The Confederate Navy

A navy to defend the South's waters and to prey on Northern shipping was authorised on 16 March 1861. In late 1864 it numbered 700 commissioned and warrant officers and 3,674 enlisted men, probably its peak strength. Despite a lack of shipbuilding facilities, the Navy launched 37 ironclads, the most famous of which was the CSS Virginia, better known as the Merrimac. This was the first ironclad naval ship in American waters, and its battle with the Northern Monitor changed naval history. The Navy also formed a land brigade for the defence of Richmond in 1864-65, which surrendered with the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on 9 April 1865.

Officers' Uniforms

The first Confederate Navy officers' uniforms appear, from photographs of officers of the CSS Sumter, to have been dark blue like those of their US Navy counterparts, save for cuff rank insignia. The insignia were made up of gold stripes, one for a lieutenant and two for a commander. The

3: Major, US Topographical Engineers, 1864

Topographical Engineers FlagCavalry Shoulder Straps AntiqueConfederate UniformsConfederate Sgt Major StripesConfederate Naval Insignia

1: Lt. Col., 1st Engineers, CSA, 1861 2: Sgt., 1st Engineers, CSA, 1864 3: Lieutenant, CS Navy, 1864

1: Seaman, CS Navy, 1865 2: 2nd Lt., CS Marine Corps, 1865 3: Sgt., CS Marine Corps, 1865

Civil War NavyConfederate Sgt Major Stripes

lieutenant's stripe had an 'executive' loop, while the commander's top stripe looped up and the bottom stripe looped downwards. Epaulettes, apparently of US Navy type, were also worn for general musters. Caps were also US Navy types.

In 1862, after the return of the Sumter, the Navy issued dress regulations. Since indigo, used for dyeing cloth blue, was no longer available in the South, the overall naval colour was ordered to be steel grey. Caps were to be between 4 ins. and ins. tall, with a patent leather peak and a gold band. Cap badges were, for executive officers, a fouled anchor within a wreath. Stars over the anchor indicated rank; four for a flag officer, down to one for a lieutenant. The master had no stars, while a passed midshipman wore only a wreath. Plain wreaths were also worn by assistant surgeons and paymasters. Engineers wore an Old English letter 'E' within the wreath, under stars indicating their relative rank. On 19 June 1863 it was ordered that volunteer officers were to wear the plain gilt 3^-in. letters 'VN' on their cap fronts. Straw hats were also allowed in the summer.

The officers of »he victorious USS Kearsage after its fight with the CSS Alabama. Captain John Winslow, third from left, wears the 1852 captain's insignia and cap. The rest wear the late 1863 insignia and caps. The officer standing on the far right is a surgeon (under five years' service), while the two men on his right in the front row are masters. On the far left is a chief engineer (under five years' service). (Library of Congress)

The steel grey frock coat was lined with black silk serge, 'double breasted, with two rows of large navy buttons on the breast, nine in each row, placed ins. apart from eye at top, and ins. at bottom. Rolling collars, skirts to be full, commencing at the top of the hip bone and descending four fifths thence towards the knee, with one button behind each hip and one near the bottom of each fold.'

Chaplains had the same coat, but with only one row of nine buttons down the front. Professors and commodores' secretaries wore single-breasted coats with eight buttons, while clerks had only six buttons in a single row.

Rank and type of service was indicated by shoulder straps. For executive officers these were sky blue, edged with black, 4 ins. long and ij| ins. wide, bordered by ¿-in.-wide gold embroidery. Flag

1: Seaman, CS Navy, 1865 2: 2nd Lt., CS Marine Corps, 1865 3: Sgt., CS Marine Corps, 1865

Uniforms NavyCss Alabama

The officers of the victorious USS Kearsaj*c after its fight with the CSS Alabama. Captain John Winslow, third from left, wears the 1852 captain's insignia and cap. The rest wear the late 1863 insignia and caps. The officer standing on the far right is a surgeon (under five years' service), while the two men on his right in the front row are masters. On the far left is a chief engineer (under five years' service). (Library of Congress)

lieutenant's stripe had an 'executive' loop, while the commander's top stripe looped up and the bottom stripe looped downwards. Epaulettes, apparently of US Navy type, were also worn for general musters. Caps were also US Navy types.

In 1862, after the return of the Sumter, the Navy issued dress regulations. Since indigo, used for dyeing cloth blue, was no longer available in the South, the overall naval colour was ordered to be steel grey. Caps were to be between 4 ins. and 35 ins. tall, with a patent leather peak and a gold band. Cap badges were, for executive officers, a fouled anchor within a wreath. Stars over the anchor indicated rank; four for a flag officer, down to one for a lieutenant. The master had 110 stars, while a passed midshipman wore only a wreath. Plain wreaths were also worn by assistant surgeons and paymasters. Engineers wore an Old English letter 'E' within the wreath, under stars indicating their relative rank. On 19 June 1863 it was ordered that volunteer officers were to wear the plain gilt 3iJ-in. letters 'VN' on their cap fronts. Straw hats were also allowed in the summer.

