Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Knapsack.

The Knapsack has been around for a very long time every boy who has gone camping won’t think of going without his knapsack and any good ( Boy scout ) won’t think of leaving it at home. So it is with every service man since the revolutionary war of 1776, which is the year the new invented knapsack was introduce to the army.

In The revolutionary war the regular United States Army was given most of the equipment to it’s men, but not the militia they had to furnish their own it would be after 1836, before this changed.

In 1775 it was stated that each soldier was to be furnished with a good musket, that will carry an ounce ball, with a bayonet, steel ramrod, worm, priming wire and brush fitted thereto, a cutting sword or tomhawk, a cartridge-box, that will contain 23 rounds of cartridges, twelve flints and a knapsack.

In a letter from John Adams to James Warren it was stated: “You have raised every fifth Man to march to New York. But to what Purpose should you send forth your Thousands and Tens of Thousands of Men, if they are all to run away from the Enemy when they come in Sight of them? If whole Brigades, officers and Men are to run away, as Fellows's and Parsons's did on the fifteenth of September, throwing away their Arms, Cloaths, Knapsacks and other Things that they might be the lighter and run the faster.”

In 1778, it was stated that two regiments be raised in Virginia and Pennsylvania, to serve for one year, and it is expedient that as many as possible of the non-commissioned officers and soldiers should provide themselves with arms and other necessaries: That each non-commissioned officer and soldier of the said regiment, who shall so provide himself with arms and other necessaries, shall receive the following compensations, to be paid as soon as he has passed muster, upon his producing the said articles, viz. For a good serviceable rifle, with a powder horn, bullet pouch, and mould, eight dollars; for a good serviceable musket, with a bayonet and a powder horn, and bullet pouch, or a good cartouch box, six dollars; for a like musket and accoutrements, without a bayonet, five dollars; for a knapsack, two dollars; for a haversack, one dollar; for a blanket, eight dollars.

In 1836, this letter was written to the Committee on Military Affairs.

WAR DEPARTMENT, February 10, 1836.

SIR: Major General Scott, to whom the operations against the Seminole Indians have been committed, has applied for the necessary camp equipage for the use of the militia who have been called into the service in Florida. It is found, on adverting to the subject, that there is no law authorizing this department to issue these supplies to the militia, although such a measure is obviously necessary. The third section of the act of Congress of February 2, 1813, respecting the calling out of the militia, provided for these issues, but the section was limited to the period of the war then pending. It can hardly be expected that camp kettles and other articles of camp equipage can be provided by the troops themselves. I have therefore the honor to recommend for the consideration of the military committee the propriety of reviving and rendering permanent the provision of the above-mentioned section. Knapsacks also have been required for the use of the militia, but I do not find, on referring to the laws, that any authority to issue them has ever been vested in this department. I therefore lay the subject before the committee, for such action as may appear proper to them.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant
Hon. R. M. J0HNS0N, Chairman Committee on Military Affairs, House of Representatives.
Now on to the Civil War.

In a report of May 23, 1863, given by C. W. TOLLES, Lieutenant-Colonel, Chief Quartermaster of the Sixth Corps, he states: No accurate statement of the number of knapsacks and the amount of clothing lost can be made. Requisitions have been submitted for ,887 knapsacks since the movement. Our total number of killed, wounded, and missing was over 4,900. As the knapsacks of these were also in most instances lost, a total of 8,787, knapsacks were lost.

There were many ways to load a knapsack it all depended on the campaign and the march, a fast mach would call for a light load and for a long march a heavier loads. In the report below it tells how the knapsack was packed for that campaign.
April 11, 1864.

1. For the campaign, the knapsack carried on the ammunition chest will not contain more than the following-named articles: One-half shelter-tent, one wool blanket, one poncho, one jacket or blouse, one pair drawers, two pair stockings, two shirts, one pair trousers. The excess of the kits over these articles will be carried by the owner, and the amount of clothing to be packed in the knapsacks may be reduced at the discretion of the brigade commander. The great coat will be carried by the owner.

2. Haversacks and canteens will not be carried on the carriages; they must be carried by the men.

3. Not more than four knapsacks will be transported on the gun carriage, battery wagon and forge, and not more than eight on the caisson. The excess of the number of knapsacks must be carried by the men, or their transportation otherwise provided for.

4. The knapsacks and paulins must be so packed and arranged as to offer no impediment to the service of the guns, or to the prompt procurement of ammunition.

