FEDERAL CIVIL WAR CANTEENS
The versatile canteen. This one has been split in half for use as plates. Found together in a Union Winter camp hut in Petersburg. The pewter spoon was also found in the hut site. The other spoon is a combination spoon, fork and knife tool. This was found in a Confederate hut site in Petersburg.
Every soldier had a canteen and it was one of his most personal items. For this page I have been able to access enough Federal manufactured canteens to show a fair representation of the most common types.
Another reason for this endevor is to set aside some misinformation circulating in the Reenactor community about canteens. One example is the current thinking that blue covered canteens did not exist. I read one online article about canteens which stated: "federal canteens with sky blue covers were extremely rare, and dark blue wool covers were non-existent." I will agree that sky blue covers are somewhat rare but dark blue covers are all over the place and easily found. The use of dark blue covers is also supported by Mike O'Donnell's canteen book on U.S. Army and Militia canteens. I am including a number of blue covered canteens on this page as further proof if there are still some doubters out there.
Canteen covers were made from all sorts of material and several colors but most had a cover of jean which was inexpensive. The color of these covers usually started out life as a gray color and ended up brown or tan. Many CW soldiers believed that removing the cover would keep their water cooler. Others thought that having the cover on kept the water cooler. A survey at CW shows roughly half the canteens will still retain their cover. The other half may have had their cover removed while in use or at a later time. Brown jean covers are the most prevalent found today. Some brown covers may have started out life in a variety of colors. Over the years most have oxidized to a rust brown or tan color.
Leather canteen straps are also frowned upon in the reenacting community except for early war. I tend to agree that significantly more canteens are found with fabric straps than leather. However, there are numerous surviving canteens found with leather straps which can be attributed to post 1862 manufacture or issue. Period photos taken around Petersburg in 1865 also show many bullseye canteens being supported using leather straps.
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When I first looked at this canteen I thought it had a burlap cover. It is not burlap but a fine example of "shoddy". Shoddy is he wool trash/fibers that are added during the weaving process to increase the weight of the fabric. Too much shoddy was added when this cover material was woven thus saving the weaver money but cheating the buyer of the fabric. This cover compares very unfavorably with other covers shown on this page. This canteen had several drawing points for me. One is the leather strap which compares favorably with most of the quality reproduction straps being sold today. There is a break in the strap which has been tied together with white string. The second desirable feature was the fact that the stopper string is still present, although broken where it ties onto the stopper. The cork is also original and shows signs of having been in the canteen from day one. Not shown in the picture, the joint where the two halves are soldered together is unusual. The canteen near the bottom of the page with the sky blue cover also exhibits this type seam. The spout is unmarked.
Here is an interesting specimen of a bullseye canteen with brown cover. The letters U.S. are stitched into the cover with X stitches. The strap is made from what appears to be a strip of buff leather. The strap is sewn together and the sewing looks old.
Bullseye Canteen covered with stripes.
Star embossed canteens.
The embossed star pattern is thought to be an attempt to strengthen the canteen. Notice the different spouts.
BLUE COVERED CANTEENS: Here are four canteens that are covered with dark blue wool even though they appear in the pictures to be other colors. The M1862, blue covered bullseye on the left has a Pewter spout which is marked "RH Grantz & Co. Philada" and appears to have 4 or 5 rings.The smooth-side M-1858 canteen 2nd from left and the one on the far right are generally accepted to be a product of the New York depot. The spouts are white metal (Pewter) and the stoppers are attached with a jack chain. The bullseye canteen 2nd from right, I photographed at the Gettysburg show of June 23rd courtesy of Dan Wendling. The light was awful and the color of the cover didn't turn out well. I can attest that the cover was dark blue like the bullseye on the left. Notice the blue pattern on the sling. The sling appears to be webbing and not folded cotton. There is no jack chain hole present.
M-1858 smooth-side canteen with leather strap and dark blue cover. Note that this is the type of strap with the protector behind the buckle. The cover is marked "8 43 which may indicate the 8th Regiment, 43rd man. You pick the state.
Smooth-sided canteen with a blue cover. I am not sure of the material at this time but I think it is jean. Notice the staining around the spout which appears to be dried mud. Also the strap has a knot tied in it to shorten the length of the strap.
Here is another example of a marked canteen. The painted marking reads "3rd Mass Co, H Hvy Art'y. The paint seems to be the same age of the canteen and not added post war. The canteen is in exceptional condition. The string stopper keeper is still intact.
Spouts were usually made of Pewter with the exception of the Cincinnatti manufactured canteens which were tin. In 1862 pewter spouts were required to have the makers name on the spout. Since the tin spouts could not be marked, the Cincinnatti canteens were some times maker marked on the strap. The spout above is on a bullseye canteen. It has a variety of letters which seem to spell out "J.A. POHRMAN, PHIL. AD" Due to the many scratches it is not possible to decipher all the letters. Spouts can have minor differences in length and diameter.
EIGHT RING BULLSEYE: The bullseye canteen is also referred to as the corrugated tin canteen. The rings were added in an attempt to strenghten the sides. The Philadelphia depot started issuing bullseye canteens in 1862. The canteen on the left is identified to Pvt. Benjamin Mayberry of the 1st Mass. Vol. Sharp Shooters. The 1st Mass Sharp Shooters were attached to the 15th and 19th Mass. Vol Infantry. The spout has "Mayberry" scratched in the pewter. Cover and stopper are long gone. The eight ring bullseye seems to be the most common of all the bullseye type.
FIVE RING BULLSEYE CANTEEN: This is another variant of the bullseye canteen. It has the pewter spout and no hole for the jack chain. I used this for reenacting for many years until the interior started to rust. It is shown with a reproduction cotton sling.