The officers of the victorious USS Kearsaj*c after its fight with the CSS Alabama. Captain John Winslow, third from left, wears the 1852 captain's insignia and cap. The rest wear the late 1863 insignia and caps. The officer standing on the far right is a surgeon (under five years' service), while the two men on his right in the front row are masters. On the far left is a chief engineer (under five years' service). (Library of Congress)

The steel grey frock coat was lined with black silk serge, 'double breasted, with two rows of large navy buttons on the breast, nine in each row, placed 4^ ins. apart from eye at top, and 2j ins. at bottom. Rolling collars, skirts to be full, commencing at the top of the hip bone and descending four fifths thence towards the knee, with one button behind each hip and one near the bottom of each fold.'

Chaplains had the same coat, but with only one row of nine buttons down the front. Professors and commodores' secretaries wore single-breasted coats with eight buttons, while clerks had only six buttons in a single row.

Rank and type of service was indicated by shoulder straps. For executive officers these were sky blue, edged with black, 4 ins. long and i| ins. wide, bordered by ¿-in.-wide gold embroidery. Flag officers had four stars in their straps; captains, three; commanders, two; lieutenants, one; and masters, none. Passed midshipmen wore a 4-in.-long, ^-in.-wide, gold lace stripe on each shoulder. Civil officers had straps in colours according to their branch-black for medical officers, green for paymasters, and dark blue for engineers. Officers with over 12 years of service wore two crossed olive sprigs on their straps; one sprig was worn by those with less than 12

This lieutenant wears the insignia worn by US Navy officers from the beginning of the war until 1862, with the addition of a star indicating his position of executive officer of a commissioned ship. He also wears the rare 'boat cape', sometimes worn in place of the overcoat. He was executive officer of the USS Hunchback, which served at Roanoke Island, North Carolina, in February 1862 and thereafter in Virginian waters. The Hunchback took part in the six-hour-long fight at the Blackwater River in October 1862, and fought the CSS I'irginia and CSS Richmond in January 1865. (Author's collection)

years. A passed assistant surgeon wore one olive leaf at each end of his straps.

Rank was also indicated by cuff stripes. These were gold, \ in. wide, separated by a space % in. wide. A gold lace stripe also ran up from the cuff edge, along the rear cuff opening, to the bottom stripe. Executive officers had a 3-in. loop on their top stripe, while civil officers had all their stripes parallel with the cuff edge.

Flag officers wore four stripes (one admiral wore five); captains and civil officers of that relative rank wore three; commanders, two; and lieutenants, one. Masters and civil officers of that relative rank wore a ¿-in.-wide stripe. Passed midshipmen wore three medium-sized Navy buttons parallel to the cuff edge, while midshipmen wore the same buttons but no shoulder straps. Chaplains, professors, secretaries, and clerks had plain cuffs.

'In summer or in tropical climates, officers may wear frock coats and pantaloons of steel gray summer cloth . . . with medium size navy buttons.'

'Jackets may be worn as a service dress for all officers when at sea, except when at general muster. To be of steel gray cloth or white drill linen with the same, double breasted, rolling collar, same number of small sized buttons on breast as for undress coat, open fly sleeve with four small buttons in the opening, with shoulder straps for appropriate grades.'

An order issued by Adml. Franklin Buchanan in Alabama noted: "In consequence of the hot weather from June 1 to October 1, officers attached to the Mobile Squadron may wear their gray flannel frocks or sack coats with navy buttons, gray pantaloons, and vests.'

Vests, or waistcoats, were to be steel grey or white, 'single breasted, standing collar, with nine small buttons in front, and not to show below the coat.' Trousers were of the same colours, 'made loose to spread well over the foot and to be worn over boots or shoes.' Overcoats were also steel grey, 'double breasted, rolling collar, skirts to descend three inches below the knee, the same number of navy buttons, and similarly arranged as the undress coat. No buttons to be worn on the cuffs or pocket flaps. Officers entitled to wear shoulder straps will wear the same on their overcoats as directed for undress coats. Gray cloth cloaks may be worn in boats.'

Navy Admiral Undress Uniform

Relative Rank in the Confederate Navy

Line O fficers Flag Officer Rear Admiral, Commodore) Captain Commander

Lieutenant

Master

Passed Midshipman

Medical Officers

Surgeon over 12 years*

Surgeon under 12 years

Passed Assistant Surgeon Assistant Surgeon

Paymasters

Paymaster over 12 years* Paymaster under 12 years

Assistant Paymaster

Engineers

Chief Engineer over 12 years* Chief Engineer under 12 years ist Assistant Engineer 2nd, 3rd Assistant Engineers

Midshipman

•No Confederate Navy officers, obviously, could have held their Confederate Naval ranks for over 12 years.

