views updated May 21 2018


The ordinary Civil War soldier protected himself from the elements primarily through the use of tents that ranged in size from small "pup tents" to large Sibley tents capable of accommodating a dozen troops. Both training camps (especially early in the war) and field camps of armies that believed they would not be relocating any time soon were veritable "tent cities," composed of neat lines of tents stretching off into the distance. Within these tent quarters, soldiers either slept on cots or slept on the ground (sometimes on beds of straw). In either case, they usually warmed themselves with blankets and rubber ponchos to ward off the night chill.

While on the march or during battles that stretched on for more than one day, Civil War soldiers generally slept under the stars or under trees with nothing but a blanket—and sometimes a fire—to keep them warm. Rainy evenings spent in a cold trench were miserable experiences, especially because soldiers who found themselves in such circumstances usually knew that they would be facing enemy gunfire when dawn broke. Armies on the move also occasionally made use of barns or abandoned farmhouses for shelter.

Winter Camps

Accommodations for both Union and Confederate soldiers generally improved during the winter, a season of respite from the bloody battles that marked the rest of the year. Staying in one place for the winter afforded soldiers the opportunity to build one-room log cabins—some of which were outfitted with primitive but functional fireplaces and wooden floors. The interior of these structures often featured a smattering of mismatched chairs and battered furniture (usually empty kegs and ammunition chests and the like). Other soldiers created dugouts out of logs and canvas. These were typically just large enough to house two men. Other odd designs—many featuring some novel combination of straw, logs, fly tents, and rubber ponchos—also dotted many winter camps.

Tents remained a fixture of winter camps as well, especially in regions where building materials were scarce. But the Confederate Army never had enough tents, and many of its soldiers were forced to improvise their own makeshift protection (Wiley 1992 [1943], p. 62).

Finally, larger barracks were erected in some winter camps. These were typically of a twin-gabled "shotgun" design that slotted sleeping areas in long double rows. Such structures were favored by some commanders because they could house a large number of troops at one time, but soldiers were less enamored of these quarters because of their cramped conditions and the complete absence of privacy.


Mitchell, Reid. Civil War Soldiers: Their Expectations and Their Experiences. New York: Viking, 1988.

Robertson, James I., Jr. Soldiers Blue and Gray. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

Shannon, Fred A. "The Life of the Common Soldier in the Union Army, 1861–1865." In The Civil War Soldier: A Historical Reader, ed. Michael Barton and Larry M. Logue. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy. Indianapolis, IN, and New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943. Reprint, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.

Kevin Hillstrom


Union and Confederate military commanders were responsible for the coordination of a host of wartime activities, including troop movements, resupply efforts, and the development of attack and defense strategies. General headquarters thus served as the "nerve centers" of the various armies roaming across the different sections, or "theaters," of the countryside during the war. The generals and other officers who manned these headquarters were responsible for overseeing the activities and affairs of all of the component parts of the army under their command, from the infantry, artillery, and cavalry corps that constituted the heart of their army to signalmen, engineers, and quartermaster and commissary departments.

When armies were on the move, large tents were often reserved to serve as headquarters at the end of the day, when camp was made. These tents had to be large because they not only provided shelter and administrative space for the commanding general and his staff officers, but also for a wide assortment of other support staff. These staffers included a variety of clerks, personal assistants and aides, couriers, and a cook assigned exclusively to feed the commander and his staff. Army headquarters in both armies were typically outfitted with a dedicated guard unit as well, which generally included an infantry battalion and a cavalry escort.

When wintering over—or when a suitable structure was discovered on the march—army commanders often utilized large stone farmhouses, barns, or plantation homes as their headquarters. These luxurious accommodations were savored by staff officers and other personnel attached to headquarters, and they departed these home-like surroundings with great reluctance. But whether headquarters was a stately mansion or a weathered canvas tent, the activities executed therein-preparation of battlefield reports, casualty lists, notes on sanitation, strategy sessions-were the same.

kevin hillstrom


Catton, Bruce. The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, revised edition. Ed. James M. McPherson. New York: Viking, 1996.

Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare. Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1988.


views updated May 11 2018

shel·ter / ˈsheltər/ • n. a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger. ∎  a place providing food and accommodations for the homeless. ∎  an animal sanctuary. ∎  a shielded or safe condition; protection: he hung back in the shelter of a rock you're welcome to take shelter from the storm.• v. [tr.] protect or shield from something harmful, esp. bad weather: the hut sheltered him from the cold wind | [as adj.] (sheltered) the plants need a shady, sheltered spot in the garden. ∎  [intr.] find refuge or take cover from bad weather or danger: people were sheltering under store canopies and trees. ∎  prevent (someone) from having to do or face something difficult or unpleasant: [as adj.] (sheltered) she led a sheltered life until her mother and father went through a bitter divorce. ∎  protect (income) from taxation: only your rental income can be sheltered.DERIVATIVES: shel·ter·er n.shel·ter·less adj.


views updated May 14 2018

Shelter ★★ 1998 (R)

ATF agent Martin Roberts (Allen) is set up by his commanding officer and has a bounty on his head. He takes refuge with a crime lord (Onorati), whom the bad guys feds are also after, and plans how to get even. 92m/ C VHS, DVD . John Allen Nelson, Peter Onorati, Brenda Bakke, Costas Mandylor, Charles Durning, Linden Ashby, Kurtwood Smith; D: Scott Paulin; W: Max Strom; C: Eric Goldstein; M: David Williams.


views updated May 21 2018


A general term used in statutes that relates to the provision of food, clothing, and housing for specified individuals; a home with a proper environment that affords protection from the weather.


views updated May 29 2018

shelter sb. XVI. of uncert. orig.
Hence vb. XVI.

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