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HARDTACK and HARD TIMES: Learning the Ways of a Civil War Soldier.

March 18th, 2014 12:44 pm by Ned Jilton

HARDTACK and HARD TIMES: Learning the Ways of a Civil War Soldier.

The 19th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment of reenactors is currently recruiting. Reproduction of recruiting poster courtesy of Dan Webb.

Do you know your hay-foot from your straw-foot? If not, you need to report to a "Camp of Instruction".

This weekend Civil War reenacting units from Sevierville to Johnson City will be holding their annual "Camp of Instruction" so members can sharpen their skills for the new season while new recruits and potential recruits learn the drills to take part in reenactments across the country.

At a camp of instruction you learn the basics of being a Civil War soldier such as the manual of arms so when the sergeant gives the order you will know the difference between the nineteenth century shoulder arms and right shoulder shift, which many people mistake for shoulder arms.

In addition you are drilled in the loading and firing of rifle-muskets such as load in nine times and fire by rank, by file and by company as well as rules for safety on the reenacting battle field. You will also get into the one thing I did poorly at last year, marching.

Camp of instruction is sort of a boot-camp light. If you mess up you won't be digging latrines, or sinks as the called them in the Civil War. But as a new member or someone thinking of joining this would be a chance to get a taste of what's going on and learn what the soldiers did on the battlefield 150 years ago.

In the Tri-Cities the camp of instruction will be conducted in the Johnson City-Gray area by members of Company B, 19th Tennessee. If you would like to fall-in and learn a thing or two at the camp e-mail Company B at

Oh yes, your hay-foot and straw-foot? During the war many new recruits from the country did not know which was their left foot and which was their right but could tell the difference between hay and straw. So sergeants would tie hay to their left and straw to their right. Then when they marched you would hear the sergeant call....Hay-foot....Straw-foot...Hay-foot...Straw-foot...Hay-foot and have those new recruits marching in step in no time.

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