A.C.W.S.
Ltd (UK)

CANTEENS OF
THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
THE EMERGENCE OF THE GARDNER

The most sought after canteen for any soldier in the A.N.V. was the standard Union Army canteen. The smooth side tin canteen, or the Bullseye type, introduced in late 1862. Both were covered with brown or grey wool blanket material or jeans.

These were available in great numbers after the early war victories in the East.

By contrast the Confederate Quartermaster issue canteen was of simple construction. At the beginning of the war the most prevalent C.S. issue was the humble tin drum style. Southern industry lacked the stamping dies to make the oblate spheroid style used by the Federal armies.

Made of tin, drum style with flat faces with a single strip forming the sides, 3 loops to take a leather or cotton webbing sling 5 to 7 ins in diameter (usually 6 ins) 1 to 2 1/2 ins wide.

By late 1862 the supply of metals became in short supply, so much so that archival records showed only 80% of Semmes Brigade McLaws Division had canteens. Many other units must have also been without canteens.

To compensate for the metal shortage C.S. Quartermasters were forced to improvise by reintroducing the wooden canteen.

The British and French Armies used these wooden canteens during the Napoleonic Wars and by American troops up to the Mexican war.

Francis Gardner who worked at the Richmond Arsenal improved the design by introducing curved faces, which made the canteen stronger. The curved ends of the staves were hidden under the iron bands.

These curved faces were shaped on a lathe 7 to 8 inches in diameter 2 to 2 1/2 inch wide. The usual number of staves was 11 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. The faces were about 1/2 inch thick, which would give the soldiers plenty of opportunity to carve names and units on the face.

Bound with iron bands 1 to 2 inches wide, these bands were set with round headed nails or tacks. Three thin iron. sling loops were fastened under the restraining bands.

Made of cedar or cherry, these woods were popular in the South and would expand when wet to seal the joints.

The canteen had to be kept full of water at all times to stop it from drying out and cracking. Slings were onsnaburg cotton webbing or leather 1 inch wide.

Spouts were of turned wood or pewter most had the spouts taken off by the owner to make them easier to fill.

Stoppers were cork, whittled wood or corncob. Iron rings would sometimes be inserted through some of these stoppers. Corncob was easy to come across. The soldiers after eating the corn could fashion stoppers from them if they were needed.

Francis Gardner patented this canteen and it became the standard issue canteen produced throughout the South by the main arsenals and small contractors alike.

One of the numerous small contractors was C.D. Yale and Co of Richmond. This company made hundreds if not thousands of the Gardner patent for the A.N.V.

One of these canteens still survives. Private David Gardner of the Rockbridge Artillery owned it. It is identified as a Yale Canteen, because of its distinctive wooden turned spout.

But what has always been thought of as predominantly a Western Theatre canteen was in fact more popular in the A.N.V. than thought. The shortage of metals was just as severe in the East as the West.

A document written by Major Downer of the Richmond Arsenal in March 1863 requested assistance from the Montgomery and Selma Arsenals in filling a requisition for the A.N.V. for 30,000 Gardner canteens. Such was the shortage in the A.N.V. prior to the spring campaign of 1863. Although many Union Canteens would be captured at Chancellorsville, the Quartermasters couldn't rely on captured canteens alone.

It has been estimated by respected maker and canteen historian Sam Doolin that between 10,000 and 30,000 Gardner's were used by the A.N.V. at Gettysburg.

Considering Lee's strength at Gettysburg was 69,915 men engaged a truly significant number of the troops must have carried this canteen.

What was always thought a Western style canteen looks to have been a lot more popular in the East than previously thought.

Vendors

  • Exact copy of the Gardner canteens made by Same Doolin available through S & S Sutler Gettysburg.
  • 6 Inch Tin Drum Style C.D. Jarnagin Corinth Miss

Sources:

  • Correspondence with Sam Doolin
  • Echoes of Glory - Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy
  • Philip Katcher - The Army of R.E. Lee
  • Don Troiani Soldiers of America

Article supplied by By David Burt Co G 18th VA Inf