n an era when personal hygiene was at best indifferent (at least by today's standards) soldiers in the field had little enough to keep themselves clean and tidy. Soap, like the big bar at the top right, could be made from lye (an alkaline liquid obtained by leaching wood ash) and burn the skin. Tooth powders and tooth paste were crude and abrasive, while toothbrushes lost their bristles easily. Razors lost their edge and had to be
stropped regularly, so that many men opted for beards, instead. Combs were made from ivory, bone or guttapercha. The white cotton or linen towels were a genuine rarity, and all such sanitary items proved scarce after 1861; indeed, in the South they became almost collectors' items. However, for many soldiers, such conditions and equipment were little worse than would have been available to them at home.
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