Guidelines for reenactor camping

Please adhere to the following guidelines while at Cedar Mountain Battlefield.

Vehicle access limited. Due to the public roads available and the topography of the battlefield, vehicle access to the event site needs to be limited. For that reason, the event organizers strongly urge everyone to be prepared to camp with only what they can easily carry in.

Shuttle available. All participants will be taken by shuttle bus from participant parking & registration to the edge of the battlefield. Both US and CS camps will be ¼ mile from the shuttle bus drop off. From that point a hay wagon will be available for those wishing a ride to their respective camp. This process will be repeated in reverse on Sunday at the end of the event.

Special equipment needs. If you have a headquarters tent or other special equipment, please see the site management when you check in to get instructions about driving onto the battlefield. Anyone driving onto the battlefield must have a pickup or off-road vehicle. No vehicles will be allowed on site without a special pass obtained at registration.

Camps. There is only campaign camping offered at Slaughter on the Mountain.
This means shelter halves for Federals and tent flies or captured shelter
halves for Confederates. This is based on the historical record and will
allow us to show how both armies looked on campaign in the summer
of 1862. Please see the guidelines below for period camping.

On Campaign in the summer of ’62: Guidelines for period camping at Cedar Mountain Battlefield




Interpretation at Cedar Mountain Battlefield is undertaken to show the lives of soldiers on both sides, as well as the ground they fought over and the tactics they used. This includes their camping and non-combat activities. This guide is published for the use of living history organizations who come to the Battlefield to participate in living history programs. It is based on historically documented practices and firsthand accounts. As new information becomes available it will be updated.


It is recognized that some of this information may be at odds with current reenactor or “hobby” practices. However, the mission of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield and the American Battlefield Trust, is to preserve and interpret Cedar Mountain Battlefield for the public in a historically accurate and sensitive manner. This extends to living history programs.  We welcome input as we move forward in presenting accurate and educational programs for the visiting public.


Impact on the Battlefield


All living history programs are planned with an eye toward how it impacts the physical fabric of the battlefield. As a result, there are some basic rules:


Digging of Firepits: No digging of any kind is allowed on the battlefield.


Campfires: All campfires must be built on top of the ground. As a result, firers cannot be left burning unattended. If everyone leaves the camp, all firers must be extinguished.


Firewood: Firewood is provided for all living history programs. However, any dead wood lying on the ground can also be burned. At the end of the program, all unburned firewood should be stacked against a tree, to avoid it being hit by mowing equipment.


Cutting: Very limited cutting of scrub and saplings are allowed for use is pitching tents. This is only allowed with permission of the senior officer present and in coordination with site management. Nothing bigger than 2” in diameter may be cut.


Cell Phone Use: Please refrain from cell phone use in the presence of visitors or other participants. If you need to use your cell phone, please do that in the restroom area or a discreet location.


Alcohol Use: Consumption of alcoholic beverages during public hours is prohibited. Public intoxication and related unruly behavior are unacceptable at Cedar Mountain.


Period Cooking


…after raking the bits of trash out of your stubby locks, devote the next hour to trying to boil a dingy tin-cup of so called coffee; after which, with a chunk of boiled beef or broiled bacon (red, almost with rust and skippers) and a piece of cornbread, you are ready for breakfast.


Private Randolph Shotwell, 8th Virginia Infantry, November 1861.


A little parched corn at times was very acceptable, and I will never forget the issuance of a pint of cornmeal each, and my cooking it into mush, without salt to season it. It smelled so good that I was tempted to eat before it was done, and of all the morsels I had eaten before or sensed, I enjoyed it most.


Private William Fletcher, 5th Texas Infantry, April, 1862


The rations of the men are good hard bread in abundance and all the regular rations are drawn now though some irregularity is experienced in getting the things thrown out by Pope’s Gen’l Order some time ago (GO #5, July 18, calling for living off the land). The men eat a sight of dough fried in fat, the vilest stuff imaginable and bad for hot weather. Hard bread soaked and fried a moment is really very palatable and not overloaded with grease as the dough cakes. Very little vegetable can be obtained by our Brigade.


John Mead Gould, Adjutant, 10th Maine Infantry, July 27, 1862


In the afternoon, in company with the Adjutant, took a ride to Culpeper, passing through the town, and from thence rode into the country several miles in search of butter etc, but found none; the country all round having been ransacked by soldiers.


Captain John Brooks, Company D, 46th Pennsylvania Infantry, July 22, 1862.


Nothing intrigues visitors more than what the Civil War soldiers eat and almost everyone in living history has gotten the question “Do you really eat that?”. As a result, food used in living history programs should closely approximate what the soldiers would have had. A few basic guidelines are as follows:


Meats: Pork and Beef were army staples. They were issued to the soldier preserved in salt or, or was sometimes in the case of cattle, driven along with the army and slaughtered when needed. Fowl was seen in the soldier diet on a very limited basis. Meat was usually cooked before any movement and the order “Three days cooked rations” usually indicated that active operations were starting.


