Sibley Tent

Henry H. Sibley (Invented by)1857

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

A conical tent mirroring the buffalo hide tipi of Plains Indians, the Sibley tent was patented in 1856 by West Point graduate and future Confederate general, Henry Hopkins Sibley. First used during the Utah Expedition of 1857-58, the tent saw more extended service during the American Civil War. The 12-foot tall design kept the shelter cool in summer, allowing heat to rise and exit the top while cooler air was drawn in through open flaps at the base. In winter, the interior was warmed by use of a wood-burning, sheet-iron stove placed in the center of the tent with a lightweight metal chimney to draft smoke out of the top. With an 18-foot diameter, it comfortably slept 12 men.

A major drawback to the tent was its great weight. An iron collar and chain assembly bore the weight of the heavy grade canvas, all supported by an iron tripod and wooden staff. This made the large tent unwieldy for active field use. Although nearly 44,000 were used by United States forces during the war, as the conflict continued the cumbersome tents steadily disappeared from field service, being used primarily in camps of instruction, garrisons, and semi-permanent assembly areas. Ironically, Sibley's agreement with the US War Department to receive $5 dollars for every tent made was nullified by his resignation from the army upon the outbreak of the Civil War to serve in the Confederate States Army. He received no royalties on his patent.

Today, only two original Sibley tents are known to exist. One of these is preserved at Shiloh National Military Park, and is the last known Sibley surviving in the Western Hemisphere. Supposedly this tent last served Union troops in Louisiana during 1864 Red River Campaign, where it was abandoned and seized by a local family.

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  • Title: Sibley Tent
  • Creator: Henry H. Sibley (Invented by)
  • Date Created: 1857
  • Contributor: Shiloh National Military Park
  • Park Website: Park Website
  • National Park Service Catalog Number: SHIL 3477
  • Measurements: L 3.66, Dia 5.49 m
  • Material: Canvas