Civil War Painted Tin Canteen

Presented is an original Civil War-era tin canteen. A classic example of the 1858 model “smoothside” canteen, this canteen retains its original pull ring, cork stopper, and linked chain stopper attachment.  The body of one side of the tin canteen was later painted a light blue, with a patriotic US shield at the center. The shield is composed of the blue chief with white stars and thirteen alternating red and white pales. A red painted inscription reads “Co. F 13th Regt. Vt. Vol's.” Many Civil War canteens were kept by Union soldiers after the war and later decorated with their regiment and company numbers for GAR events or company reunions. 

The 13th Vermont Regiment was a nine months infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was raised as a result of President Lincoln's call on August 4, 1862, for additional troops after the disastrous results of the early Peninsula Campaign. The regiment was composed of over 900 volunteers from several counties in Vermont, with those in Company F from the town of Richmond. The 13 Vermont Regiment served in the eastern theater, predominantly in the defense of Washington, from October 1862 to August 1863. In June of 1863, the regiment formed the rear guard of the Army of the Potomac and played a pivotal role in the Union repulse of Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. 

The Model 1858 “smoothside” tin canteen was issued to thousands of Union soldiers during the war. Tin had replaced cedar as the material of choice for canteens in the 1840s. The Model 1858 canteens were made of two semi-spherical pressed tin plates, soldered together, with a pewter mouthpiece and tin reinforcement, and three three loops through which a strap passed. The Model 1858 canteens had a sharper edge, as opposed to the wide, flat circumference of the "drum" canteen that had been issued to Army members in the 1840s. This newer shape was less bulky, and easier to cover with wool cloth, which helped keep the water from warming in the sun.

When the initial contracts for Model 1858 canteens were made, the Philadelphia Depot at Schuylkill Arsenal was the sole supplier of clothing and equipment to the U. S. Army. Yet expansion of the rapidly growing Army led to the opening of three additional major depots, located in New York City, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. The original standard for the Pattern 1858 canteen called for an adjustable leather strap utilizing a small roller buckle. Later designs utilized a cloth webbing for the strap. This canteen has a leather sling, dating it as an earlier model. 

Although unmarked, this 1858 model canteen originated from the New York Depot. Canteens procured through the New York Depot presented with a small hole punched in one of the upper loops, to facilitate the attachment of a metal chain to the stopper. The holes were made with a stamped hole punch, before the loop was soldered to the canteen. The use of chain as an attachment method was only by one depot, New York, as all other depots used twine or fabric instead. Although the chain was obviously a more secure and permanent attachment, it was not adopted by any of the other depots.

In 1862, the canteen model shifted to a concentric ring pattern, with corrugated metal. An July 15, 1862 letter from Colonel Crosman to the Philadelphia Depot asked for the 5,000 smooth sided canteens, already contracted for at 17 cents each, to be delivered “like the sample exhibited at this office except …corrugated with six circular indentations on each side to stiffen and prevent the canteens from bruising.” This pattern evidently proved itself in field use, for the 1865 "Quartermaster's Manual" calls for this as the Army's standard body design, even though only the Philadelphia Depot received canteens of that design during the War.

This fine looking, early Civil War dated US Model 1858 smoothside canteen is a great specimen for any military collection or display. 


This canteen is a fine appearing specimen.  A Model 1858 pressed tin construction, with soldered edges.  Body exhibits only a few shallow dents and scratches. Canteen has a leather sling, pewter spout with expected small distortions along the rim, original pull ring, complete cork stopper, and linked chain stopper attachment. All are in excellent condition, as is the original length of iron chain that secures the cork to the canteen iron strap loop. Cork is original. 

Canteen shows no repairs or alterations beyond the later application of decorative light blue paint to body, a painted US shield with a dark blue chief with white stars and thirteen red and white pales,  and a red painted inscription “Co. F 13th Regt. Vt. Vol's.”  Paint has light chipping and small scratches, and some fading to the red paint. 

Canteen Dimensions: 9.5" H x 7.5" W x 3" D. 

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