By David A. Welker; firstname.lastname@example.org
There has been considerable confusion over the years about just how Union infantrymen marked their individual equipment during the war. This has led some to assume that every soldier marked their gear in a uniform way; others that soldiers often personalized equipment by elaborately embroidering or painting items; still others declare that soldiers simply didn’t mark gear at all.
My research suggests that many soldiers did mark their gear (sometimes entire companies or regiments together) but perhaps even more men did not, despite what official army documents indicated. US Regulars were probably more likely to mark equipment according to these guidelines, and probably used a variety of methods—chiefly writing in ink or carving/scratching with a knife—marking gear often in a variety of locations, usually somewhere that only the soldier himself could see. These diverse marking styles and locations probably were duplicated throughout the volunteer ranks.
What evidence stands behind these conclusions and how did Union soldiers mark their individual equipment during the Civil War?
First, a couple of basics…
It’s important to know a few facts of mid-Nineteenth Century US Army life before addressing the question at hand. These facts are important because knowing them helps us understand what the army did and why, as well as helping (sometimes) to understand what they didn’t do or why the army wasn’t clearer about explaining marking.
With this understood, let’s move on the issue at hand – how did Union soldiers mark their gear?
Official Army documents help, but…
Official documents explicitly indicate that individual soldier equipment should be marked but in most instances, fails to indicate precisely where on the item or how this was to be done. According to these documents, markings on personal items (canteens, haversacks, knapsacks, etc.) should include the soldier’s regiment, company, and his individual “soldier number.” Arms and accoutrements should include a letter or number (perhaps the company letter and soldier number, but it remains unclear). How and where backpacks should be marked is clear and explicit, while marking of haversacks is detailed but confusing.
The Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1861 notes that “Every article, exempting arms and accoutrements, belonging to the regiment, is to be marked with the number and name of the regiment” and that “Such articles as belonging to companies are to be marked with the letter of the company, and number and name of the regiment; and such as belong to men, with their individual numbers, and the letter of the company.” 
Kautz’s The Company Clerk notes that the “Register of Public Property Issued to Soldiers is kept…for purposes of keeping an account of the arms and accoutrements issued to soldiers. When the articles are numbered or lettered, the number or letter should [written] be under the heading…” 
Soldier accounts confirm these marking practices, partly…
For most soldiers, marking equipment was a minor event which—assuming it happened—usually went unremarked upon in diaries or letters. One notable exception is the 12th US’s Charles T. Bowen, whose account backs up some of what was recorded in official documents.
Physical artifacts add more detail.
Surviving examples of Civil War infantry gear suggest that marking occurred but was hardly universal because many—perhaps most—items available today bear no markings at all. My hands-on review of infantry equipment in Gettysburg National Battlefield’s extensive collection reinforces this and indicates the diverse range of marking locations and methods. It also suggests that official document guidelines were followed in spirit, but not in detail. Although most items in Gettysburg’s collection were unmarked, those that were are listed below, identified by Gettysburg’s collection item number.
#9483 – “H.W.” carved on back of the box
#28359 – “R. Nece” stamped on the inside flap
#29344 – “C.N.” carved on the center back of box
#9058 – “B.F.” carved and “BFurrey” written upside down in ink on inner flap.
#13591 – “HK 14” carved on outside flap.
#31938 – “Co G 5” stenciled and “R.Qui” written in pencil on inside flap.
#134 – “J” (or T) carved upside down in cursive script on the inside flap
#329321 – “W.Z.” carved on outside front
#5923 – “C.I. Co B 55” carved on front
#29296 – “8” (or 68) written in pencil on back
#29772 – “JWW” stamped in the back, center
#10468 – “ED” and “JC” carved on front
#11802 “HS” written in ink on the back
#38565 – “John Smith” written in ink on front; “TH” written below
#27714 – “LFK” scratched on the neck/spout
#38561 – “T. MCNAMAR” scratched on the neck/spout
#28229 – “ENL” faintly stitched in blue or black thread on cover
No haversacks in the Gettysburg collection bore soldier markings.
Below are different types of soldier markings on surviving items, which include:
Knapsack Markings: An example of a backpack marked per Regulations guidelines:
 August V. Kautz The Company Clerk (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1865), Sec. 100, p. 50. Kautz emphasizes the importance of accounting for and returning soldier gear; “Articles which are issued to the soldiers…when lost or destroyed by their neglect are entered against their pay… If the articles are lost or injured by the neglect of any one, they (the sergeants) must report to whom they are to be charged, or else they will be charged to themselves.”
 Also included in this list—but not or rarely marked and beyond our topic—are swords and scabbards, picks (issued with cap boxes), Cartridge box plates (US and breast plates), waist belt US plates, and various musket tools.
 US War Department Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1861. (Philadelphia; J.G.L. Brown, Printer, 1861), Article XII, pp. 19-20. Kautz The Company Clerk, Sec. 41, pp. 27-30.
 Revised Regulations, Article XIII (Companies): Sections 110-111., p. 22.
 Revised Regulations, Section 112, p. 23.
 Kautz The Company Clerk, Section 27, p. 27.
 Edward K. Cassedy, ed. Dear friends at home: The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Sergeant Charles T. Bowen, Twelfth United States Infantry 1861-1864 (Baltimore, Butternut and Blue, 2001), p. 55.
 George A. Myrick, 30th New York Infantry, Co. E, cartridge box. Private collection.
 Paul D. Johnson Civil War Cartridge Boxes of the Union Infantryman (Lincoln, RI; Andrew Mowbray Publishers, 1999), Joseph M. Crippen, 1st Minnesota, Co. K, cartridge box, back cover photograph.
 Civil War Times, August 2016, p. 72.
[11 Dave Taylor’s Civil War Antiques; www.angelfire.com/oh3/civilwarantiques/1stnov2010webcat.html.
 Union Drummer Boy Antiques; https://uniondb.com/products/civil-war-union-bullseye-canteen.
Revised Regulations, Article XII, pp. 19-20. http://www.icollector.com/U-S-CIVIL-WAR-BACKPACK-13_i17545113.
 Revised Regulations, Article XII, pp. 19-20. http://www.icollector.com/U-S-CIVIL-WAR-BACKPACK-13_i17545113.