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Other uses for your canteen
from the book,

Corporal Si Klegg and his Pard, Shorty
by Lt.Col. Wilbur F. Hinman, 65th OVI

The uses of the canteen were manifold. Its chief duty as a factor in the war was the transportation of water, although it was found equally adapted to carrying some other things. It came handy to the forager for milk, cider or molasses. In very rare instances it was also used for liquids of a more vigorous and searching character than any of these - for now and then a man found his way into the army who was not a member in good standing of a temperance society.

A peculiarity of the canteen was that its usefulness did not end when it was no longer fit to serve in its legitimate sphere. The old canteens were eagerly sought after by the soldiers. The old canteen was thrown into the fire and the heat soon melted the solder by which the halves were joined, and the soldier found himself in possession of two tin basins eight or ten inches across and in the center abut two inches deep. One of these he carried day after day in his haversack. It was not often that the latter was of full of provisions that there was not plenty of room for it. Its weight was nothing, and he found it useful in ways that the man who made it never thought of.

The government forgot to supply the soldiers with washbasins, and the half-canteen made a convenient substitute. It was a trifle small, it is true, but by being frequently replenished it answered the purpose admirably. After the man had finished his ablutions he would rinse it out with a dash of water - or if he was too hungry to do this it was a matter of small moment - split the end of a stick for a handle, and he had a frying-pan - a prime article. Tons and tons of the flesh of swine were fried in the half-canteen, not to mention the pieces of chicken and the succulent vegetables that were in this way prepared for eating. If he drew coffee in a "raw" state, the half-canteen was an excellent roaster. Now and then it came handy for cooking "flapjacks," when he chanced to get hold of something of which to make them. In the Fall, when the corn in the fields was hardening, he took a half-canteen, stabbed it full of holes with his bayonet, from the inside, and the convex surface made an excellent grater, and a dish of "samp" relieved the ever lasting monotony of regulation diet. Even ripe corn was thus grated into a sort of meal from which mush and indescribable cakes were fearfully and wonderfully made.

Indeed, for months at a time, a half-canteen and an old fruit-can, in which to boil coffee, comprised his entire culinary "kit." They were simple but they were enough, and in their possession he was happy. The nice coffee-pot and frying-pan that he once owned had long since succumbed to the vicissitudes of army life.

Sometimes the veteran found himself suddenly placed in a position where he wanted something between himself and the muskets of the enemy, and he wanted it right off. There was no time to send back to the rear for picks and shovels. With a bayonet to loosen the dirt, he scratched out a hole with his half-canteen, and, with the aid of a log or two or three rails or a few stones, against which he threw the earth, he had a safe protection from bullets. In this way a line of experienced skirmishers would burrow into the ground and almost disappear from sight with a quickness that was amazing.

Illustrations of the clever uses of the old canteen might be almost indefinitely multiplied.

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Last updated 24 February 2000 at 2100 hrs.

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