Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Visiting Yorktown was a lot of fun, from the battlefield to the quaint little village town I learned a lot in a few short hours.

We all know about Yorktown and the great battle that was fought there, but to actually see the battlefield, see the earthen burrs and 11 actual cannons that were on the battlefield is when you truly get a look at Yorktown.

My day in Yorktown started at the Yorktown History Center. Like Jamestown Settlement it's a living museum with a re-created farm and Continental Army Encampment. The farm probably would be fun and interesting to most people, but I've been to many places like that in the past and so I pretty much knew about that time period and how the people lived. The fun part of this day was the re-created Continental Army Camp. This is how an Army camp would of looked like and operated in the civil war.

This picture shows what an enlisted men's tent would look like. One tent would house 6 men. Usually they would sleep on the open dirt, rarely they had straw to buffer the rocks. The men would lay horizontally so they all would fit into this very tiny tent. In one company there would be 48 enlisted men, so there would be 8 tents. The other tents were for ammunition, captains, commanders, physicians and officer's tents. There was also a warehouse type tent.

Left: This tent is the weapon tent. Each tent had one weapon tent.

Right: Captain's tent. Captain's were promoted from the enlisted men and had a tad larger tent than the enlisted men.

This is inside the Commander's tent. This tent very large. It had the bed area, dining room table area and in the middle was the desk. The Commander's were usually men who were wealthy and paid to be a commander. Rarely were they enlisted men who went up the ranks to be promoted. It was a very prestigious thing to be a "Commander" of the Continental Army and only the rich could afford it. They had there own chamberpot (bathroom) and a small heater that was heated by hot coals. Fire's were not permitted within the tents as they were highly flammable.

This is the medical tent. Like the Commander's the doctor paid for the right to be the "Camp's" doctor. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me, but anyway. To be deemed a physician all you needed was a signed piece of paper saying that you were of sound mind. There was no particular institution or person you needed to get this from either. It could have been your neighbor verifying you were of sound mind. They did very little amputations as that would increase the likelihood of death and infection. If they did do the amputations they would bite on a small piece of wood. After the surgery they gave them laudanum, but only afterwards. I asked if they had it, why not give it to them during the procedure. Apparently laudanum is a type of blood thinner, so they would of bled to death.

Now, to my favorite part in the camp. The Women's Tent. If I hadn't seen it for myself I would not have believed it. Women were common amongst the troops. They were often women who had no home or place to go, so they joined there enlisted men. Women were expected to earn there keep and so did so my cooking, cleaning, sewing and laundry. They would charge a very small fee for those duties. Because all the tents were for enlisted men, the women had to live in makeshift lean-tos.

The cooking was primarily done by the enlisted men. They made these earthen ovens, which were actually very ingenious. There would be this large mound of soil compacted hard to form a semi-circle. Then there would be 8 "ovens" around the circle. One for each tent. They would build the fire in the "oven" and the heat and smoke would come out the hole on top (where the pots are) and cook there food. Only things that could be cooked in a pot were made, such as soup and stew. The women would do the cooking for the Commander's.

The entire camp shows organization and order. Every tent has it's designated spot and each time the camp would move and set up someplace new, the same layout was used. This created some type of consistency amongst the men and maintained order. You have to remember that these men who fought during the civil war were mostly volunteers and I was reminded of that when I saw this re-creation. To volunteer for something in such deplorable conditions took someone who was steadfast in their conviction for the cause in which they were fighting for. There was the aspect that the men were paid, so a lot of them also joined to be able to feed there families, but they endeavored such hardships it again confirmed in me what the backbone of this nation was founded on. Strong, committed, God fearing men and women who were willing to lose it all for the cause they so freely believed in. It matters not if they believed in slavery or not, what matters is that solid men and women who did not waiver in their convictions. I wonder if we were put into the same situation and conditions now, would we be as resilient and unwavering. I wonder.

1 comment:

Mallory said...

Your blog would be cooler and more readable if it had more stuff about YOU. Or perhaps the stuff you talked about related to you more. Just a thought.