect; at the last word he will replace it on his back. The Captain will continue:
4. Front rank... ABOUT... FACE!
5. Close... order.
7. Take... ARMS!
8. Shoulder... ARMS!
9. Officers and Sergeants - to your posts.
and will cause the company to file off to their tents or quarters, except the company that is to re-escort the colors, which will await the further orders of the Colonel.
Article 36: Troops in Campaign, Marches
687. When necessary, the orders specify the rations the men are to carry in their haversacks. The field officers and Captains make inspections frequently during the march; at halts they examine the knapsacks, valises and haversacks, and throw away all articles not authorized. The officers and noncommissioned officers of Cavalry companies attend to the packs and girths.
Article 51: Uniform, Dress and Horse Equipments
1576. Knapsack - of painted canvas, according to pattern now issued by the Quartermaster's Department; the greatcoat, when carried, to be neatly folded, not rolled, and covered by the outer flap of the knapsack.
Common Knapsack Contents
Blanket. A five pound, 100 percent wool blanket is close to the standard issue of the day. A 57"x 80" blanket (the most common size) is recommended to ensure that you can wrap yourself up well in the blanket.
Gum Blanket. Sold as a poncho by most sutleries, a gum blanket is a versatile piece of your kit. Not only can it be used as a poncho / raincoat, but it can also be used as a ground cloth or a shelter (if you are a hardy soul, you may want to purchase a poncho in lieu of a tent as some infantrymen do, using sticks to make a miniature wedge tent or shelter, or just laying it over you to keep the dew off you). Most measure 46" X 70", with grommets strategically located on its corners. Nasty as the rubber-coating smells, in rainy weather you may be awfully glad to have a poncho. The only real drawback to a poncho, other than the smell of the rubber that's hard to lose once it gets on you, is that you may find yourself as wet under the poncho as the outside of the poncho will be if you wear one in hot, humid weather when it rains. In fairness, though a poncho may come in handy when it rains, our wool uniforms are dense enough in a light rain to keep you dry.
Cotton Or Wool Socks. For warmth at night, nothing beats a pair of dry socks. Besides, after marching around all day, a clean pair of socks is apt to be pretty welcome - to everyone around you.
Shirt. A second shirt - a dry shirt - may make all the difference in your being comfortable at night after a long day of sweating through your other shirt.
Underdrawers. Sanitariness - comfort - what more can you say? Pack a second pair.
Greatcoat. A greatcoat often served as both a coat and a blanket. The cape may be used at night to cover your head and face for that little extra bit of needed warmth.
Personal Care Items. Often a wooden toothbrush, a tin of toothpowder, razor and shaving brush and strop, shaving / washing soap (then, most commonly of lye) and a comb provide the primary personal care items. Deodorant of the sort we're used to using, although not period, will be much appreciated.
Hand Towel. Huckabuck
toweling in a hand towel size is extremely handy. Huckabuck toweling is a
type of cloth, the hand towel cloth you still find in the occasional public
restroom on the "revolving" (or "revolting") towel
dispenser. They may have stripes or be plain white or off white.
They can work as a pot holder, hand towel, wash cloth, dish cloth, and anything
else you might need of utility to your camp. It has the added benefit of