Petersburg Latrine Management

Soldier Latrine among the Petersburg entrenchments (Library of Congress)

While expanding my search for more source material on the VI Corps at Petersburg, I found an old auction listing for detailed instructions to improve the sanitation in their fortified camps during the early stage of the campaign. Such descriptions were not as frequently mentioned as the food, shelter, and pastimes that filled soldiers’ letters home, so I thought I’d transcribe the orders here for educational posterity.

Head Quarters 2d Div 6th Corps

June 28th 1864

Circular

Brigade Commanders will place the camps of their Regiments sufficiently in rear of the Rifle Pits to leave a space of at least 30 feet between the tents and the line of pits. Fresh earth will be thrown in the present sinks every morning directly after Reveille, and new ones dug as often as may be necessary. The greatest attention will be paid to the burial of all offal. The refuse of the kitchen will be buried in front of the Rifle Pits, and all camps policed immediately after Reveille. The Division Inspector will examine the camps of each Brigade daily and report any neglect of this order.

By Order of Brig. Genl. Wheaton

(sd) Hazard Stevens

A. A. Genl.

The irony of Hazard Stevens, in his role as adjutant, writing out the instructions to discard kitchen waste in between the lines stood out in particular to me given that I frequently quote a complaint he had after the VI Corps’ decisive Breakthrough assault the following April: “Moreover, the enemy had placed some of their sinks in front of the abatis and stakes, so that attacking troops would have to break their lines in order to avoid falling into these filthy holes.” (Hazard Stevens, “The Storming of the Lines of Petersburg by the Sixth Corps April 2, 1865,” in Personal Narratives of Events in the War of the Rebellion, Being Papers Read Before the Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society, Volume 6, Number 8, Providence, RI: Snow & Farnham, 1904, 15-16.)

About Edward Alexander

Edward Alexander is a freelance cartographer at Make Me a Map, LLC. He is a regular contributor for Emerging Civil War and the author of Dawn of Victory: Breakthrough at Petersburg.
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3 Responses to Petersburg Latrine Management

  1. John Foskett says:

    This is the sort of interesting and important contribution that is typical of the ECW site. Thanks.

  2. dmpatteson says:

    I have heard the term “camp sink.” Does this refer to where they buried their food scraps or the offal?

  3. mark harnitchek says:

    i am wondering why kitchen waste was buried in front of the rifle pits … seems sort of dangerous for those doing the digging.

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