Tree Climbing Spikes

In the book Berdan's United States Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac: by Capt. C.A. Stevens, Stevens wrote the following; "On the 28th of April (1862) the Sharpshooters broke camp in the afternoon and as part of the 3d corps marched down the river to the left of the Union army below Fredericksburg, where they arrived during the night and rested under arms. The men were well equipped, carrying 60 rounds of ammunition, eight days rations, overcoats and rubber blankets. Two men in each company were also furnished with climbers, to be used on special occasions in climbing trees."

So what type of climbers did the Sharpshooters have. I believe they would have had logger tree climbing spikes not telegraph pole climbers.

The basic style of telegraph lineman climbers has not changed since the time of the Civil War. The exception being that metal of choice has switched from iron to steel. Improvements in the leathers and buckle arrangements have changed to provide a firm and tight attachment to the leg.

When choosing a pair of climbers one should determine what they would be used for. Trimmed poles would cause a lineman to prefer the short side spikes while a line erected with poles larger than saplings might be climbed with the longer spike variety, since the spikes would have to dig deeper in order to pass through the bark and into the firmer flesh of the pole or tree.

 The climbers with the very long gaffs were for tree climbing to get through the bark, and the short "gaffs" were for trimmed poles. I assume the Sharpshooters would have the "long gaff" type of climbers, probably made by blacksmiths in the area where they had been camped.

Blacksmiths made both types of climbers and therefore there are many variations in style as you can see in the photos below. I have acquired a civil war era set of climbers from a barn in Wisconsin, the iron is still solid but most of the leather has fallen off.