Description and Photograph




     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.  Tin-smithing was a skilled craft in the antebellum period; cups, plates, buckets, pans, light fixtures, wash basins and a myriad of other essentials were made by the tinsmith.  Any village larger than a tavern had a tinsmith and every town had numerous skilled tinsmiths.

     When the War was forced upon the South tinsmiths near and far, whether from a motive of profit or patriotism, turned their skilled hands to war.  And every hand was needed as every soldier needed a tin plate and cup, a scabbard, either of leather or tin and a canteen of wood or tin.  There were far more needed than could be supplied but for the soldier’s friend, the enemy.

     Variations of tin drum canteens were manufactured before, during and after the War, so most tin drum canteens cannot, even if they are from the mid-nineteenth century, be identified specifically as Confederate.  Sometimes a Confederate identified sling or a name scratched into a canteen’s face can positively identify it as Confederate, but most have to be considered militia, be it Southern or Northern.  There are two exceptions to this rule; the tin drum canteen that has CS impressed into its face and the pattern that has a flat back and a convex front.  The only period in which the flat back and convex front was produced was during the War Between the States, and they were only produced by the Confederacy.

     This canteen is Confederate both by configuration and documented history.  There is a tag (broken, see picture) attached to the canteen that reads: “Confederate canteen picked up at battle of Shiloh April 6-7 1862” on one side.  As you can see from the picture, the note, written in pencil was faded and was copied over in pencil at a later date.  This overwrite tends to confirm the authenticity of the original note.  “Orlo Stevens” is written on the other side; that too is overwritten.  The tag indicates that Mr. Stevens loaned the canteen for display at the Nashau, Iowa Fair.




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