What did soldiers do between battles?

My aide-de-camp and I made a quick overnight camping trip to North Carolina, leaving on Saturday. Good news is we made it to several sites, some Civil War related and some not. Bad new is we were caught up in one of those summer thunderstorms. So I’m typing this from the dry spot we struggled to maintain … Wonders of modern technology allow me to field blog!

One of our stops Saturday was Fort Branch outside Hamilton, North Carolina. The fort displays several rare cannons (pictures of which I’ll share when discussing the guns). And of course there are restored and repaired earthworks to view.

As we took the self guided tour, my aide was focused on the “battle” of Fort Branch. Exhausting all I knew at the time about Fort Branch, I gave him the short version. Still inquisitive, he asked more questions. Eventually we reached the understanding that “soldiers” (at seven he’s still working up to Confederate and Federal) occupied the for for nearly three years…. And they didn’t do much “fighting”.

So the next question sprang from that understanding. “What did the soldiers do between battles?”

As if on queue, we reached the last tour stop – a set of reconstructed garrison quarters.

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There we stopped and took in the “company street”. I took that opportunity to explain some of the events filling the average day of an average soldier.

As we started our drive out, I considered that last question in a broader context. All too many of us focus upon the battle lines, without considering the “in between”. And I’d call that mark on many historians, professional and part-timers.

We often forget much of soldiering involves some of the same tasks as any other avocation. Just “being” is fundamental to “being” a soldier in the first place. Like anyone else there is some routine – wake up, eat, do the assigned tasks of the day. Long running projects, be that building a fort wall or drilling to proficiency, tend to dominate the days.

Yes, I know. “Soldier studies” were supposed to bring all that to the fore. But those pursuing that angle seem to have lost their way chasing the fireflies of “motivation”.

So what did soldiers do between battles? Well one thing for sure, they tried to stay dry… Which I mention while writing from a very wet campsite this morning.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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