So what did they wear? - Uniforms of the Confederate Regular Army
By Arthur T. Green II
Determining exactly what types of clothing (uniforms) were worn and issued to confederate soldiers has been debated for years. In fact it’s still a hot topic for discussion. There have been great strides in recent years sorting all this out but there will always be those open unanswered questions. That being said, in determining what soldiers of the Regular Army wore, we must keep in mind the clothing issue was done through any one of the official Government facilities i.e. The Depots. The individual states were not required or responsible to clothe members of the Regular Army. The states were initially responsible to clothe the state Militia units. Upon mustering in they came with the clothes on their back and drew their issue from the appropriate command.
Regulations were not set for the Regular Army until June 6th 1861, and it is believed that those complicated uniforms, of double breasted “tunics” in cadet gray, were few and far between in the enlisted ranks, if at all ever issued. What seems to have emerged almost immediately was the short round about “shell” jacket with either 9 or 8 button fronts. Depending on the Depot that was constructing the uniforms, some would have been produced with or without shoulder straps, belt loops, and a colored service trim. They seem to have all put their own sort of “spin” on the type of jacket produced. This was usually due to availability of material on hand. Material ranged from wool to jean cloth. Colors ranged from Cadet gray to various browns, tans and olives of natural dyes that rapidly changed color due to oxidation from the sun and the weather. Large quantities of English Blue gray wool material even made its way into some of the depots mid to late war.
Dress regulations called for Light blue trousers. Evidence suggests they were produced up till 1864 and were in a pattern common in those days as “work” trousers. But usually trousers were cut from the same material on hand as the jackets. The Richmond Depot was one of the locations where the Sky / Medium blue trousers were produced.
Headgear was to be in the form of a “forage” cap in the pattern known as a French Kepi, made in branch of service color with a navy blue band. Note: originally the kepi’s were to be Navy Blue with a band of branch of service color. This was changed to the previous style, of which there are surviving examples but like the trousers, many kepis were produced with what ever material was on hand, some with or without branch of service trim.
So now that a rough picture has been painted we can now examine the 1st Confederate Infantry Battalion. The unit was mustered into Confederate service in the spring of 1862, in the Western theater. The policy at the time was for units to be equipped by the closest Government Depot first. With that information, we can make an educated guess that since the Columbus Ga. Depot was in operation, that there is a very good chance that their first issue of clothing came from that location. As that wore out they would have been supplied by any one of the other Government Depots within their supply area such as Atlanta, Georgia; Mobile, Alabama, etc… By the spring of 1864 the unit was transferred into R.E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, so it can now be assumed they started receiving clothing from the Richmond Depot or Charleston Depot when needed.
In conclusion, I as the author can prove none of this. To date, I have located no documentation or records on the uniform of this particular unit, but knowing the information above is a good starting point, providing us a basic formula to what the units of the Regular Army were issued during the course of the war. Knowing the independent states were not obligated or required to supply them with “State” issue clothing and uniforms at all we know these units drew from the Government Depots, and in most cases the “states” were drawing from those same Government depots.
For more information or further reading about Confederate Quartermaster issue clothing this 3 part article is "second' to none and will explain the issue system and describe the various style jackets produced by the different depots . Links on the bottom of the article will move you to the next part of the article.
A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets by Leslie D. Jensen
The jackets photographed here are a result of a few years of work and research. They were produced to be used both as “study” coats and to be used as a visual display to compliment Les Jensen's study of Quartermaster Issue Jackets described in his three part article on this subject. They have been reproduced by Jim Warehime of Hanover Pa, who has had the opportunity to examine most of the jackets in this study. They are all hand made and are museum quality reproductions of the surviving jackets discussed in that article. The material was supplied by Pat Kline of Family Heirloom Weavers.
