01838 - Soldier's filling their water cart; Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1864 [LC-DIG-cwpb-01838]
To reach over and turn on the tap and see the flow of water is something that we expect today, but in a time when running water was a luxury that very few had it was certainly one that none of the soldiers had. At a time when wool uniforms were worn even on the hottest summer days it is hard to imagine the amount of water that would be required to keep the minimum levels required for a soldier on the march.
In addition all of the large weapons, the cavalry and the officers travelled by horse. Mules, oxen and other farm animals were common to supply fresh provisions to the troops. Each of these also required water. Many of the battles were fought near water sources and helped to supply the troops, but casks of water were common throughout the war to supply the need on both sides.
When you look at how many of the pictures of the war that depict water barrels it is hard to realize that it was literally someone’s job to find a source of fresh water in each place the army stopped and to provide that to the troops.