George Washington's Camp Chest

Armies on campaign must carry with them much besides their weapons. At the time of the American Revolutionary War (1776-1781), various boxes and chests transported soldier's individual effects, wardrobes, official military payrolls, and other necessities. Camp chests or canteens as they were called in the 18th century, carried utensils and cooking apparatus to be used by officers and their staff when in the field during campaigns.
George Washington's well-appointed personal camp chest, or "mess kit," enabled him to dine in a manner reflecting his position as commander of the Continental Army. Two sets of leather covered canteens, or camp chests, were bought by General Washington, on May 3, 1776. Another set of "canteens" captured on a British prize ship were sent for Washington's use in October 1778. By 1782, General Washington's camp equipage which included canteens, tents, tables, traveling beds, and various other field equipment, was so extensive that he had to request that two horses, "natural pacers," be selected by the Quartermaster General, Timothy Pickering, just to carry the General's camp chests.
We do not know which of the several camp chests belonging to Washington is in our collections; however, this example is complete with all original utensils. It contains tin plates and platters, tin pots with detachable wooden handles, glass containers for condiments such as salt, pepper, and sugar, as well as knives and forks with dyed black ivory handles. The chest also contains a tinder box, candle stand, and folding gridiron.
Currently not on view
Object Name
mess kit
camp chest
Date made
Washington, George
Physical Description
green (overall color)
cloth (overall material)
leather (overall material)
brass (overall material)
iron (overall material)
wood (overall material)
tin (plates and platters material)
glass (containers material)
overall: 10 3/4 in x 21 1/4 in x 14 in; 27.305 cm x 53.975 cm x 35.56 cm
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
accession number
American Revolution
Revolution and the New Nation
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Military
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

7/18/2013 2:47:32 PM
i think this chest is awsome! i love these objects about george washington. i want to learn about him in 6th grade.
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