Wednesday, 19 April 2017

History Wednesday/American Civil War Uniforms



Let us talk a little about the American civil war, we all know that during the war the North wore blue uniforms and the South wore grey but did you know at the start of the war that wasn't necessary the case.

In fact many soldiers on both sides wore both blue or grey as they wore the uniform of the militia they were part of, as the men of the 5th Virginia Militia who wore a blue uniform and they had to wear a white strip of cloth around their hats and were told if challenged to place their hand over their left breast and say “our homes”. Like that was going to happen in the middle of a battle or pretty much at any time.

Regular U S Army troops wore their traditional dark blue trousers, jackets and kepi caps, to distinguish the volunteers who comprised the vast bulk of the federal armies from the professionals of the regular army.

However, many Union soldiers also wore grey uniforms again because that was the uniform of the militia they were part of. Then there were the men who turned up to fight decked out in baggy trouser usually bright red or striped because their uniform was influenced by French Zouaves of North Africa. I will talk about the Zouaves in another post.

Confederate uniform volunteers were grey kepi jacket and trousers but as the war went on they would fad and took on a light brownish appearance, which gave rise to the nickname “Butternuts” for Southern soldiers.

On both sides artillerymen had red kepis, shell jackets with red trim and depending on rank a red stripe on their pants legs. Cavalry riders had a yellow stripe on their pants and yellow trim on jackets. Other special units had different uniforms the Hiram Berdan's Union sharpshooters wore green uniforms.

Of course many in command and in Washington thought the whole thing would be over after the first battle, never thinking it would last as long as it did or that so many would die during the war.

The first major battle of the war took place at Bull Run River, now try and picture it a battle fought my mostly untrained soldiers with both sides wearing both blue and grey uniforms and some wearing no uniform at all, it must have been crazy chaos and it was fought only 25-30 miles from Washington. The battle lasted around 12 hours, with between 3,600-4,600 dead or wounded and around 1,200 missing in action.










14 comments:

  1. I am very up on the Civil War. Been a student of both World and American History for a long time. I enjoyed your blog on the Civil War today Jo-Anne. By the way, I went to a Civil War Museum in New Orleans and one somewhere else. The uniforms were so small one of today's children would fit in it. People were not tall nor fat then as they are now. The were built like slim teenagers are built like now. The uniform jackets were amazingly narrow. The boots were so small looking in the foot that I wondered how anyone could get their foot in! All of their clothing was so small looking. Just amazing how we all of us have changed with the advent of better nutrition and....junk food. :-)

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    1. Wow never knew that about the size of clothes, that I found interesting, I would so like to visit a Civil War Museum

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  2. I'm an American and studied the war all while I was in public schools but I never knew this. I guess you can learn new things in all kinds of different places.

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    1. I never knew it either I just thought the uniforms were blue and grey and never thought about some not even having uniforms

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  3. A very informative post. Funny that you mentioned the Zouaves as I took one look at those trousers and thought of the first French Army uniforms used in WWI- before they learned what great targets for machine guns they made.

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    1. I had no idea about the uniforms till I stated watching a documentary on the war and thought it would make an interesting blog post

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  4. Hi, Jo-Anne!

    Mrs. Shady is a history buff and an American Civil War buff, and I am sure she will find your post as interesting as I have. It seems like the War, at least at the beginning, was a "come as you are party." Thank you for explaining and showing us what the well dressed soldiers on both sides were wearing. If you haven't ever seen it, I urge you to watch the 1992 film Gettysburg. It is absolutely sensational. You will be awestruck!

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    1. If I come across the movie I will indeed watch it at the moment I am watching a mini series on the Civil War which is what gave me the idea for the post on the uniforms.

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  5. Thank you, Jo-Anne for the information. Never knew about the uniforms. Have a good day!

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  6. How sad is it that you know more about American history than I do? I've probably learned less and forgotten more than I care to admit. History is not my strong suit. You did a great job with this post, Jo-Anne. Thank you.

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    1. I love history all history of all countries and I am watching mini series about the Civil War at the moment

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