Army Bed Sacks.


Army Bed Sacks.

Army Bedsacks 
by NJ Sekela 
©2003 NJ Sekela

The topic of field use of Army bedsacks came up in a recent discussion, and having had encountered some of the information, it was thought prudent to share the perspective with customers of Skilletlicker products. As will be shown below, bedsacks, or bed ticks, were indeed issued at the outset of the war, to soldiers by some states, but later in the war, the only instances of issuance by the federal government was to hospitals and prisoners of war.

The 14th and 15th New Jersey infantry was indeed issued bedsacks, as it is noted in the NJ QM Gen report. It listed among the holdings of the state's clothing, camp and garrison equipage, and materials in store, in the state arsenal on the 1st of January 1862. 809 bedsacks. It also lists for the following regiments:

Fourteenth Regiment

980 bed sacks,
32 wall tents and flies
62 sibley tents
28 servants tents
3 Hospital tents

Fifteenth Regiment

935 bedsacks
34 wall tents and flies
63 sibley tents
29 servants’ tents
3 hospital tents

Of note, in another section for regimental supplies, they include for the Fourteenth Regiment 5 bed ticks, 5 pillow ticks, 13 cases hospital supplies. The Fifteenth Regiment does not list any pillow or bed ticks for their hospital supplies. Further research into the field use of bedsacks by the Fifteenth regiment, only yielded the following mention on page 41 of the regimental history, in reference to the army being reoutfitted prior to the Salem Church/Chancellorsville campaign:

“Almost the first step in the work of improving their condition was the regard shown for the sick. Additional hospital tents were provided, with a full supply of blankets and straw for bedding. 

In searching the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, there was no instances of field usage of bedsacks encountered. There were, however, several mentions of use by hospitals and prisoners of war.

The hospital use noted was as follows:

O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XL/1 page 80
JUNE 13-JULY 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 8.--Report of Surg. Edward B. Dalton,
U.S. Army, Chief Medical Officer of Depot Field Hospital, including operations June 14-December 31, 1864.

“The purveying department met all necessary demands with promptness and liberality. Nothing really essential to the care of the wounded was wanting. Bedsacks and blankets were supplied without stint, although for a time bedsteads were dispensed with, excepting in the severer cases, a large proportion of the patients being placed upon sacks amply rifled with straw and arranged upon the ground beneath the tents. “

O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME X/2 [S# 11]
Appendix -- Embracing communications received too late for insertion in proper sequence.
Major-General BUELL:

The Forty-ninth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Colonel Ray, at Cumberland Ford, has been reduced more than one-half by sickness; they only have 220 officers and men reported for duty out of 900. This sickness is daily increasing, and their camp is in an unhealthy location. They can get no supplies such as sick men can eat and but little for well men. There is nothing within 80 miles of them, not even straw or hay to fill bed-ticks for their sick, who are compelled to lay on the ground. Will you please order the regiment to Lexington, where they can get supplies and be properly cared for? Both General Carter and surgeon recommend it. Humanity and justice demand that this should be done.

Please answer immediately, as I desire to take immediate steps for their relief.
Governor of Indiana.

O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/1 [S# 12]
March 17-September 2, 1862.
No. 10. -- Report of Surgeon Charles S. Tripler, U.S. Army, Medical Director, Army of the Potomac, of operations from March 17 to July 3.

"This being the new base of operations, it was necessary to establish a general hospital there. There were no buildings at all fit for the purpose, so to meet present necessities I resorted to the use of tents. A detail was ordered to pitch them. It was sluggishly furnished and most inefficient when it reported. Under the superintendence of Brigade Surgeon Baxter, one of the best officers in the service, with 150 men we succeeded in two days' work in getting but 34 tents pitched. At the end of four days 100 were ready--all we could command. Cooking caldrons were got in readiness, subsistence procured, bed-sacks filled, &c., without delay"

There are considerably more instances and mentionings of use by prisoners of war, as well as that in permanent military installations.


