Load Less Carried

The Load Less Carried or
Reducing Ones Kit
by Bobby Hughes

Infantry of the War Between the States, both North and South, after a few months of active campaigning soon learned to lighten their loads considerably from the halcyon days of 1861, when each soldier had enough truck for a full mess.

It is a temptation, especially with a knapsack to fill it with all the kewl haversack stuffers available from vendors. So was it common for the boys of 61. All it will take is a few events for you to start to shuck all the non essentials from your pack. When I started with a knapsack, I was carrying on average:

1 to 2 blankets ( average 5 lbs each)or blanket and overcoat, a rubber blanket, extra shirt, extra socks, sleeping cap, cards, ink bottle, pens, and nibs, sheath knife, mess furniture, housewife, candle holder and candles, journal, sergeants notebook, pencils, razor and toothbrush, towel and soap, rations in the haversack, testament, skillet, ball of twine, sections of rope, in addition to canteen, accoutrements
and rifle.

I began to take a long personal inventory of what I used and what I did not use at lest 5 consecutive events; the same thing many veterans did. One of the first things to go was the candle holder. What do I need one for when I have a bayonet ?? The razor was the next thing. I have never shaved with it, and only got it because it looked “KEWL” when I did a knapsack talk. Also going by the wayside was the journal, I only needed one notebook and that one fits in my coat. Testament was placed aside as well. Though I have started to carry it in a pocket now. The sheath knife also disappeared, for I can do more with a pocket knife, and it takes up much less room and weighs considerably less. The mess furniture, well, I am down to a small cup that fits in the haversack, a boiler, and a tin plate. All this rides very nicely in the haversack or tied to my bedroll. While a housewife doesn’t get used on a regular basis, it is still very wise to carry this with you, so that gets plunked into the haversack. The twine and rope are nearly indispensable, so while it may not get used regularly, it also stays. The skillet, while it can be used as a plate, is also small enough that is able to fit in the haversack with out too much problem (luckily it has a hollow short handle for fixing a stick into… )

In regards to blankets, if it is the summer campaigning season, or if only carrying a blanket roll for visual effect, I will dispense with one of the blankets, reducing weight considerably. Of interest here may be the record of Gen Sherman, before the Atlanta Campaign, prescribing what his men should carry, and that they may take a wool blanket or a rubber blanket, but not both. I choose to carry my rubber blanket also, considering that I want to protect my gear that I pay for, and not the Federal or Confederate government!
Still carried in the blanket roll are a change of shirt, two changes of socks, and a sleeping cap. These can be imperative at colder events, and also at summer events.. Nothing is more uncomfortable the a sweat soaked clammy shirt at night, and this can even raise the danger of hypothermia at colder events. You should change your shirt and socks every night !!!

With reducing my load to the following, I carry an average of MAYBE 20 lbs on the field.

Blanket roll (short roll style):

Rope, coat straps and rifle sling (carriage for roll)
Extra shirt and socks
Sleeping cap
Boiler (tied to rifle sling)


Pipe and tobacco bag
Small skillet
Small cup
Folding knife and fork
Rations and foodstuffs
Small piece of soap
Small “huck” type towel


Pocket knife
Match safe
Notebook and pencil
Pocket watch

Accoutrements and Rifle
Canteen with water

This far reduced a soldier is ready for better service in the field than when encumbered by so much extra. IF you choose to use the knapsack, this is still an ideal reduction, allowing room for extra rations and ammunition ( in arsenal packs ) You will also find your shoulders and back thanking you for reducing the strain…

Happy Marching !!!