The Kepis displayed were reproduced by Greg Starbuck
The Atlanta Depot c. 1864
|A small group of three surviving jackets appears to be tied to the Atlanta Depot. Made of rough tabby woven wool that looks something like salt and pepper burlap, they are lined with unbleached cotton osnaburg. They have six piece bodies and one-piece sleeves, and all three have a six-button front. The buttons are missing from two of the jackets, but the third has wood buttons of a type observed on a number of different Western jackets and also on some from Lee's army. One of the jackets has a belt loop on the left side only. A peculiarity of this group, also observed in the Charleston pattern, is that the two front panels were apparently cut from different patterns, for the collar, which is cut the same size on both sides, comes to within about an inch of the edge of the coat on the right side, and flush with the edge on the left.|
|The Charleston Depot 1864 - 1865|
|The Department of South Carolina, Georgia,. and Florida had a clothing depot at Charleston, SC maybe as early as 1861. Records of this operation are extremely fragmentary. On 8 November 1864 by the order of the Adjutant and Inspector General this depot became one of the general depots, whose operations and issues were under the exclusive control of the Quartermaster General. Identifying the products of this depot is extremely difficult, but there are two surviving jackets . Both jackets are made of the English wool kersey found in both the Richmond Type III jackets and the Tait contract. Both have linings made of cotton osnaburg. However, these jackets have six piece bodies with one piece, rather than two piece sleeves, and only five buttons down the front. Neither jacket has shoulder straps. Unlike Richmond products, the collars of these jackets are interlined. Finally, and perhaps the most conspicuous feature, are the belt loops. Unlike any other pattern, these belt loops are extremely large, 4 1/8" high by 1 3/4" wide on one jacket and 5 5/8" high by 2 5/8" wide on the other. Moreover, these loops are. shaped like shoulder straps, flat at one end and tapering towards the top. A peculiarity of this group, also observed in the Atlanta pattern, is that the two front panels were apparently cut from different patterns, for the collar, which is cut the same size on both sides, comes to within about an inch of the edge of the coat on the right side, and flush with the edge on the left.|
|The Columbus Georgia Depot 1862 - 1865|
|One group of jackets which is represented by at least eight examples which have survived are in two variations, most with histories tying them to the Kentucky Orphan Brigade. They date from as early as November 1862 to the end of the war. These jackets are made of a butternut colored wool jean, probably originally gray wool on an unbleached cotton warp. They have medium blue wool kersey or wool flannel collars, and straight cuffs from 1 3/4 to 3 inches deep made of the same material. Linings are made of the standard cotton osnaburg used in other Depot produced jackets. Most have a six-button front, although one has five and one has seven. What appears to be the earlier group (Type I) has pockets on the inside only, while the latter group (Type II) has one exterior pocket.|
|The Department of Alabama|
|Only four jackets associated with the Department of Alabama are known to exist. All of these jackets are made of woolen jean, with a six-piece body and two-piece sleeves. All have linings of cotton osnaburg, and all have collars made of dark blue wool jeans, (dark blue woolen weft on a brown cotton warp). All have five button fronts, and all have one exterior pocket, though they vary from one side of the jacket front to the other. Two have small single belt loops, shaped like shoulder straps on the left side only. One jacket is missing its original buttons, one is missing all its buttons, but the remaining two are equipped with wooden buttons like those seen on the Columbus Georgia Depot jackets. The depot at Columbus, Mississippi was operating as late as November 1864, but by 15 March 1865, operation was moved to Demopolis, Alabama. It is therefore possible that the surviving jackets were made in Columbus, Mississippi or Demopolis, Alabama|
|Mobile Alabama Depot|
|Seven Confederate issue wooden buttons fasten this unidentified issue shell jacket. A Deep South product, evidence suggests it probably came from the depot In Mobile Alabama. Dubbed the “mystery jacket”, a surviving example is displayed in the Gettysburg National Park visitor center.|
|This Depot produced three different types of Jackets based upon the same pattern. Twenty-one are known to exist today. The jacket construction for all three types was a six-piece body and two-piece sleeve. Lining material for the jackets was osnaburg. They usually had 9 button fronts with brass branch of service buttons but there were variations to the number of buttons and type. The first pattern jacket (Type I) was made in a very fine cadet gray wool cloth, had belt loops on the sides and was trimmed in branch of service tape on the collar, cuffs and shoulder straps. There are no known surviving examples of a type I “depot” produced jacket. The second pattern jacket (Type II) of which seven are known to have survived was produced as early as the spring of 1862 to mid 1864. These omitted the branch of service trim, although some partial trimmed examples do exist. With the second type, there are variations in material and color due to the jackets long production run. The third and last pattern jacket (Type III), which was only produced in the dark blue gray English army cloth, omitted the shoulder straps and belt loops for simplicity. There are at least “fourteen” known surviving examples of this jacket. Jackets of this pattern were produced from mid 1864 until the close of the facility in 1865.|
|Government Issued Sack Coats|
|In addition to shell jackets, the government depots sometimes issued sack coats, or fatigue blouses- loose, unfitted, middle length coats with widely spaced buttons. The depots may have manufactured some of these plain coats themselves, but many of them were donated by state relief organizations and ladies aide societies. Patterned after informal civilian coats worn since the 1840’s, sack coats were popular for their comfort, simplicity of manufacture, and cheapness – they were often made from easily obtained inexpensive, loosely woven fabric. They were usually lined in the body and sleeves with osnaburg, the standard lining fabric used for all enlisted men’s clothing and buttons were usually what ever was on hand.|
|Peter Tait Contract Jacket|
|Another pattern of jacket dating from late in the war was the product of the Confederacy's purchasing operations abroad. A relatively large group of them survive, eleven, indicating widespread late-war issue. Characterized by an eight-button front, they have distinctive five piece bodies, two piece sleeves, and collars of fine wool broadcloth. All are made of the same cadet gray kersey used in the Type III Richmond Depot jackets. Those whose original linings have survived have linen, rather than cotton linings. In 1860 there were only four linen factories in this country, all of them in the north. Linen linings therefore would indicate a non-domestic product. A “vertical” slit pocket is set into the lining on the inside left breast. The front edges of the jacket are machine stitched, with a distinctive double line of stitching on the right side where the buttons attach. The left front is turned under but the facing piece is cut raw. The linings are stamped with one of two types of size markings. This is a distinctively British Army sizing system, which continued in use as late as World War I. This is the only known group of Confederate jackets to have markings of any kind. Peter Tait was a ready-made clothing manufacturer in Limerick, Ireland. By the American Civil War, he was one of the largest ready-made clothing manufacturers in the world. According to the company history, Tait contracted with the Confederacy for uniforms and delivered them in his own blockade-runners.|
|Confederate “Regulation” Army Kepi Richmond Depot 1861|
Confederate Army regulations of 1861 called for a fatigue Cap of the French Chasseur pattern commonly referred to as a Kepi, but erroneously called a “forage cap” on occasions. This cap differed form the Federal Pattern cap in many ways. The Federal Pattern 1858 “forage caps” have a flat top and are usually baggy in appearance where as a Kepi has a recessed crown are lower and they keep their shape when worn.