At present there is no proper hospital organization. The surgeon in charge of the hospitals for the troops at Elmira visits daily the prisoners' camp. He had as an assistant to look especially after the prisoners a young man, lately a medical cadet, recently contracted with, and not a suitable person to organize or control a hospital such as will be needed. I found the sick, fortunately but few, in no way suitably provided for except as for shelter; diet not suitable; some without bedsacks; blankets scarce.

On Page 46, it states:

The surgeon in charge complained with justice of the perplexities arising from the delay in furnishing the supplies, particularly the straw for bedsacks. The commanding officer, while maintaining the incorrectness of these complaints, admitted the tardiness of the quartermaster. The quartermaster justified himself by asserting the scarcity of lumber and straw, an excuse, it seems to me, which can be hardly sustained in that region of New York, in close proximity to the lumber and grain districts and on the lines of canals and the great Erie railway.


On Page 47, it states:

Col. B. F. TRACY, Commanding Post:

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following inspection report of the condition of the prisoners of war at this station for the week ending November 24, 1864:

Conduct, fair; cleanliness, good; clothing, insufficient; bedding, want some blankets, no bedsacks are supplied; state of quarters, police good, putting up wooden buildings in place of tents; state of mess-houses, good; state of kitchen, good; food, quality of, legal allowance; food, quantity of, beef very lean; water, good and plenty; sinks, good; police of grounds, good for the season, some mud; drainage, good: police of hospital, fair; attendance of sick, good, with the exception of guard-house, no regular provision for sick there; hospital diet, good and full supply of vegetables; general health of prisoners, large number sick; vigilance of guard, good.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Twenty-ninth Maine Vols., Acting Inspecting Officer.


On Page 48, it states:

Remarks and suggestions.--I would respectfully recommend that during the winter months the ration of meat be increased two ounces. A ration that is sufficient in this climate in summer is not enough in winter. I would also respectfully recommend that bedsacks be issued to the prisoners, as a sufficient amount of bedding could thus be furnished them at a less expense than by the issue of blankets. Many of the prisoners have only one blanket, which will not keep them comfortable during the winter months.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


First Lieut., Eighth Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps,

Special Inspector Camp Douglas.


Remarks and suggestions.--Many of the prisoners apply for permission to purchase bedsacks. I have the honor to inquire whether their application can be granted.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General and Insp. Officer.

On Page 11 it states:

37 BLEECKER STREET, New York, February 20, 1865.

General W. HOFFMAN,

Commissary-General of Prisoners, Washington, D.C.:

GENERAL: General Beall calls my attention to two requisitions for supplies for prisoners received from Johnson's Island and Fort Warren, in which bedsacks are included, and requests that these be furnished by the U.S. authorities. I am not informed as to the rule adopted by the War Department, but suppose the general will not be required to furnish the bedsacks. If I am right allow me to ask you to give the proper instructions in these cases.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

As noted in SERIES III--VOLUME II [S# 123], CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, REPORTS, AND RETURNS OF THE UNION AUTHORITIES FROM APRIL 1 TO DECEMBER 31, 1862, pagte 25, the government was paying $1.06 for single bedsacks and $1.13 for double. On page 33 of volume II, the noted the following volume on hand from April 1st, to December 31, 1862, as being

Statement of issues from the manufacturing and purchasing depots, and by the States of Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, and Wisconsin,(a) during the fiscal year 1861-62, and the amount remaining on hand at the principal depots June 30, 1862.

