It has often been said of the Civil War
soldier that life consisted of moments of
sheer terror followed by months
of sheer boredom. For the garrisoned
soldier, it tended more towards boredom.
For many Union garrisons occupying
Clarksville, daily rituals consisted of
guarding the Memphis, Clarksville &
Louisville Railroad, the Hopkinsville
Turnpike, and the river. Soldiers also
checked citizen passes, handled supplies,
and drilled. Some were dispatched around
Montgomery County on anti-guerrilla
patrols and were subject to attack by
Confederate cavalry. The rest of the time
was spent writing letters home, playing
cards, repairing personal items and
equipment, and cooking.
Officers often resided in homes or hotels
in town. Enlisted troops on the grounds
at Stewart College and at the fort lived
in tents or small huts of chinked logs.
Huts typically had a door at one end and a
chimney at the other. A tent canvas usually
served as a roof, but if the tools were
available, a wooden roof might be added
Soldiers frequently added a wooden
floor and a window. Latrines (toilets)
consisted of trenches dug in the ground
away from the living quarters.
Food supplies, often tainted, lacked
variety and nutrition. Safe drinking
water was not always available. Living
conditions were generally unsanitary.
With so many men living in close
quarters, diseases and infections were
easily spread. Illnesses, including
measles, colds, influenza, eye infections
and dysentery, put hundreds of men into
hospitals and graves. The average soldier
believed the bullet was his greatest
danger, but disease was actually the
biggest killer of the war. In the Union
army, nearly three out offive deaths were
from disease, while in the Confederate
army, disease was responsible for two out
every three deaths.