Soldier Equipment of the Orphan Brigade

    First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 

Soldier Equipment of the Orphan Brigade

compiled by Geoff Walden

alexsm2.gif (4176 bytes)    The soldiers of the Orphan Brigade were equipped much the same as other Civil War infantry soldiers, with basic accoutrements consisting of cartridge box, cap box, waist belt, bayonet scabbard, haversack, and canteen.  To this basic load were added knapsacks and blanket rolls.   Inspection reports from the summer of 1864 indicate that knapsacks were common issue in the Brigade, but they may not have been so during the entire war.  At other times, the soldiers carried their blankets in a roll across their shoulders, tied at the waist.  (Inspection Report, Lewis' Brigade, 20 August 1864, National Archives RG 109, Entry 16-H-14, Microfilm 935, Roll 5; copy courtesy Dave Hunter)

     Unfortunately, the extant records do not describe these equipment items in any way except as to condition, so we can only surmise that they were common types issued to soldiers in the Army of Tennessee.   These likely included cartridge boxes, cap boxes, and belts made from tarred or painted canvas, to save leather.

   A few Orphan Brigade equipment items survive today, and the following photographs and descriptions detail these.

   This brown leather waist belt with brass C.S.A. buckle was worn by Pvt. David Fenimore Cooper Weller of Co. C, 2nd Kentucky Infantry.  The cast brass rectangular C.S.A. belt plate was apparently a very common style in the Army of Tennessee; numerous examples have been dug around Murfreesboro and Tullahoma, and on several Atlanta Campaign sites.  They are believed to have been made at the Atlanta Arsenal, and possibly other area shops (see Sydney C. Kerksis, Plates and Buckles of the American Military 1795-1874, Kennesaw, GA: Gilgal Press, 1974, pp. 538ff.).  Click here to see some uniform items identified to Pvt. Weller.   

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Belt and buckle, Pvt. D.F.C. Weller, 2nd Kentucky Infantry
(Courtesy Kentucky Historical Society / Military History Museum; photo by Darlene Mercer)

   Pvt. William C. Fletcher of Co. K, 4th Kentucky Infantry, carried this cedar canteen.  This type of canteen was very common in the Confederate army, of a distinctive wood drum style apparently designed by F. J. Gardner, and known as the "Gardner" canteen.  These canteens had lathe-turned wooden faces, with slats on the sides held together by iron bands, like a small barrel.  Small straps of iron or tin held the sling (usually cotton).   Some canteens had a wood spout, but many originals today do not have a spout; it is unknown whether the spout has fallen off, or they were made without a spout.

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Wooden "Gardner" pattern canteen, Pvt. W. C. Fletcher, 4th Kentucky Infantry
(Courtesy Kentucky Historical Society / Military History Museum; photos by Tom Fugate and Geoff Walden)

   Pvt. Fletcher individualized his canteen with carvings on the wooden faces, a very common Confederate practice.  He carved his name and unit on one side, and a drawing of a house on the other.  Pvt. Fletcher was killed in action near Dallas, Georgia, in May 1864, and this canteen likely dates from the earlier part of the Atlanta Campaign.

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   This gray woolen blanket was carried by Pvt. Andrew W. Randolph of Co. B, 6th Kentucky Infantry.  It may be a Confederate issue blanket.  It is similar to other blankets identified to Confederate soldiers.   This blanket has edge stitching and decoration of red wool yarn; it is unclear whether this was a feature of its manufacture, or was added later.  This blanket has also been trimmed, perhaps for use as a shawl.

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Blanket used by A. W. Randolph, 6th Kentucky Infantry
(Courtesy Kentucky Museum, Western Ky. Univ.; photos by Daniel Mercer)

RandBlansh.jpg (29836 bytes) Randolph's blanket has crescent shaped cut-outs in it, perhaps so it could be worn as a shawl.  This photo shows the blanket arranged in this manner, draped across the shoulders of Randolph's jacket, on display in the Orphan Brigade exhibit at the Kentucky Museum, Western Kentucky University, February 1999.  (photo by Geoff Walden)

   Officers often had special haversacks to carry their military papers.  This leather officers haversack belonged to Capt. Fayette Hewitt, who served as the Asst. Adjutant General of the Orphan Brigade.  Officers' haversacks often had carved or embossed decoration in the leather.

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Capt. Fayette Hewitt's officers haversack
(Courtesy Kentucky Historical Society / Military History Museum; photo by Tom Fugate)

   Soldiers had to do their own sewing and clothing repair in the field, and many men carried a small sewing kit, popularly known as a "housewife."  These kits usually contained needles, thread, buttons, and perhaps a thimble and small scissors.  This housewife belonged to Gen. Ben Hardin Helm.  It may have been made for him by his wife Emily.

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Gen. Helm's housewife sewing kit, shown closed (left) and open
(Courtesy Kentucky Historical Society / Military History Museum; photos by Tom Fugate)

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Bugle, 2nd Kentucky Infantry
(Courtesy Ky. Hist. Soc. / KMHM;
photo by Tom Fugate)

   This bugle was carried by Musician John Washington Payne, chief bugler of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry.  Payne captured the bugle from the Federals at Hartsville, Tenn., December 1862, and used it subsequently in the 2nd Kentucky.  The bell is engraved:

Captured at Heartsville, Tenn
J W Payne  Chief Bugler of
2nd Kenty Regt
Dec 7th 1862.

Ft. Donelson

Missionary Ridge
Rocky Face Ridge

   In the space before the battle honors is engraved crossed flags of the First National and Hardee patterns (see our Flags page).

   Payne used this bugle at Orphan Brigade Reunions after the war.  (Thompson, Orphan Brigade (1898), pp. 341, 538)

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Comments to page authors:

Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at)
Laura Cook
: lcook62 (at)

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