Civil War Wood Compass
The American Civil War between the northern and southern sections of the United States, which began in April 1861 and came to an end in the last days of April 1865, was a sweeping struggle that encompassed thousands of miles and employed vast numbers of men. The nature of the country and the enormous distances to be traversed undoubtedly prolonged the duration of the conflict.
Since steam locomotives of the day offered limited options, the most efficient method of transporting troops from one scene of action to another was by foot. Long forced marches were typical. When the order came down to cook 3 days worth of rations, the soldiers knew to expect a long march. Often a man would eat the 3 days rations before his march began; it was easier to carry the food in his stomach than in his haversack. Every company coveted the honor of marching at the head of the column because it meant the rest of the regiment had to march in your dust instead of the other way around.
Marches lasted all day, and the troops covered distances of at least 7-12 miles, sometimes more. The fortunate soldiers had footgear, albeit uncomfortable; but as the war dragged on, many had no shoes at all. Usually the soldier would march for 50 minute intervals with a 10 minute rest between. At each stop, he prayed for a nearby well where he could fill his canteen. Only an occasional passerby broke the monotony of the trek. Marches extended until well after dark and when the company stopped, the tired soldier often just dropped his gear, laid down, and fell asleep, not bothering to formally pitch camp. Dawn would bring another day's long march.
Throughout the ceaseless warfare, the compass was an invaluable navigational tool that enabled leaders to coordinate movements between marching troops. On cloudy days or in the middle of the day when the sun did not provide clear direction or on cloudy nights without the benefit of the stars, the compass ensured the troops did not get lost. Already tired men did not face the frustration of wandering in circles. In unfamiliar countryside, the shortest and most direct route could be taken to the next battle site, and the troops could avoid inadvertently stumbling over enemy lines.
Fully functional compass in brass-hinged wood case. Meets CPSIA safety standards.