The 17th Regiment of U.S. Infantry

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Secondary Equipment

Knapsack, Haversack & Canteen

The knapsack that appears to have been in use at this time by most of the army was the Lherbette patent knapsack. Adopted by the army between 1808-10, It was a simple double envelope linen bag, painted on the outside for waterproofing, with black leather straps for carrying. But inside the bag were a series of reinforces for strength at attachment points, and cording around the bag to give shape. The shoulder straps were also adjustable for length by attachments to "olives", turned toggles sewn to the bag that fit through slots in the shoulder straps.

Also inside the bag was a compartment on the flap for clothes storage accessible through a slit in the center. A strap attached to the inside of the flap at the point of attachment of the shoulder straps buckled to a point on the outside of the bag as a means of securing the blanket under the flap.

Other knapsacks had been purchased by the army, including some French-style hide knapsacks or simpler bag types as were in use by the militia. But the majority of those in service seem to have been of the Lherbette pattern. In some cases,these were sent out without being painted as was required by contract. They were to be painted a Prussian blue, with a large white oval on the flap containing a US stenciled in red. Based on the existing specimens, they may have been repainted over their service life. The name of the owner was to be written in them, along with all equipment issued, to deter theft or illegal sale.

Unlike some earlier models of knapsacks, food was not to be carried in them. Instead , rations were usually carried in a bag carried over the shoulder and called the haversack. These do not appear to have been a regularly issued item, but were made up as needed for campaigns. Soldiers in garrisons or encampments did not need them as their food and mess equipment were provided as needed. But on the march, it would be necessary to carry provisions for several days when it would not be possible to stop and cook. All of that equipment was stored in the baggage wagons following the army. Only when the army reached its destination for an encampment would it be possible to issue mess gear again. A burial at Ft. Erie revealed one of the solutions to this problem. A soldier bent the neck of his pewter spoon to fit inside his pocket. With this and a pocket knife, most of the food issued could be eaten.

Haversacks are simple bags made of 2 pieces of Russia sheeting 13x16 inches with a 3 inch flap. They have a sewn linen strap for caring over the shoulder. The flap is closed by 3 buttons. They are not necessary waterproofed, and so the contents could become wet or spoiled. Painted haversacks as an issued item did not come untill about the civil war period. Besides rations, some personal items may have made their way into the bag, unless an alert sergent inspected the contents. It was the responsibility of the company commander to insure that his men were not unnecessarily encumbered, and for this reason it was often necessary to inspect their equipment.

The daily ration of the army at this time consisted of:

These quanitiies were the prescribed amounts, but the actual amounts received could vary from time to time. Rations were supplemented by purchase from the sutler or by keeping gardens in garrisons. Spirits could be issued full strength or be diluted at the discretion of the commanding officer. Other substitutions could be made at the descression of the Quartermaster.

The final item needed for victuals was the canteen, or water bottle. There were three basic types; the barrel type, the box type and the tin canteen. The barrel type consisted of two heads separated by a number of side staves, and bound with two interlocking wooden bands. Later types used iron bands instead. These were about 7 inches in diameter, 3 to 3 1/2 inches wide and were painted blue with a US stenciled on one side. A wooden plug sealed the hole in a raised bung stave.

The second type, the box style, was made like a" shaker" box. It also had two heads, but they were held together by a thin band of split, belt wood secured with wooden pegs into the edges of the heads. A hole was drilled in the side and closed with a wooden plug. The interior was sealed with wax to make it waterproof, although leakage was a frequent occurrence.

The last type in use was the tin canteen, a holdover from the 18th century. By this time, tinned sheet iron was a more common product in America , and was found in most areas of the country. It had the advantage of being more durable than wood, giving it a longer shelf life for storage and more strength in some uses. In addition, leaking or damaged tin canteens could be easily repaired by someone with little skill and a little solder.

Tin canteens were issued in some quantities to the Northwest Army as shown in the receipts. Examples have been dug up at Ft. Meigs. These are of two types, A crescent shape, and a tombstone. The crescent shape is more likely to be the regular army model as the same type was found at Ft. Atkinson Nebraska, dating 1817 to 1825.

All types used a leather shoulder strap, probably black, that may or may not have had a buckle. Canteens were probably shipped with a strap, although the Ft. Fayette records list canteen straps in several shipments, but not in sufficient quantities to equip all of the canteens shipped. It seems likely that these were replacement straps, or those delivered by a different contractor if the canteen maker had not supplied them with straps. These would probably have had buckles on them so they could be fitted to canteens as replacements.

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This page was created by John Sek © 1996.