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The waterproof leather knapsack was an item common to every foot soldier in the first years of the war. A leather-wrapped blanket roll was strapped to the top, and inside a soldier carried every bit of spare clothing he might have; his tin cup, plate, fork, and spoon; extra ammunition; and any personal items he might want to keep with him. As they lost more items and as regulations relaxed, many soldiers abandoned these sacks later in the war and took to carrying all their possessions in a simple blanket roll carried over their shoulders.

When nations go to war, they must make sure companies and factories produce clothing and equipment for their soldiers for as long as the fighting lasts. During America's Civil War, factories in the North did just that, producing blue wool uniforms, rifles, pistols, swords, ammunition, and camp equipment, as well as tools to repair all these things. To make the items quickly, they used standardized parts and many workers to mass-produce them. In the Confederate states, there were fewer factories and workers, so the South's fighting men often went into battle wearing homemade uniforms and carrying weapons imported from Europe or brought from arsenals in their hometowns. In the first years of the war, Southerners discovered their handmade clothing and imported rifles were just as good as those made in Northern factories. When these things wore out or broke, though, there was little or nothing with which to replace them. Many of the Confederate troops ended the war wearing rags and carrying weapons taken from Union army prisoners.

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