Lee’s Rebels: a mid-war description

A representative of the Sanitary Commission happened to be visiting York, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Army Hospital when Jubal Early’s Rebels arrived on June 28, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign. He wrote the following description of Early’s men:

Physically, the [Confederate infantry]men looked about equal to the generality of our own troops, and there were fewer boys among them. Their dress was a wretched mixture of all cuts and colors. There was not the slightest attempt at uniformity in this respect. Every man seemed to have put on whatever he could get hold of, without regard to shape or color. I noticed a pretty large sprinkling of blue pants among them, some of those, doubtless, that were left by Milroy at Winchester. Their shoes, as a general thing, were poor; some of the men were entirely barefooted. Their equipments were light, as compared with those of our men. They consisted of a thin woollen blanket, coiled up and slung from the shoulder in the form of a sash, a haversack swung from the opposite shoulder, and a cartridge-box. The whole cannot weigh more than twelve or fourteen pounds. Is it strange, then, that with such light loads, they should be able to make longer and more rapid marches than our men? The marching of the men was irregular and careless, their arms were rusty and ill kept. Their whole appearance was greatly inferior to that of our soldiers… There were not tents for the men, and but few for the officers… Everything that will trammel or impede the movement of the army is discarded, no matter what the consequences may be to the men…

In speaking of our [Union] soldiers, the same officer remarked: ‘They are too well fed, too well clothed, and have far too much to carry.’ That our men are too well fed, I do not believe, neither that they are too well clothed; that they have too much to carry, I can very well believe, after witnessing the march of the Army of the Potomac to Chancellorsville. Each man had eight days’ rations to carry, besides sixty rounds of ammunition, musket, woollen blanket, rubber blanket, overcoat, extra shirt, drawers, socks, and shelter tent, amounting in all to about sixty pounds. Think of men, and boys too, staggering along under such a load, at the rate of fifteen to twenty miles a day.

Samuel Bates, Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania, pages 180-81.

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