The original Army Kepi was to be of navy blue cloth and with a band of branch of service color, i.e.: light blue for Infantry, red for Artillery and yellow for Cavalry. Officers of the General Staff were to be of solid navy blue with gold braids to designate rank. These specifications were almost immediately changed to the sides and crown of the cap to be in the color of the branch of service with a navy blue band. Officers of the General Staff remained solid navy blue. A number in yellow metal was to be worn on the front of enlisted men’s caps to denote the regiment.
Shortages in materials and resources led kepi’s to be manufactured in a whole array of colors and styles. Materials ranged from wool to jean cloth. Some were produced with colored bands indicating branch of service. Tarred cloth over pasteboard became the replacement for leather visors on many Richmond Depot manufactured caps. Although the Kepi was the only “official” headgear of the army, many soldiers preferred the versatile and more comfortable “slouch” hat to the kepi while on “Campaign”.
|Government Issue Shirts|
Shirts, like trousers, had a low survival rate. Most Confederate soldiers upon returning home wore out the clothing they had on their backs. Shoes, trousers and shirts, if they were still serviceable were pressed into civilian service. Little thought was given into “preserving” them for future generations to have. Photographed here are two know types if shirts issued by the central government. There were undoubtedly others.
The first is a British import shirt called the “Ammunition Shirt”. It was the basic enlisted mans shirt in the British Army. It is of dark blue cotton ticking like material. It also has very unique 3-hole buttons. This style shirt probably dates to the Crimean War the one surviving example exhibits the British broad arrow marking in the right front bottom corner. It was brought through the blockade.
The second shirt also has a British connection. It was issued to Charles A. Parkins an Englishman who served in the 3rd Louisiana Infantry. Until recently it was held at the Royal Artillery Institution in Woolwich, England. Issued through a Central Government Depot, the shirt is a brown and light blue stripe cotton material with two front patch pockets. This particular pattern material is referred to as “Louisiana two stripe”. It is unknown exactly which Depot produced this shit, but like all shirts they were produced with whatever shirting material was available at the time. This Shirt was reproduced by Debbie Sheads of S&S Sutler of Gettysburg Pa. and is entirely stitched by hand.
|Government Issue Trousers|
From early 1862 most of the cloth used for making trousers was jeans and cassimere, but some woollen kersey was manufactured domestically. Made by such firms as the Danville Manufacturing co, and the Crenshaw Woollen mill, both of who were located in Virginia. It was probable blue woollen trousers were still being produced through this period. But by October 1863 large amounts of Sky Blue, Medium Blue, and Royal Blue, woollen Kersey began to arrive at the Richmond Depot from England.
Two receipt ledgers for the last quarter of 1863, and the whole of 1864 shows this cloth from England coming into the Richmond Depot. Cloth listed as "English Blue Cloth", "Pilot Cloth", "Blue Trowsering" and "English Blue-Privates". In fact these Blue Cloths were the second largest quantity of cloths imported from England behind the blue/grey kersey. There are also references from the ledger to "sky blue" cloth in smaller but still substantial quantities, probably similar to Federal blue and probably used for trousers.
Surviving examples of blue trousers made by the Richmond Depot include a pair worn by Private Henry Redwood who served in the 3rd Virginia local Defence Troops. They are sky blue woollen kersey cloth, with inner facings and pockets of light brown cotton Osnaburg with Japanned tin buttons.
Government issue trousers were based upon the civilian work trousers of the day. Some included a watch pocket and buttons for “braces” others did not. Usually they had two small slits at the cuff seam. Most all, unlike Federal trousers had a belt and buckle attachment for adjusting the waist instead of the traditional cloth tie. Buttons were usually Japanned tin.
Photographed here are representations of both the Med Blue Richmond Depot Trouser and a Brown Cotton Trouser. Both have cotton osnaburg linings, watch pockets and Japanned tin buttons. Re-produced by Jody Nolan through S&S Sutler of Gettysburg.
Government Issue Buttons
I - Infantry, A - Artillery, C - Cavalry
R - Rifles, E- Engineer, General Service (C.S.A.)
I - Infantry, Wood Issue, Black Japanned