Boredom stalked both armies almost as often as did hunger. When not faced with the sheer terror of battle, the days in camp tended to drag endlessly. The sheer tedium of camp life led the men to find recreational outlets. "There is some of the onerest men here that I ever saw," wrote a new recruit, "and the most swearing and card playing and fitin [fighting] and drunkenness that I ever saw at any place."
When not drilling or standing guard, the troops read, wrote letters to their loved ones, and played any game they could devise, including baseball, cards, boxing matches, and cockfights. One competition involved racing lice or cockroaches across a strip of canvas. As hard as most commanders attempted to control vice in camp, both gambling and drinking were rampant, especially after payday. Confederate General Braxton Bragg concurred: "We have lost more valuable lives at the hands of whiskey sellers than by the balls of our enemies."
Army regulations prohibited the purchase of alcohol by enlisted men, and soldiers who violated the rule were punished, but men on both sides found ways around it. Members of a Mississippi company got a half a gallon of whisky past the camp guards by concealing it in a hollowed-out watermelon; they then buried the melon beneath the floor of their tent and drank from it with a long straw. If they could not buy liquor, they made it. One Union recipe called for "bark juice, tar-water, turpentine, brown sugar, lamp oil, and alcohol."
When not drinking or gambling, some men escaped the tedium of daily army life by enjoying "horizontal refreshments," as visiting prostitutes became known. Thousands of prostitutes thronged the cities in the war zones and clustered about the camps. By 1862, for instance, Washington, D.C., had 450 bordellos and at least 7,500 full-time prostitutes; Richmond, as the center of prostitution in the Confederacy, had about an equal number. Venereal disease among soldiers was prevalent and largely uncontrolled. About eight percent of the soldiers in the Union army were treated for venereal disease during the war and a great many cases were unreported; figures for the Confederacy are unavailable, but assumed to be about equal in proportion.