BULLSEYE CANTEEN WITH JACK CHAIN
It is the consensus among many canteen researchers that only New York depot smooth-sided canteens had a jack chain to prevent the stopper from being lost. These canteens had a corresponding hole in the sling keeper for securing the jack chain. Bullseye canteens were always thought to have been issued exclusively with string for securing the stopper. This string was cotton or linen twine, 4 threads, hard twisted, 20 inches long, doubled together and attached to the loop of the cork wire and to one of the sling keepers on the canteen. Canteens with twine did not have holes in the sling keepers for a jack chain. The bullseye canteen shown above defies these generalizations. It is a bulls eye with jack chain and the corresponding hole in the strap keeper.
Shown below is another bullseye canteen offered on e-bay with a jack chain and a hole in the sling keeper. I checked with the seller confirming the presence of the hole in the keeper since it is not completely visible. The bottom keeper is missing.
Above is a bullseye canteen with stopper string attached. Notice the tight twisted threads.
M1858 SMOOTH-SIDE CANTEEN: USED BY CAPTAIN A. D. REYNOLDS OF THE 3RD VA. RESERVE INFANTRY: This is a good example of the tin spout Cincinnatti (some say St. Louis) canteen. Capt. Reynolds used this canteen while guarding the Southside Railroad in the vicinity of Danville Va. The cover is a course, brown jean material. The cotton strap is faded to almost the same color but it appears to have been white originally. There is no hole for the jack chain because the stopper was held in place with twine doubled upon itself at both ends as shown in the picture below. An article in "Journal of the Company of Military Collectors" by Frederick Gaede and Earl Coates estimates that between 746,000 and 1,141,000 of these canteens were delivered to the Cincinnati depot by various contractors. According to Mike O'Donnell's book on canteens the first contract for the tin spout Cincinnati depot canteens was let in early 1863. It should be noted that Cincinnati depot canteens also came with pewter spouts.
The tin spout canteen to the right was spotted at the Richmond North South Trader CW show. It is almost the same color as the Reynolds canteen although it doesn't appear so in the picture. It has the tin spout and most of the strap is intact. The unusual feature is the surviving string attachment. Canteens with the entire length of string present are very rare. This canteen traveled from California to attend the show.
Here is yet another Cincinnati Depot canteen showing very little use. It appears to have some of it's original gray cover color. I have also seen one of this type with a faded blue cover almost turned to brown. Notice the unusual sling.
M-1858 SMOOTH-SIDE CANTEEN: I purchased this canteen in 1990 intending to use it for the 125 Manassas but decided to keep it as a collectable. It has a pewter spout, the original cotton sling and stopper. which is secured with a tin plated jack chain. The spout is soldier marked T.X.D.P. Period photos show that a great many of these canteens were used without the cover especially by Confederates.
VARIANT SMOOTH-SIDE CANTEEN
The below canteen was submitted by Bill Reagen. It appears to be a similar type of canteen to the one pictured in the photo of a dead Confederate which was taken at the Alsop farm near Spotsylvania Court House. Notice the butt seam where the two halves are put together. This is the main feature common to both canteens. The Spotsylvania canteen exhibits different sling keepers (only one is visible)and the spout appears to be longer.
The stopper and jack chain shown on the below canteen may be replacements since no hole is provided in the sling keeper for the chain attachment. It also may never have had one. The strap keepers also appear to be placed slightly different than on standard US canteens. The spout, although pewter, is also slightly different than the more or less standard US canteen pewter spout.
M-1858 SMOOTH-SIDE CANTEEN: The cover on this canteen is probably a post war cover. It is very interesting and gives a clue to the owners regiment. In the center of the star on the blue side one can make out Company H. On the tan side 144 is seen. Each side is different colored material. The stopper is secured with a jack chain, the spout is unmarked pewter and the strap is a piece of raw hide.
3rd Vermont Canteen: Here is a smooth-side canteen with a rubber fabric strap identified to to a soldier in the 3rd Vermont Infantry . The picture came off of e-bay so I couldn't examine the strap closely. I have seen three of these type straps and all have the pants adjuster type buckel with the little prongs to adjust the strap length.
DUG BULLSEYE CANTEEN: This battle scarred canteen was dug within 1/4 mile of the dug tin drum on the CS canteen page. It was found approximetely 4 feet deep in a Confederate earthwork at Petersburg. The pewter spout has been sheared off. There is a rather large hole through the canteen face and the exit hole is shown in the picture. Both canteens came from a hotly contested piece of real estate which saw heavy fighting during the Union infestation of Petersburg. This appears to be a six or seven ring canteen.
Here is another M-1858 smooth-side canteen showing the inspectors mark. It is "T.S. Fray U.S. inspector NEW YORK". Picture courtesy of Gregory J. Majewski.
This is a smooth-side canteen which shows a bullet entry hole in the left view and the exit on the right view. There is an old tag which states that this canteen was picked up on the battlefield of Chickamauga in the late 1800s. It was part of a museum in LaFayette, Ga. until the museum closed in the 1930s. The pewter spout was probably broken off when the bullet struck. The canteen has two small holes under the spout hole where it was hanging by a wire. The two small holes above the exit hole are bayonet shaped.
Here is a smooth-side canteen with a hole in the spout. One theory is that canteens with the hole came with a water filter attachment. More on this theory will probably be found in Mike O'Donnell's and Steve Silva's Civil War Canteen book due out in 2006. Note the somewhat unusual spout. Besides this one, I recently saw another identical smooth side canteen with brown cover and spout with the hole. Also, there is a bullseye canteen pictured in Sylvia and O'Donnell's book (Civil War Canteens) with a vent hole in a more common looking spout
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