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US Civil War Pots & Pans

While looking for appropriate cookware to go with my nearly completed "CASUAL" day skirt and blouse, I came across the following:

"Question: I am with a Boy Scout Venture crew doing frontier and Civil War re-enacting and wondered about the authenticity of cast iron skillets. I find that here was a cast iron works in Mass. as early as 1640 and that they made household utensils. I have also read that cast iron skillets were not used by Civil War soldiers. I can believe that they may have preferred to use lighter weight, stamped steel skillets but not that cast iron was not used at all. Would you be able to enlighten me on this question? Thank you. - Roy A. Miller, Advisor (1/23/01)

Answer: American Civil War-era cookware would probably be tin, steel, iron, copper or silver. Cast-iron and copper pots were probably used. Even Lewis and Clark carried cast-iron cookware on their expedition to the Pacific ocean.

The blue or gray speckled enamelware that is often seen among reenactors is inappropriate for our era of portrayal. This type of cookware was not patented until the 1860s and did not see common use until after the Civil War. Cast iron pots and pans were readily available during our period, but pot shapes and styles were much different that what is currently available. The weight of cast iron gear also made it impractical for use by an army in the field. The most common cooking gear would have been tin. (Actually a sheet iron, plated with tin.) Tin cookware had been in common use throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Similar vessel made of sheet copper would also be appropriate, although it would have been less common due to its expense. Common cookware carried by a soldier could have included a tin cup, a tin boiler of some kind and possibly a small sheet metal fry pan with a forged handle riveted on the pan." See:

From: we read: "Former slave women who had fled to Union lines worked as cooks and laundresses for the Union Army, making good use of the large iron pots they had carried with them when they escaped."

From: "As winter approached in 1862, their manufacturing turned to stove pipes, elbows, caps, dampers, ventilating tubes, etc...These were installed in all the hospitals and officer quarters in and around Dalton. They also supplied the hospitals with large boiling pots for soups, sheet iron baking pans, coffee pots and the like. In 1863, the hospitals in Dalton were filled to capacity. The Machine Guards were supplying the hospitals with such things as cook stoves, dippers, mess pots and pans, wash boilers, tin buckets, candlesticks, lanterns, tin plates, and other assorted goods."

From: "The casting of other items such as pots, pans, skillets, kettles, and stove parts were done using sand molds in the casting shed."

From: "The trials of many of the newly recruited organizations, until the beginning of the third year of the war, are illustrated in the following extract from a typical regimental history: ("History of the Tenth New York Cavalry") Captain Vanderbilt describes in graphic terms his first experience in escort duty (December 10, 1862):

'Please remember that my company had been mustered into the service only about six weeks before, and had received horses less than a month prior to this march; and in the issue we drew everything on the list--watering-bridles, lariat ropes, and pins--in fact, there was nothing on the printed list of supplies that we did not get. Many men had extra blankets, nice large quilts presented by some fond mother or maiden aunt (dear souls), sabers and belts, together with the straps that pass over the shoulders, carbines and slings, pockets full of cartridges, nose bags and extra little bags for carrying oats, haversacks, canteens, and spurs--some of them of the Mexican pattern as large as small windmills, and more in the way than the spurs of a young rooster, catching in the grass when they walked, carrying up briers, vines, and weeds, and catching their pants, and in the way generally--curry-combs, brushes, ponchos, button tents, overcoats, frying-pans, cups, coffee-pots, etc. Now the old companies had become used to these things and had got down to light-marching condition gradually, had learned how to wear the uniform, saber, carbine, etc.; but my company had hardly, time to get into proper shape when "the general" was sounded, "boots and saddles" blown.'

From: We see a large round tin used as these men prepared food for the troops. See this cast iron stove box and chimney from the same page (shown above right.)

To that end, I will look for a large old copper pot, an iron pot with legs and some small tin cups and plates. I expect to begin making dipped candles, using an improvised double-boiler system. That will be my "reenacting" activity, once I've gained more experience.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt      :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

1995-2009 Pat Richley HOME | Ask | Blog Right-click to copy RSS feed URL. Add to My Yahoo BookShelf | ContactLessons | Listen to Podcast media RSS feed
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