Civil War Field Desk
This month’s featured artifact is a Civil War-era field desk. Even in the field during times of war, Soldiers needed the ability to complete the various forms of paperwork required to requisition supplies, give and receive orders, pen letters home, and otherwise engage in written correspondence. A portable desk such as this would have served as a suitable workstation in the absence of a traditional office.
When closed, this field desk resembles a wooden suitcase, featuring a largely wooden (pine) exterior, with brass corner protectors, hinges, handle, and key. Opened, it has a writing surface covered with black felt that can be lifted to reveal compartments underneath. There is a slot along the upper edge for items such as pens and pencils, and a square glass inkwell at each end. While some field desks contained an array of square slots convenient for filing paperwork, this simpler design was mostly useful as a writing surface.