Old South Military Antiques

58th Alabama Canteen
Item #: OS-6522




During the course of the War millions of canteens were manufactured in the South. Every man in the Southern Army carried a canteen and most would go through several by War’s end. To supply this need, canteens were manufactured at Confederate government facilities, but the government facilities could supply only a small fraction of the canteens required to equip the army. In order to meet the pressing need for canteens the Confederate government purchased the vast majority of canteens from private manufacturing concerns.

The most widely used Confederate canteen was made of wood because any cooperage could easily convert to the manufacture of wooden canteens as they required exactly the same skills as barrel making. Revolutionary War canteens were also made of wood and are often confused with Confederate era canteens. The Confederate canteen can be differentiated from its Revolutionary War counterpart by the lathe turned front and back faces. The front and back faces of the Revolutionary War canteens were cut and shaped by hand, consequently they lack lathe turning marks. The lathe marks are readily apparent on faces of Confederate manufactured canteens. The lathe turned wood faces were joined by horizontal slats and banded with iron. The bands were held together with copper or tin loops.

The canteen shown here has one of the more complete carvings encountered. It reads: "J. H. Smith Co F 58 Ala” deeply carved into the face. There lies a tale.

The 58thAlabama was organized at camp Tullahoma, Tennessee, in July of 1863, using the 9th Alabama Battalion as a nucleus. It served in the brigades of Generals Bate, Clayton and Holzclaw before being consolidated with the 32nd Alabama in November of the same year. The records of the soldier who carried the canteen through the War, James H. Smith, are in the National Archives, filed under the 32nd Alabama. The 32nd campaigned with the Army of Tennessee from Chickamauga to Atlanta, and then marched with Hood into Tennessee. Later it was moved to Mobile and fought at Spanish Fort.

A native of Calhoun County, James H. Smith enlisted at Choctaw, Alabama on May 25, 1862. Private Smith is then present with his company until the Battle of Stones River, which was fought December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863.

He was captured during the battle, but the Official Records do not tell us when he returned to his command. The company muster rolls are missing until January 15, 1864, when he is in the hospital by order of the Surgeon. No further record has been found.

W.S.H. is also carved into the same face, opposite of Smith’s. This was Wiley S. Homesley, 3rd Sergeant of Smith’s own Company F. Homesley suffers from the lack of records that Smith does. It seems for both men that the last record was the January, 1864 roll. Whether the Sergeant gave Private Smith his canteen, or vice versa we will likely never know, but we do know who owned it last; that would be the mouse that made it a home.

The canteen is missing one of its sling loops, but it remains very solid and tight.
Price $2,900.00 USD

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