Bread: Bread was usually issued to soldiers in the form of hardtack, the famous cracker which appears in almost every soldier memoir. In the south, corn bread was frequently issued to the troops in place of hardtack. It came in the form of large round cakes. Fresh white bread was seldom seen except when acquired from civilians, or in a forts or winter encampments where ovens could be set up.


Fruits and Vegetables: The type of fruits and vegetables used in living history programs should be limited to items grown in North America and available to soldiers, as well as what is in season. A limited variety of dried fruits would have been issued or available for purchase from civilians or Sutlers.


Liquids: Outside of water, coffee, followed a distant second by tea, was the drink of solders on both sides. Other liquids such as cider, lemonade and alcoholic beverages were seldom seen and always a source of joy when available.  All liquids used in living history programs need to be consumed from a period container. Consumption of alcoholic beverages during public hours is strictly forbidden!


Food Storage: In bringing food to Cedar Mountain for living history programs, think about what you can easily carry and safely store. The site has very limited refrigeration space. Food tossed into the woods because someone does not want to carry it or it has spoiled, draws animal and insect pest. Coolers cannot be left sitting in and around tents and used as tables and benches. They must be stored away from the camp and out of sight of the public.


Cooking Utensils


Cups: There was no standard army pattern for cups at the time of the Civil War. Each individual purchased his own, or in some cases, was provided one by state authorities. However, all were made of tin-plated sheet iron with bottoms and handles soldered and sometimes riveted on to the body. Also, in many cases, the handle and cup rim were reinforced with wire.


Plates: Like cups, plates came in a variety of sizes and construction styles. Some were stamped out and resembled a modern pie pan. Others were stamped out and looked like a cross between a soup bowl and a plate. There were also, plates made with their sides as separate pieces and soldered to the bottom. In addition, damaged canteens were heated till they came apart and the sides used as plates. In all cases, the material used was tin-plated sheet iron.


Cutlery: Cutlery came is a variety of styles and construction. Stamped iron, silver or tin plated, knives, forks and spoons would be seen. Britannia metal spoons were also known. Forks and knives with bone and wood handles were very common and often used by soldiers. Many soldiers simply made do with a spoon and pocketknife to save weight. Combination sets that folded up like a pocketknife were popular with some soldiers.


Boilers:  Most soldier carried a large cup, sometimes special made with a lid, or an old tin can with a wire bale attached to, to fix coffee, soup or stew. Construction would have been similar to drinking cups.


Frying Pans: Frying pans of the 1860’s, were made in two pieces, with a stamped sheet iron body and forged iron handle, attached with rivets. To save weight, some soldiers attached a plate or canteen half to a stick and used that as their frying pan.


Cooking Grates or Grid Irons: Forged iron cooking grates were seldom seen due to their weight. When seen it was usually in camp of a high-ranking officer or a hospital kitchen.


Camp Kettles and Mess Pans:  The only government issue cooking gear issued to soldiers were sets of nesting sheet iron camps kettle and one size of mess pan. Due to the size of these items, they usually traveled by wagon or pack horse and use was limited to fixed positions.


Forged Fire Irons and Tripods: Again, due to weight, they were not seen outside of permanent camps, high ranking officer’s camps or hospital kitchens


Specifically prohibited at Cedar Mountain Battlefield are the following:

-Blue and white, black and white or gray enameled cooking and eating utensils known as “Speckle Ware” or “Agate Ware”.

-One-piece aluminum or stainless steel cups and plates.

-Frying pans with the handle and pan stamped as one piece (patented in 1876).

-Cast iron cookware of any kind.




(T)he 21st Virginia had by this time learned to live without tents, (and) it was easy for the men to move. The only shelter the men had were oil or rubber cloths and cotton flies. The latter were of cotton about four by six feet in size and hemmed around the borders. Button holes were worked around these borders and buttons sewn on at certain places…


John Worsham, 21st Virginia Infantry, writing about the fall of 1862.


Instead of tents we had what was known as flies. They . . . were put up by placing a fork in the ground at each end with a pole from one end to the other . . .


William Day, Company I, 49th NC Infantry, October 1862.


Monday afternoon the Quarter Master took the mens Sibley tents and issued the famous shelter-tent or dog tent as they should be called. Every man has a piece of cloth about a yard square with buttons and buttonholes around three sides. Two pieces make a complete tent but four make a better one. The men crawl inside and stop up the ends as best they can. Rain and even dew will penetrate the thin cloth and I fail to see the actual benefit myself. Three Sibley tents take up no more room nor weight that a company’s quota of “shelters”. The orderly Serg’ts by way of variety whistle for their dogs instead of crying ‘Turn out for roll call’.”


