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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Knapsacks :

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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby jf42 » November 11th, 2016, 9:40 am

Generally speaking, from the last quarter of the 18th century, in an English-speaking context, 'knapsack' came to signify the main pack, carried on the back containing the soldier's necessaries, while 'haversack' signified the linen bag, resting on the left hip, that contained soldier's rations.

This is slightly confusing, since, AFIK, 'knapsack' derives from 'snapsack', 'snap' signifying a workingman's food for the day. How 'knapsack' came to represent the main pack while 'haversack' assumed the role of the 'snapsack', assuming that is the case, I am not sure.

'Rucksack' I believe, is German in origin from C19th, meaning 'back pack' as used by skiers and climbers, and was popularised as an English term in the course of the 20th century. The British army term 'Bergen [rucksack]' also derives from that period, and related to Commando operations in Norway and the A-frame design of rucksack adopted from local use.
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby janner » November 11th, 2016, 3:27 pm

Ryggsekk also appears in Norwegian.
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby jf42 » November 11th, 2016, 11:14 pm

janner wrote:Ryggsekk also appears in Norwegian.


Either a direct borrowing, I guess, or cognate with the German, given the two languages are, loosely, related. I believe 'rygg' means 'back' in Norsk.
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby Iain » November 12th, 2016, 6:56 am

Will M wrote:What is the proper terminology for a military pack worn on a soldiers back?
Rucksack and backpack come to mind but in the early 1800's would it be the same?

I googled it and Haversack seems to be correct: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haversack



Hi Will...
In Matthew Clay's narrative he uses the term 'knapsack.'
Arriving on the ridge on the evening of the 17th, he said, quote;
"We marched on until we reached the summit of an eminence in a clover field before us, - there we halted and took off our knapsacks."

..., Iain.
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby jf42 » November 12th, 2016, 10:00 am

jf42 wrote:Generally speaking, from the last quarter of the 18th century, in an English-speaking context, 'knapsack' came to signify the main pack, carried on the back containing the soldier's necessaries, while 'haversack' signified the linen bag, resting on the left hip, that contained soldier's rations.

This is slightly confusing, since, AFIK, 'knapsack' derives from 'snapsack', 'snap' signifying a workingman's food for the day. How 'knapsack' came to represent the main pack while 'haversack' assumed the role of the 'snapsack', assuming that is the case, I am not sure.


Having thought about this a little more, it occurs to me that the term 'knapsack' for the soldier's main pack probably dates from the period when all his impedimenta were slung from one shoulder or another. As a result of campaign experience in North America during the 1750s, the infantry started to wear their 'knapsacks' on their backs, suspended from two shoulder straps, an innovation learned from the Indians and colonists which we take for granted today.

Given that the terms 'knapsack' and 'haversack' both originally designated bags to carry food*, the evolution of 'knapsack' into a general term for a soldier's pack, probably did not relate to specific meaning ; military terminology often being notoriously imprecise.

('*haver-' probably relates to an old word for oatmeal- see the nickname of the 33rd (2nd West Riding Regiment- 'The Havercake Lads')
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby janner » November 13th, 2016, 9:05 am

jf42 wrote:
janner wrote:Ryggsekk also appears in Norwegian.


Either a direct borrowing, I guess, or cognate with the German, given the two languages are, loosely, related. I believe 'rygg' means 'back' in Norsk.


It's seemingly not a borrowing from German, but comes from the Old Norse, hryggr, which is linked to the Old English, hrycg. Hence the use of 'ruck' for suffering a spinal injury in English.

Anyway, back to the 19th century :D
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby Iain » November 13th, 2016, 10:02 am

Hi All…

I’ve turned every page of Siborne’s book and found nothing.
https://archive.org/details/waterlooletterss00sibo

As this image looks as if it’s the type of letter sent by the officers who participated in the battle; perhaps there’s another book containing copies of the original letters ? (problem is that the page does not indicate the name of the writer)

This is important (for as long as my old-script reading is correct) as it shows that it was not just the Coldstreamers who prepared the defences.
Note: John has already mentioned that Capt. Evelyn was part of an advance party when the Light Company left the ridge. This was obviously those who had not unrolled their bivouac blankets. He and Corporal George Cadwallder then went on to command a small party who even entered the wood.
Finding that the wood was filled to the brim with Germans..., would he have returned to a soggy lane for the night (via the open south gate) or perhaps have voluntered his services to loophole the walls ?

Regards…, Iain.
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby Iain » November 15th, 2016, 3:31 pm

Hi All…
A friend sent me the following message concerning the letter/sketch.

Sketch by Lieutenant. Charles Fairfield of Hougoumont defences (1836). Add MS 34706, f. 130r

Is published in: Letters from the Battle of Waterloo: Unpublished Correspondence by Allied Officers from the Siborne Papers. By Gareth Glover.
Letter #111, pages 174 & 175.

NB: Fairfield of course was not present at Waterloo. The contents of his pages to Siborne were hear-say from other officers who were present.
http://blogs.bl.uk/untoldlives/2015/06/
Last edited by Iain on July 7th, 2017, 4:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby 348 White » July 6th, 2017, 8:37 pm

jf42 wrote:
jf42 wrote:
('*haver-' probably relates to an old word for oatmeal- see the nickname of the 33rd (2nd West Riding Regiment- 'The Havercake Lads')


33rd was the 1st West Riding of Yorkshire Regiment, the 51st was the 2nd West Riding of Yorkshire Regiment.
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Re: Knapsacks :

Postby jf42 » July 7th, 2017, 5:39 am

Whoops. Indeed. Rooky error. Thanks :geek:
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