It is to be noted here that the average weight for the knapsacks was between 50 & 60 pounds when fully loaded. In these reports you will also see the word ( Haversack ) used a lot the ( Haversack ) was some what like the knapsack, it was fill with oats to feed the cavalry horses and this was also carried by the soldiers along with the knapsack.
In 1862, they were trying different ideas so the army could move faster here was one idea.
You well note these were French knapsack they were bought by Army in the hopes they would work better then ours.


For each man, empty entirely the knapsack, and refill it with small linen bags containing coffee, tea, sugar, rice, salt, pepper, and Cholet's desiccated and compressed vegetables. Take plenty of lard or suet in the small gamelle or mess-pan with which each man is furnished.

Plenty of cartridges-60 in the knapsack, 40 in the cartridge-box. Each man must have, besides, 7 pounds sea-buscuit, inclosed in a wrapper and placed in the knapsacks under the cover, in the place where the folded coat is usually carried (see the drawings in the album of the packed knapsack, and the instruction which has been to every sergeant and corporal of the regiments which have received French equipments.)

Tell of them men into squads of 8 each, and give, besides the regular equipment of each of them, to one a marmite (or covered kettle), to another a large gamelle, to another an ax, to another a pick, to another a shovel. (These articles are to be fastened under the large strap of the knapsack). One man in each company should carry the hospital knapsack, and it is well understood that each man ought to carry, folded, a blanket and his share of the shelter-tent.

The cavalry should be furnished as the infantry but carry, in addition, pickets and grain for their horses, thus do away with all wagons.
In a battle of May 11, 1863, it tells how important the knapsack was to the soldier. This is just a part of the report.
Occupied this position until about noon of Friday, when I joined the brigade on its advance with the division along the Plank road. When line of battle was formed to the left of the road, we were formed in double column in mass on the second line of battle, in rear of the Second Massachusetts, deployed on the first line. We occupied this position until ordered to fall back, when I faced by the rear and fell back in good order, followed by the Second Massachusetts. When I reached the open ground, I deployed and marched by file. We had, before entering the wood from which we retired, left our knapsacks, and were ordered to take them on our retreat. We had not, however, retired on the same ground by which we had advanced, and were some 400 paces past our knapsacks when we received this order. We faced about, and marched back in the direction of the knapsacks. This brought us to the rear in the retreat, and as I approached the wood where the knapsacks lay, I sent forward Captain Sill and Lieutenant Swayn with a body of skirmishers. Just as our men were taking their knapsacks, our skirmishers were fired upon. They returned the fire with spirit, and did not appear to hear my order to fall back. I hastened up to them, and they obeyed my orders to retire, with reluctance. I am confident they killed several of the enemy, as they were marks men, and fired with deliberate aim, some of them as many as five times.
In a report of August 28, 1864 by Brigadier General Rufus Ingalls, U. S. Army, Chief Quartermaster of Armies operating against Richmond, had to say about the knapsack.

Our troops are undoubtedly loaded down on marches too heavily even for the road, not to speak of battle. I have witnessed great loss of knapsacks and articles of clothing on the routes taken by our troops at the commencement of campaigns. In my report of the Chancellorsville campaign I showed you that the loss of knapsacks of those actually engaged was at least twenty-five per cent. I am in favor of putting the lightest possible weight on the soldier, consistent with his wants and the character of the service.

I do not think the knapsacks should be dispensed with altogether, for it should, ordinarily, form a part of the equipment, but on short campaigns, and on the eve of battle and when near the supply trains, a blanket rolled up and swung over the shoulder and looped up under the arm, is sufficient without knapsack or overcoat. The soldier can carry three days' cooked food in his haversack. If necessary, he can carry two or three days' bread and some underclothes in his blanket. Our men are generally overloaded, fed, and clad, which detracts from their marching capacity, and induces straggling. I do not propose any modification, however, as our commanders understand these matters better than I do, probably; at any rate, they know what they want, and have the power to make such changes as they may deem proper.

Even the enemy know the value of the knapsack, as this report shows.

Camp near Corinth, Miss., May 10, 1862.

SIR: I beg leave to report that, in obedience to a special order received on the field on Friday last, I proceeded with Company B, of the battalion, to collect together and guard the overcoats, knapsacks, oil-cloths, blankets, &c., left by the enemy in their retreat from beyond Farmington. I divided my company into four squads, each in charge of sergeant, and instructed them to search the woods in the line of retreat and to collect these articles as quickly as possible. I also detailed a guard to protect the large bulk of them near the old gin-house. But few of these articles had been collected by the details, when I received further orders direct from General P. Anderson to save the most valuable, such as blankets, &c., and to leave the remainder. I proceeded forthwith to execute the order, gathering about 150 blankets in one pile and a like number each of oil-cloths, knapsacks, overcoats, &c. These latter were set on fire and were burning rapidly when, an aide of General Bragg came up with a detail of wagons and ordered me to extinguish the fire, which was done at once. He then informed me that he had a sufficient detail of men to take charge of the articles, and relieved me from the further execution of your order.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

All branches of the army were issued knapsacks when in the field; Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. Here is a report that tells of the summer ware for a battery artillery, and how it was to be packed.