John Mead Gould, Adjutant, 10th Maine Infantry, July 30, 1862


By the summer of 1862, both armies had found that they could not afford to be hampered by a wagon train carrying large amounts of tentage, taking up space that was needed for food, ammunition and medical supplies. As a result, the large tents such as the Sibley, Wall and A-Frame “common” tent, began to disappear. These were replaced in the Federal service by shelter half’s and in the Confederate service by a mix of tent fly’s and captured shelter halves. Senior officers on both sides were allowed wagons for headquarters equipment and used wall tents and tent flies. With the above in mind, here are some guidelines:


Wall Tents: In the Federal Army of Virginia, by order of General Pope, these were restricted to Regimental Staff and General officers. The US Army issue wall tent was 9’ long, 9’ wide and had 3’ 9” side walls. They were constructed out of canvass that weighed 12 oz per yard. Confederate wall tents are believed to be of similar size to the Federal issue, but perhaps a longer length, based on the width of tent fly’s being manufactured.


Shelter Halves: Prior to 1863, Federal issue shelter halves were made of cotton drill which weighed about 8 ounces per square yard. They were constructed of two or three pieces of fabric and measured 5’ 6” long by 5’ 5” wide. There were 23 buttons and buttonholes around three sides, in addition to a pair of rope holes at each corner Buttons were bone, tin or cast white metal (pewter or zinc). All button and rope holes were hand sewn. Enlisted men were allowed one half and company officers were allowed two each.


While there were poles issued with shelter half’s, most soldier discarded them due to the weight, instead cutting poles out of saplings or fence rails. Wood pegs were also issued, but no specifications exist and probably varied to some degree is design. The iron tent pegs commonly seen today have no documentation and are discouraged.


Tent Flys:  Starting in the spring of 1862, Confederate troops began to be issued tent flys at the rate of one to every 8-10 men. Their size was 12’ 9’ wide x 20’ long. Poles were originally issued with these but seemed to have been abandoned in many cases. The US Army tent fly was specified to by 15’ 6” x 9’ and designed to be pitched over top of the issue wall tent. In Federal service, these seem to have be restricted to officers, usually Regimental Staff or General officers. A larger tent fly was specified for use with the issue hospital tent.


A note on tentage: Unless otherwise approved, all tentage used at Cedar Mountain Battlefield should conform to the above types.


All Federal troops should be prepared to camp with shelter halves.


Period civilians participating in living history programs are not allowed to camp with the troops.






It is hoped that everyone will find this document useful and informative. As we strive for a better understanding and portrayal of the life of Civil War soldiers, everyone is urged to read the sources listed below for further information.


New memoirs are being published every year and if you know of one that covers soldier life in Virginia during the summer of 1862, we hope you will share it with us.




American Citizen: The Civil War Writings of Captain George A. Brooks, 46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Edited by Benjamin E. Myers, Sunbury Press, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania,



Civil War Mess Utensils by Patrick M. Gloyd, North South Trader’s Civil War, Volume 39, Number 4, Orange, Virginia, 2016.


Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 by Carlton McCarthy, Richmond, 1882. Civil War Classic Library edition, Middletown, Delaware. 2020.


Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union, Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy and Illustrated Atlas of the Civil War, Three volumes, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1991.


Excavated Artifacts from Battlefields and Campsites of the Civil War 1861-1865 Stanley S. Phillips, Walsworth Publishing Company, Marceline, Missouri, 1974.


Excavated Artifacts from Battlefields and Campsites of the Civil War 1861-1865, Supplement 1 Stanley S. Phillips, Walsworth Publishing Company, Marceline, Missouri, 1980.


Fly Tents and Shelter Half’s: Confederate Tent Production in Richmond by Craig Schneider on


General Order #60, Quartermaster General’s office, Government Printing Office, Washington, December 9. 1864.


Hardtack and Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life John Billings, 1888, Reprint by Corner House Publishers, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1980.


The Civil War Infantryman: In camp, on the march and in battle by Gregory A. Coco,

Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1996.


The Federal Civil War Shelter Half by Frederick C, Gaede. O’Donnell Publications, Alexandria, Virginia, 2001.


The Civil War Journals of John Gould Mead 1861=1866 Edited by William B. Jordan. Butternut and Blue Publications, Baltimore, Maryland, 1997.


Voices of the Civil War: Soldier Life. Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1996.


Rebel Private Front and Rear: Memoirs of a Confederate Soldier by William A. Fletcher, Beaumont, TX, 1908. Read-A Classic edition, 2011.


Some Civil War Tin Cups by Don Troiani, North South Trader, Vol.XIII, No. 3, March-April 1986, Orange, Virginia, 1986.