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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:48 pm 
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Bill Skillman wrote:
Greetings Frank.

Good to hear from you again. Are you still living in Germany?

I appreciate you posting your abbreviated version of the recreated Tiffany-Berdan knapsack. Like Larry, I still treasure my Packer knapsack that I bought in 1995. Your USSS knapsack, despite it's 'committee' pedigree, continues to be the 'gold standard' until you decide to create the Pattern 3. And yes, there are probably enough of us 'lunatic fringe' chaps who would willingly mortgage the house and eat Chef Boyardee for a year just to own one of your 'ultimate USSS knapsacks'.

What I would like to do is open this topic to you, Dave Rider and others who have examined original USSS or suspected USSS knapsacks so you can describe for us who have not had the opportunity to do so, the various construction details you have observed.

I recall last September a couple of Co. C. fellows traveled to SC to examine a hair covered knapsack that had been captured and worn by a CSA soldier during the Petersburg campaign. Further research on the faded lettering on the inside flap linked it to a sargeant from the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters. I can assure you, after examining the records in Lansing and consulting with Ray Herek and other researchers; the 1st MI SS was never issued hair covered knapsacks.

When I visited the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond with Dan and Brian a few years ago, we saw a another hair covered knapsack on display (also captured). If I recall, it lacked the leather triangle for the knapsack straps. I don't recall if there were attachments on the top of the pack for the overcoat straps.

I recall Co. C. posting photos of a third knapsack in the Smithsonian collection. Then there is the knapsack that belonged to Leonard Small of Co. D-2 that was published in Marcot's book.

How many of these surviving knapsacks truly match up with the USSS issued model? Is there a single USSS 'pattern' knapsack or do variations exist? Is there original documentation that survives that provides the specifications and drawn pattern for the Tiffany/Berdan knapsack? What about when they were made, when issued?

To complicate matters, is anyone aware of any State regiments in the North who may have ordered/been issued hair covered knapsacks?

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS



Hi Bill and All!

I've moved this to a new thread to keep the one on the ACW Knapsack Company's product on topic. Mods are of course free to move or merge it as they think best.

There are several known issuances of hide knapsacks to northern regiments during the Civil War, and some more conjectural ones also.

The most famous are the sets of French uniforms and equipment purchased in 1861. About 10,000 sets were purchased, which included knapsacks, and these would have been the French Model 1860 pattern. The 83rd Pennsylvania were equipped with these, and there is strong evidence that the 65th NY, 12th NY, and 12th Mass also received these. In June of 1865 the Philadelphia Depot reported only 526 left in stores of "Knapsacks and Straps, French", so it would appear pretty much all of them were issued out and in use during the war. [Possibly all hide knapsacks came under the label of 'French' to a government inspector, so maybe some Berdan knapsacks got lumped in there too, but that's only speculative...]

John Worsham, in his "One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry", describes his pre-war militia knapsack as a hide one with small compartments in the frame. This corresponds strongly with the French 1842 or 1845 pattern of knapsack (box is the same, strapping changed between the two models), or an American-made copy of the same. His militia unit became Company F of the 21st Virginia Volunteers. It is hard to say whether this could be typical, and I cannot offhand remember another description of a militia unit adopting a hide knapsack; but it does open the possibility that other militia units North and South, brought their furry bags with them when they mustered in.

The French knapsacks are fairly distinctive in styling, and can be easily distinguished from the Berdan pattern. Primarily, they are wider than they are deep, and ride higher on the back.

An article in North-South Trader years back (of which I no longer have a copy) gave pictures of an extant knapsack which belonged to a member of a Confederate sharpshooter unit. This one was also a French Model 1855 or 1860 knapsack, and I am beginning to wonder if the hide knapsack was considered the mark of a sharpshooter on both sides. The connection of the SCRR one to yet another sharpshooter unit is beginning to look like a pattern...

As the Berdan knapsack is closest in styling to the Prussian one, it should be noted that the Prussian knapsack was advocated by Napier for the British Army in the 1840s, and Austrian uniforms and knapsacks were tried during the equipment trials at Chobham in 1853. The British went for the Austrian style tunic, but both styles of knapsack were outright rejected. McClellan wrote about both the Prussian and Austrian knapsacks for an American audience during his visit to the European Armies just before the Civil War. As far as I can tell these are the only places in the pre-war military literature where these knapsack designs get a decent description and review in the English language. Against the tide of the military love affair with all things French, I don't believe that the Germanic designs captured the imagination much.

So... I'm guessing that most hide knapsack descriptions, North or South, were of French patterns, unless there's extra evidence to suggest something different.

The question of specific Berdan knapsack 'types' is a great one. I don't have a solid answer to it; but perhaps with the contributions of others we might develop a framework for that here. So, if I can throw out a few principles for others to accept, reject, or discuss...

The Berdan knapsack is NOT the same as the Prussian knapsack. Other elements have been incorporated into it, and parts modified. This is seen most easily on the shoulder strap adjustment, and the flap which covers it -- these parts function the same on the Prussian model, but are constructed and assembled differently. What this means practically, is that we should be able to see a difference between a knapsack made to the Berdan pattern, and say, one made to Prussian Army specs and imported to America for another unit.

I think, perhaps overgeneralising, there is very little difference in specs between the bag portions of all the extant knapsacks. I have to admit that I do not have dimensions for all of them, and the Woodbridge drawing we have to take on faith as far as it goes. Scaling up the photographs which I have proportionally they seem to come very close. I do have some discrepancies with one or two sizes or positions; but these appear to come within the range of inevitable human error of different people measuring the same thing, or the rounding off of metric museum measurements converted back to inches. (Personally, I have no idea why institutions insist upon measuring things originally made to inch standards in metric anyway -- rounding error once to metric and once again coming back!). So I'm not sure that the bag parts are in any real dispute; but obviously the floor is open for anyone to put forward problems with them.