    Depots Pennsylvania New York Iowa Wisconsin Total On hand June 30, 1862
  Hospital tents "5,064" 30 .... .... .... "5,094" "1,391"
  Hospital tents "25,391" 918 804 .... "1,566" "28,679" "2,566"
  Sibley tents "41,266" 327 .... .... 60 "41,653" "7,949"
  Common tents "58,751" "4,430" "3,013" .... 6 "66,200" "17,135"
  D'abri tents "82,565" .... .... .... .... "82,565" "2,643"
  Marquee tents .... .... .... .... .... .... 37
  Bell tents "4,466" .... .... .... .... "4,466" 751
  Boston tents "1,000" .... .... .... .... "1,000" ....
  Pentagon tents 164 .... .... .... .... 164 ....
  Tent stoves "22,994" 222 .... .... .... "23,216" "18,973"
  "Bedsacks, single" "78,216" .... "4,481" .... 644 "83,341" "19,542"
  "Bedsacks, double" "43,579" .... .... .... .... "43,579" "10,864"










FROM MAY 1, 1865, TO THE END.Page 11

Monthly statement of camp and garrison equipage reported on hand at the various clothing depots on June 30, 1865.


  Articles of equipage. New York Philadelphia Cincinnatti Saint Louis Washington Boston New Orleans Baltimore
  Bedsacks, single 62,642 1,363







  Bedsacks, double 3,006 26,692








In 1993, while doing research on Shelter tents, I ran found the following contract proposal. It was housed among the records in the Philadelphia regional Branch of the National Archives. The proposal is interesting and contains comments later written by Col Crosman as it was passed up the line. The following is a transcription of this contract proposal:


Page one of contract proposal  


Chicago, March 8th, 1864

Captain J.A. Potter, AGM

Washington DC

Dear Sir:


Upon the writers return he found for had called to and him + left a request for some definite proposals.

We will make for 1,000 wall tents or 20,000 for desire at $62 eash to be made of the best quality of 10 oz duck - in tent + 8 oz duck in flys. devliered in Chicago, St. Louis or Cinicinatti. And we may posibloy be able to go a little lower when you return.

Shelter Tents are being made much heavier than formerly. They are using a duck 7½ to 8 oz ¾ inch of very infeior make. Teh last letting in NYork was $5.30 complete. We will make at that price + try to do better. Indeed my impresssion is we will make wall tents at $60 and shelter tents $5.30.

If the enclosed sample will answer, I can make you beticks, single, containing 7 yds at $1.92. + double 9 yards at 2.40 each.

We wish to disaback the QM Genl amid on one point, he says in respects to all

offered on our part & finished at Eastern prices - so Mr. Arnold suggests, thus we have to buy our goods in New York & pay the frt to Chicago as therefor welcome now do as we can

Allow me to say, that the New York men have to guy thier goods. THEY DO NOT MAKE THEM. & we can contract with a mill to run 10,000 yards per day for us. just as cheap as Theodore Polhemus does or Jewitt or Slade - and the cost of transporting goods fromt he best New England mills to Chicago in so greater than to Phildelphia to us & very little more than to New York. Again, we can do the work cheaper than they can on the tents.

The poles and pins can get made at Regulation prices here. Save fright.

Trusting you will give us an order,


Very Respectfully,

Gilbert Hubber & co.





Contract proposalRespectufally entered to the AQM General.


The material for tents is good and such as being used here. The prices for wall and shetler tetns are too hgih under the circumstances of a falling cotton market.

When last awards were made at New York, from cotton duck wall tent, a

t $58.93. Feb 20th, and here for ehslter tents of cotton duck, 16th Fed? (see these award(s)) cotton was selling in the market at 84 to 85 cetns per pound. It is quoted to day at 77 cents only; which makes a different s of $2.36 in the cost of the material for a wall tent, and fly. and about 21 cents in that for a shelter tent. The sample enclosed for bedsacks is a very INFERIOR articles, and not suitable for the purpose.



March 15/64.

Gilbert Hubbard & Co.

Chicago March 8.64

Proposal to make twenty thousand wall tents at $60 or $62 dollars and shelter tents at 5.20 or 5.20 each also bedsacks single 1.92 doulbe 2.40

Enclosed samples.

4 Enclosures

Answerde March 19, 1864.
Respectfully refused to Col Geo. H. Crosman adjt. QM for purposes of price & material .

Ticking fabric submitted

This article was published on Tuesday 29 March, 2022.
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