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Part iii


John U. Rees and Stephen Tindle posted in MHAU - 1600 to 1788.

John U. Rees
May 26 at 9:48am

part III, "`The camps ... are as different in their form as the owners are in their dress ...': Shades, Sheds, and Wooden Tents, 1775-1782":
(See below for article contents.)

Soldiers during the Revolutionary War often built makeshift shelters to cover themselves when tents or buildings were unavailable. American soldiers had a number of names for these dwellings, such as "brush Hutt," "bush housen," "hemlock bowhouses" (i.e., huts made of hemlock boughs), and "huts [of] brush and leaves." Some terms denoted similarly-formed shelters, while others described a distinctly different type of construct; all those named above were enclosed lodgings, with frames made of cut trees or tree limbs, covered with leafy branches or pine boughs. Several other appellations denoted shelters similar to brush huts or huts made of brush and/or boards under their definition: "booth" seems to have referred to a particular form of brush hut, and was perhaps the American term for an open lean-to (shaped like a Civil War shelter-half); sheds were similar in construction to brush huts, but covered with different materials, such as milled lumber, fence rails, cornshocks, or straw; and wigwam was a predominantly British term, encompassing any type of soldier-built ad hoc shelter. A fourth type was the bower or "shade," a flat-topped structure used primarily for protection from the sun, though several references seem to indicate bowers being constructed as lean-tos for overnight shelter as well as shade.1
In this part of our study we will examine bowers and sheds built by both sides in the War for Independence and British soldiers' widespread use of brush huts (wigwams).

"Not a bush to make a shade near [at] hand ..."
Bush Bowers, "Arbours," and "Shades," 1776-1782

For our purposes, bower is meant to refer to a flat-topped, leaf-covered temporary structure used primarily for shade rather than overnight lodging. Also known as bowries, shades, or arbors, they came in many sizes and normally were comprised of four forked poles, or saplings, for support (one at each corner) and a roof of wooden poles topped with a layer of leaf-covered branches or pine boughs. They ranged from small lean-tos, some perhaps less than five feet high, to large and elaborate shades high enough to stand under. Bowers were used by both officers and common soldiers during the war, usually for shade in warm weather (with or without tents), sometimes as sleeping quarters, and in other instances for special entertainments given for, and by, officers.

"An elegant shade ..."
Officers' Bowers

The officers of the Continental Army occasionally used bowers, usually in conjunction with tentage used for sleeping quarters; these shades commonly functioned as outdoor office, dining area, and meeting place. Three passages have been found showing Virginia officers using such shades. The earliest occurrence was in June 1776 at Norfolk, where an order was issued for "A Fatigue of a Sergeant and six men to Erect an Arbour over the Commanding Officer's Barracks, as well as the other Officers who may desire it." (In this case it is likely the "Barracks" referred to were tents.)2
While not overtly mentioned in the next two incidents, the use of shades in conjunction with tents is inferred as the army had moved from winter quarters and was encamped. Eleventh Virginia Regiment orders, 27 May 1777: "Camp Middle Brook [New Jersey] ... The Officers of the Regt. are desired to attend tomorrow at 10 OClock at Colonel Febigers Bush Arbour to settle their Ranks." A few months later, in Pennsylvania, Capt. John Chilton, 3d Virginia Regiment, mentioned a similar instance. Chilton jotted down a series of sums in his diary, under which he noted, "The above was furnished by Majr. Wm Washington which I paid him at Colo. Marshalls Arbour 22d. Augt. 1777 Cross roads." The final reference to bowers being used in this manner comes from Joseph Plumb Martin, who related that near West Point in l782 his "captain's marquee had a shade over and round the entrance."3
Alternatively, bowers were constructed to provide a place under which a special entertainment or worship service could take place. One such was constructed during Maj. Gen. John Sullivan's Indian Campaign in September 1779. That bower was used by Brig. Gen. Edward Hand to host an entertainment given for the officers of his brigade on the occasion "of Spain Declaring war against Great Britain and of the late generous Resolution of Congress of raising the Subsistence of Officers & soldiers of the Army." A lieutenant in the 4th Pennsylvania related the circumstances:

The officers of each Brigade assembled and Supped together (excepting Gen. Poors) on their ox and five gallons of spirits and spent the evening very agreeable. The officers of our brigade assembled at a large bower made for that purpose Iluminated with 13 pine [k]not fires round and each officer atended with his bread knife and plate and set on the ground Genl. Hand at the head & Col. Proctor at the foot as his officers suped with us in this manner.4

During the same campaign a more ambitious repast took place in July near Forty-Fort, Pennsylvania. Although described as a "booth," this term was sometimes used to describe various shelters; from the context it is evident a bower was being used.

This day General Poor makes an elegant entertainment for all the officers of his brigade, with a number of gentlemen from other brigades, and from the town. Gen. Hand and his retinue were present. The dining room was a large booth, about eighty feet in length, with a marquee pitched at each end. The day was spent in mirth and jollity. The company consisted of upwards of one hundred.5

The following year, in northern New Jersey, a similar affair was described by a surgeon in Jackson's Additional Regiment: "10th. [July 1780] ... We erected a large arbor, with the boughs of trees, under which we enjoyed an elegant dinner, and spent the afternoon in social glee, with some of the wine which was taken from the enemy when they retreated from Elizabethtown."6

part III, "`The camps ... are as different in their form as the owners are in their dress ...': Shades, Sheds, and Wooden Tents, 1775-1782":
1. "Not a bush to make a shade near [at] hand ...":
Bush Bowers, "Arbours," and "Shades," 1776-1782
2. "An elegant shade ...": Officers' Bowers
3. "The Men employed in making Bowers before their Tents ..."
Shades for Common Soldiers
a. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1777 to 1780
b. Virginia Peninsula, 1781
c. New York, 1782
d. Bowers and British Troops, 1776 and 1781
4. "The troops hutted with Rails and Indian Corn Stocks ..."
Sheds, Planked Huts, and Straw Tents, 1775-1777
“The … roof consists of boughs, or branches … curiously interwoven …”: The “curious edifice” Built at West Point to Celebrate French Dauphin’s Birth,

Messages In This Thread

Soldier Shelter in the Field per Rees
Part iii
Re: Soldier Shelter in the Field pt. IV
Re: Soldier Shelter in the Field pt V
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