An interesting short report on water during the War by Bob O'Conner, Civil War Examiner posted on November 8, 2015 on http://www.examiner.com/article/fresh-drinking-water-was-scarce-during-the-civil-war?CID=examiner_alerts_article.
Marching along in places they had never been before created a huge challenge to the troops on both sides in the Civil War – finding fresh, drinkable water.
“The Confederate Receipt Book” published in 1863 and which was supposed to say “Recipe Book” actually printed a way for soldiers to make do with the water they found. The book suggested “Dissolve half an ounce of alum in a pint of warm water. Stirring it about in a puncheon of water from the river, all impurities will soon settle to the bottom, and in a day or two it will become quite clear.” Only problem with that advice was that alum was equally scarce, and a thirsty Confederate soldier could hardly wait “a day or two” for the water to “become quite clear”.
There are tales of horrible experiences in seeking fresh water including on that came from the book “Snow’s Pond – The Forgotten Civil War Skirmish in Boone County, Kentucky’s Past” by Daniel D. Dixon, which was published in 1999. Dixon contends that the 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment was camped for three weeks at Snow’s Pond, located in Northern Kentucky in September 1862. The Ohio soldiers camped adjacent to a sinkhole they used as their drinking water source.
Snow’s Pond was covered with several inches of scum which they called “frog spittle”. Much to their surprise, when they had drained the water level several inches from the constant drinking of the soldiers and their animals, they discovered the dead bodies of thirteen mules the Confederates had dumped into the pond when they retreated.
Bad water supplies slowed many an army during the war. Polluted water was also a harbinger of disease. At Andersonville Prison in Georgia, a Confederate prison, a stream flowed through the mass of humanity confined there. But with no latrine facilities, the water was terribly polluted by fecal material. Many a prisoner was saved when a lightning bolt hit the ground outside the prison walls in August 1864, and fresh water gushed forth. The men dubbed the new water source as “Providence Spring” and called it a miracle.
Other soldiers, such as the Union Army led by General Robert Patterson who invaded Virginia in early July 1861, were fortunate to find a water fall at Falling Waters, Virginia where they filled their canteens with cold, fresh water.