First Lieutenant 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Union Army Outfits Picture

This first lieutenant of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry shows the distinctive early war uniform of this state's "first 90-days regiments." The pleated blouse with the full skirt and the rolled collar, would be very little seen after 1861, and future Rhode Island outfits opted for the more traditional Union Army uniform. Again, like most infantry officers, he carries the .44 caliber Colt "New Model Army" pistol, which, while a powerful percussion weapon, was not terribly accurate. Just firing it required a man with fortitude, for its recoil was substantial. Reflecting the tradition that still bound the army, an officer carried his pistol in a holster that required drawing it with the left hand, thus freeing the right hand for drawing the saber, despite the fact that bullets inflicted hundreds of wounds for every edged weapon wound. Tradition died hard. The sword being carried here is a Model 1850 foot officer's sword.

Shako Model 1858

Officer and Enlisted Man, 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, U.S.A.

The men who raised and equipped some Union regiments strained their imaginations to create new looks, and borrowed shamelessly from the styles of other regiments, sometimes creating almost bizarre combinations. Few Federal regiments presented a more mixed bag of elements in its private soldiers' costume than the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry. The enlisted man at left wears a field cap somewhat similar to the Scottish Glengarry, which would certainly have been very comfortable. As well as this, he also sports epaulettes, which were normally only worn by general officers, although in this case they are made of considerably less expensive materials. He also wears a somewhat shortened version of a blouse, which is similar to those worn by some zouave outfits, but with only plain yellow piping. The exceptionally baggy pantaloons are also of a style usually worn by zouave regiments, and are gathered in at the ankles by gaiters. In full dress, when not in the field, this soldier would have worn a high shako. In stark contrast, the second lieutenant wears an entirely standard regulation uniform, with nothing distinctive.

Full Dress West Point 1850
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