Issued 1862 - Water proof tents
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Author:  Ed K [ Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Issued 1862 - Water proof tents

James I. Vandeberg, Co. C, 1st USSS
In one of James I. Vandenberg’s letters to his parents, dated April 2nd, 1862 he states the following:
“We have tents made of rubber blankets now. We each have a blanket and three of us put our blankets together and it makes a very good tent for dry weather”.
I had believed the dog tents were only two man tents with each man having a shelter half. Do you think the third man had the front and back triangular flies, and they were in fact 3 man tents? Or, with a third man the tent could be expanded for three?
Plus, he calls them rubber blankets. I would assume the rubber was just a dipping compound the canvas was put in to water proof them.
Does anyone have more information on these two items?
Thanks in advance

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Issued 1862 - Water proof tents

Hello Ed, and welcome to the forum!

To answer your question, I think that your ancestor is referring to using rubberized blankets as a substitute for the shelter tent half. According to other letters, memoirs, or diaries, the 2nd U.S.S.S. did not receive shelter tent halves until late in 1862 but rubberized blankets were issue almost immediately.

The difference is that the shelter tents are simply square-ish pieces of untreated cotton with buttons, buttonholes, grommets, and pin loops/guy lines while the rubberized blankets were largely issued with only small brass grommets around the perimeter. The use of shelter halves in America can be largely credited to Gen. George McClellan, who had recognized their versatility before the war while observing French soldiers. The American version was initially despised by soldiers but later became a very valuable piece of kit year-round.

The rubberized blankets were treated with a coating of vulcanized rubber on one side only and were meant to be used as a sort of wrap or cape in bad weather by way of pinning or tying together two specially placed grommets on one edge. Mounted soldiers were issued a rubberized poncho with a flapped neck opening. The government also produced a large quantity of painted blankets, treated on one side with blackened oil based paint and later varnished, as a stop-gap when rubberized blankets were in low stock. These were wildly popular among soldiers from the very beginning and worn as intended, draped over crude brush shanties, or tied together as tents in bad weather.

In your ancestor's case, what he likely did was form an impromptu mess with his friends in the company. Since they had no shelter halves and their rubber blankets already had grommets affixed, they simply lashed them together in bad weather and squeezed inside. Two rubber blankets would have been used to form the familiar shape of the shelter tent while the third was either situated underneath as a sod cloth or draped over whichever end was letting in the rain. The triangular end-piece seen these days is an anachronism; they appear never to have been produced by the government or any private contractors during the war but were likely thought up by someone years ago as a modern convenience.

Author:  Ed K [ Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Issued 1862 - Water proof tents

Wow Brian! You are giving me some insight I had not thought of. I had just assumed it was the shelter half. But, Van was very specific in his letter about them being blankets.
But, he was also specific in saying it made a good shelter in dry weather, so apparently he did no want his parents to know it was not all that great in real wet weather.
Thanks a million.

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