No. 153.
Camp near Falmouth, Va., June 5, 1863.

The following is the summer field allowance of clothing for men of mounted batteries of this army. All surplus will be turned in at the commencement of a march. One half shelter tent; one blanket for each cannoneer; one great coat for each driver; one jacket, one blouse, one pair trousers, three pairs of stockings, two pairs of drawers, two flannel shirts, one pair shoes or boots. So much of this clothing as is not worn on the person will be transported by drivers on the valise saddles; by cannoneers, in the knapsacks, or on the foot-boards. If packed in knapsacks, they will be carried by the men. If carried on the foot-boards, the articles will be closely packed or rolled, and secured in a proper sack or sacks, and batteries so transporting this clothing will turn in their knapsacks. The gunners and chiefs of caissons will be held responsible that the clothing is properly packed and secured on their respective carriages. All attempts to abuse this privilege of transporting their kits will be punished by throwing away the extra articles, excepting the soap, towels, and brushes of the men, and compelling them to carry the regulated allowance themselves.

In a battle near Hanover Court-House In June of 1862, the men had reformed on the field, but the enemy’s artillery soon found their range, it was deemed advisable to retire. Before they left the field they took off their knapsacks as the men were heated as their knapsacks were heavier than usual by the drenching rain of the previous night. Seeing that there was many troops of the enemy’s infantry behind the artillery, they threw themselves into the woods where the fight had began, leaving their dead and badly wounded and their knapsacks behind.

In February, of 1862, at camp Wright, San Diego County, California, the men were getting ready for a campaign and would dill with full knapsacks they would do fast marches for many miles up and back for they were getting ready for a hard march which would take then over hard country and desert. The command was hardening the men as they would have to carry everything as there was to be no horses or wagons. It was ordered that any men that did not dill was to be arrested and would face a general court-martial immunity from the fatigues of a hard march and from the danger of facing an enemy.

Here is part of a report of July 7, 1862, by Captain Walter S. Sampson, Twenty-second Massachusetts Infantry, of the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, and Malvern Hill.
About 3 o'clock a. m., Friday, June 27, the pickets in front of the regiment were recalled, and all moved as rear guard toward the camp on Cutis' farm. Along the whole route on the right the battle was raging furiously. On reaching camp orders were given to sling knapsacks and get ready for an immediate movement. Very early on Friday morning I received orders to withdraw my pickets and report at the old camp at Gaines', there to await orders. Here was a mistake. I should have reported at regimental camp on the Curtis farm. By this I lost an hour and half of time. The mistake was discovered, and I hastened to join the regiment. This I could not do, for I met the regiment some distance this side of Curtis' farm, where I received orders from Colonel Gove to hasten to camp, secure our knapsacks, and then destroy everything left behind, such as commissary and quartermaster stores, tents, knapsacks, guns, equipments-in fact, all pertaining to a soldier's comfort or necessities. This duty was faithfully discharged by the officers and men of my command. They had hardly finished the task before the enemy came bounding into the camp, expecting to find an abundance of stores suited to their taste, but, alas for human expectations, nothing met their view but the burning and charred remains.

When the soldiers were taken prisoner by the enemy they would take the knapsacks and it’s contents for their own comfort, so if a soldier thought he was about to be taken prisoner and had the time they would either hid or destroyed their knapsacks so as not to fall into the enemy’s hands.

I have read a lot of reports and read about their wagon trains being attack and when losing some it was a hard blow to them. I didn’t think much about it, but after reading the reports for this page I understood way. These wagons not only carried ammunition and other supplies but many times their knapsacks. If the march was to be long or they had to move fast all the knapsacks were put in the wagons and moved to the front and if a train was lost to the enemy the soldier was left with what he had in his pockets and on his back.

In reading a lot of reports I seen the word ( Knapsack Room ) maybe you have too and like me I never know what they were talking about, will after researching for this page I now know, a ( Knapsack Room ) in a prison or hospital is were a patients or prisoners clothing and necessities are stored.

One thing is clear from my research that the loss of a knapsack could be the diffidence between life and death.

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