Home Politics and Military The Lousey Life of a 10th Vermont Civil War Soldier in Camp

The Lousey Life of a 10th Vermont Civil War Soldier in Camp

And then there was the food...


Herbert George in the fall of 1863 was eager to leave behind his uniform as a soldier in the 10th Vermont regiment and get into lice-free civilian clothes.

A Civil War regimental band

A Civil War regimental band

He was one of four musical brothers who enlisted in the 10th Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

The boys grew up on a farm in Newbury, Vt., with three sisters. Their father, who drank and gambled, wasn’t much of a provider. The boys all left home at a young age, two to farm, two to become telegraph operators.

Charlie and Osman first joined the 10th Vermont in the summer of 1862. Their younger brother Herbert soon followed. Two years later, brother Jere enlisted.

All four brothers joined the regimental band.

A Soldier’s Curse

In November 1863, the 10th Vermont was on the march in Virginia. Herbert wrote home about life as a Civil War soldier. It was lousy – literally.

Writing from camp near Culpeper, Va., Herbert wrote:

Dear folks at home

… While we are in camp I feel just as well contented as I ever did at home but when we are on the march and I get awful tired and can’t stop to rest I feel a little ugly. Some times we are not allowed to get anything to eat in all day and then have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and get our breakfast in the dark. Then is the time when a soldier will curse the rebellion.

The Lousy 10th Vermont

For all that, he wrote, he was glad he hadn’t waited to be drafted because his time was already half up. His health had improved and he dreamt of  home.

But he didn’t want to bring the bugs back home with him. There were plenty:

…If I should be lucky enough to get a furlough next winter should want to go home with decent clothes on, don’t want to wear any home out of the field for they will be lousey. The ground here is covered with old clothes & lice & no man can keep them off only by picking them off when they bite. If we take off any of our clothing nights we have to hitch them to a steak or they will crawl off where we can’t find them. We can drive a pair of pants or a shirt any where with a little patience.

The same, he wrote, was true of their wormy hard tack. “When we fill up our haversacks we have to be careful to put the string over a stump or something to keep them from running away haversack and all Ahem!…”

Such was the life of a soldier, he concluded.

With thanks to “Bully for the Band!”: The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band, edited by James A. Davis. This story was updated in 2023.


Laura A Macaluso
Laura A Macaluso November 22, 2014 - 10:57 pm

Poor Culpeper, VA. Great little Commonwealth town–worthy of having its name spelled correctly!

Cathy Dunphy
Cathy Dunphy November 23, 2014 - 12:28 am

Poor Culpeper, VT is worthy of not being confused with Virginia 🙂

Ambrose Burnside, The Sideburned Civil War Commander Who Didn’t Want The Job - New England Historical Society September 13, 2015 - 3:12 pm

[…] the outbreak of the Civil War, Burnside was appointed colonel of the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry and quickly promoted to […]

Frederick Law Olmsted Plans A Cemetery or a Hundred - New England Historical Society April 26, 2016 - 10:18 am

[…] executive director of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a precursor to the Red Cross, during the Civil War. He administered medical relief, setting up field hospitals and hospital ships and distributing […]

The New England Fat Men's Club - New England Historical Society May 6, 2016 - 8:12 am

[…] the post-Civil War era, clubs were essential to businessmen building their contacts. Some saw an opportunity to […]

How the Civil War Made the Wild Maine Blueberry Go National - New England Historical Society April 28, 2018 - 8:15 am

[…] wild blueberries and sold them commercially, but few knew them outside the region. Then came the Civil War. Sardine canneries lost their Southern markets, so they switched to selling canned blueberries to […]

The New England Fat Men's Club - New England Historical Society January 23, 2020 - 8:02 am

[…] the post-Civil War era, social clubs were essential to businessmen building their contacts. Some saw an opportunity to […]

Comments are closed.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest artciles from the New England Historical Society

Thanks for Signing Up!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Now and Get The Latest Articles. 

It's Free!

You have Successfully Subscribed!