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Old South Military Antiques

Confederate Canteen with a Great Strap
Item #: OS-7930

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; cup, plates, buckets, pans, light fixtures, wash basins and myriad 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.

The tin drum canteen was 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 strap or a name scratched into a canteen’s face can positively identify it as Confederate. In this case, the strap positively identifies this as a Confederate canteen. The extremely coarse woven strap is an exclusively Confederate variety. There is no adjustment, the strap is sewn into itself. The stitching is tight and original.

The above attests unquestionably to the canteen’s Confederate linage if only the sling is original to the canteen. This too can be said with certainty because the color change in the canteen where it is covered by the strap, and the color change in the strap where it is covered by the canteen, can leave no doubt to experienced eyes that it is original to the canteen.

The strap remains strong enough to hang over the shoulder of a uniform. This adds a special touch to any uniform display, but the artifact is a prize alone or with other accoutrements. It also retains its original stopper. Canteens which retain their original carrying straps are highly sought after by collectors and one of this quality is more valuable than the canteen itself.