The shoulder straps, however, do raise a problem. The Woodbridge drawing shows a hook and ring fastening on both shoulder straps, which does tally with the original Prussian design. Although I was given a few poor copies of additional photos of the Gunderson pack (beyond the ones in Marcot), they fail to show the bottom clearly. The double-hook design was considered 'standard' until the matter of the Smithsonian pack was raised, because it has a hook for the right strap, buckle adjustment for the left, a la the standard regulation knapsack fastening. If I remember, the Smithsonian pack is missing the shoulder straps (Help me out if this is incorrect!) so how this change to the bottom attachment affects the 'branch strap' which meets the main wide shoulder strap is a bit of a mystery. As far as I am aware, no-one has developed an adequate theory for the two designs -- Two production runs? Some knapsacks sub-contracted out by Tiffany? Post production modification?

The South Carolina Relic Room pack from what I have seen raises other questions. Charles McElhose has taken some photos which, with the Michigan provenance, makes me wonder whether it can be included as a 'canonical' USSS pack design. The left strap attachment is missing, so it is uncertain whether it had a hook or a buckle. Strangely, there is a double-row of stitching in the shape of a triangle for the shoulder straps; but every other stitching seam that you would expect for the 'stick-in-the-back' set up is missing. So it would appear that the shoulder straps were sewn directly to the triangle same as the regulation knapsack. How one would then adjust the length of the shoulder strap to the brass J-hook hooking under the waistbelt is unclear, unless that too was French style as opposed to Prussian. In other regards the box seems to line up very well with the Berdan, but this shoulder strap arrangement is very odd -- it's not Berdan, it's not Prussian, it's not any other previously known combination. At the moment until some more documentation helps settle some of this, I'm shuffling the SCRR knapsack to one side as an interesting curiousity for now.

I think the double-hook versus hook-and-buckle question is probably the most important one at the moment, although I have no answers to it. Establishing whether there is a timeline with a distinct period for each, or whether the two types were issued side by side, would definitely be advantageous.

Anyway... probably time for others to jump in and stop me from running on!

On a non-historical note: It is amazingly great to hear that those 'oldies' are still going strong for you guys! A 'thing' is not only about looking the part, but also about fulfilling the function of its original design. It would be fine to hear that perhaps the repros still looked okay, but it is so much better to know that they are still operating as knapsacks and working like they should!

Frank


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:31 pm 
Here is some stuff for starters...

On the SCRR pack as I have seen it first hand and handled it. Size construction and proportions are consistent with the other known berdan packs. I am not convinced on the stencil determination offered by one researcher of it being a 1st Michgan SS. I have a high quality blow up of the stencil I will share.

Image
I have this in higher res but I did not want to post it too big for the web.

You should notice how very difficult most of the characters are to read. I created a copy of the just the dark areas in Adobe Illustrator and came out with the following:
Image

I think from this you can see more clearly how the patterns in the fabric of the pack can play tricks on your eyes and that any guesses at interpretation are just that, guesses. I feel in looking at it that it could also show a 1 USSS in the stencil just as easily.

In any event here is a shot alongside a tape measure. Note the buckle on the top is just sitting loose as it fell off the pack years ago.
Image

Just a reminder but these photos were taken by me and are subject to copyright and are used with the permission of the South Carolina Conferderate Relic Room and cannot be used for commercial publication with both our permissions.

In any event as far as variations with the hook and buckle situation, if my recall is correct this pack and another have it one way and two other originals have it the other way. I will have to go through all the photos to find out which ones again. I am wondering if perhaps the orders for the Berdan packs may have been filled by Tiffany but subcontracted out to different leather working companies, has anyone ever looked into that?

I also have copies of older photos of the Gunderson, Mollus Museum, and Smithsonian packs as well as the Woodbridge drawings and some by Art Buker. He and I may be looking to take a trip or two to revisit each of these with the aim of taking high resolution high quality photos of these packs.

The one point I would like to throw out is that 4 or 5 packs give us a good representation of the general construction methods but may not represent everything there is to know about them. Remember two Regiments were outfitted with them and that is quite a number of packs to make so there may be many more variables we are not aware of, or changes that could have been made to the design as the run was being made for the purposes of practicallity in the design. Just some food for thought when slipping into conversations about absolutes.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:55 pm 
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JP and I have been gathering supplies to make fur packs. The image above looks to be approx 13" long. does the forum have exact (or close) L/W/D measurements for USSS fur pack frames?

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D. Bolda
Co. F, 1st USSS "F-troop"
Great Plains region


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 9:29 am 
It is laying on the curved side (back) so the angle may be a little misleading. Actually it is 14" down the straight edge (front of the pack or top in this picture)
I have some drawings I can probably send you, I just want to get permission from the person that has them first.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 2:16 pm 
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that would be great cmcelhose! thanks for the info. thursday i am leaving for I Sachs Sons Leather in Chicago (12 hour trip). from there we hope to get some good strap leather. based on the images generously provided by David Rider, the dimensions are "14" deep x 12 3/4" broad; 4 1/4" wide at the top, 5 3/4" at the bottom." the corners on this image are round. i am curious how the frame would be build for rounded edges like this.

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D. Bolda
Co. F, 1st USSS "F-troop"
Great Plains region


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