Navy Captain InsigniaNavy Captain InsigniaNavy Captain ButtonNaval Flag With Stars RowConfederate Navy Engineer Cap InsigniaNavy Captain Button
US Navy officers' cap badges. Top row. from left, the 1852 insignia of captain, commander, and lieutenant; second row, warrant officer, ensign-lieutenant (1862 63), and line officer (1863 65);

The regulation buttons had a full-rigged ship above the letters 'CSN' within a rope border and 13 stars. A limited number of these buttons were made

Full Rigged Ship
third row, 1863 65 insignia of engineering officer, paymaster, and surgeon (1862 63); bottom row, surgeon (1863 65), naval constructor, and chaplain. (Rebecca Katcher)

in Richmond. A more common type of button was made by Firmin & Son in London: these bore a foul anchor, upright, over a pair of crossed cannon,

Firmin Sons London Eagle ButtonNavy Peacoat Sailor

Seamen of the USS I nudilla wear the regulation sailors' dress. The sailor seated centre displays the eagle and fouled anchor badge of a petty officer, as does the man standing at top left. The I nudilla was part of the fleet that took Beaufort, South Carolina in November 1861, and then spent the rest of the war on blockade duty. (US Army Military History Institute)

Seamen of the USS I nudilla wear the regulation sailors' dress. The sailor seated centre displays the eagle and fouled anchor badge of a petty officer, as does the man standing at top left. The I nudilla was part of the fleet that took Beaufort, South Carolina in November 1861, and then spent the rest of the war on blockade duty. (US Army Military History Institute)

above the letters 'CSN' within a rope border. Many officers, including Adml. Buchanan, wore their state buttons, however.

Two-piece beltplates were also made in England and bore the same design as the Firmin-made button after April 1863. Another, earlier type of British-made two-piece beltplate simply had the letters 'CN' on the male part of the plate.

Many officers were not happy with grey coats and hats, as one of them wrote, 'contemptuously demanding to know, "Who ever had seen a gray sailor, no matter what nationality he served?'" And, indeed, blue uniforms survived throughout the period. El. George Gift, CSS Gaines, wrote in September 1863 that he looked elegant in his 'dark blue flannel suit.' Most, however, wore regulation dress.

Warrant Officers' Uniforms

According to regulations, uniforms, 'For a Boatswain, Gunner, Carpenter and Sailmaker, shall be of steel gray cloth, lined with the same; rolling collar, double breasted, two rows of large navy buttons on the breast, eight in each row; pointed pocket flaps, with three large buttons underneath each, showing one-half their diameter; three medium size buttons around each cuff, and two small ones in each opening; one button behind on each hip; one in the middle of each fold, and one in each fold near the bottom of the skirt. On each side of the collar to have one loop of three-quarters wide gold lace, to show one inch and a half wide, and four inches long, with a small size navy button in the point of each loop.'

Petty Officers' and Ratings' Uniforms

An Englishman, Francis W. Dawson, shipped out as a landsman on the CSS Nashville when she left Southampton, England, in January 1862. He wrote that he wore 'a blue woolen shirt open at the neck, a

Confederate Landsman Uniform

black silk handkerchief, with ample flowing ends, tied loosely around the neck; blue trousers, made very tight at the knee and twenty-two inches in circumference at the bottom, and on my head a flat cloth cap ornamented with long black ribbons.' He also brought a pea jacket, sea boots, and 'the necessary underclothing.'

This matches the first uniforms ordered by the Navy's purchasing agent in England, James D. Bulloch. They included blue flannel overshirts, undershirts and underdrawers, blue cloth caps, black silk handkerchiefs, cloth or cassinette pants, cloth jumpers, round jackets, duck pants, shoes, woollen socks, blankets, pea jackets, and 'Barnesley shirting frocks' for 1,000 men. Most Confederate seamen recruited or equipped outside the South wore this type of dress. Sailors on the CSS Alabama were described by Lt. Arthur Sinclair as wearing 'our paymaster's nobby blue-and-white uniforms.' Offic ers were, however, photographed in regulation grey.

Sailors in the South appear to have received by late 1863 uniforms that agreed with the 1862 regulations. They consisted of 'gray cloth jackets and trousers, or gray woolen frocks with white duck cuffs and collars, black hats, black silk handkerchiefs and shoes, or boots in cold weather. In warm weather it shall consist of white frocks and trousers, black or white hats, as the commander for the occasion directs, having proper regard for the comfort of the crew; black silk handkerchiefs and shoes. The collars and cuffs to be lined with blue cotton cloth, and stitched round with thread. Thick gray caps without visors may be worn by the crew at sea, except on holidays or at muster.

'Boatswains Mates, Gunner's Mates, Carpenter's Mates, Sailmaker's Mates, Ship's Steward and Ship's Cook, will wear embroidered in black silk on the right sleeve of their gray jackets above the elbow in front, a foul anchor of not more than three inches in length. The same device embroidered blue to be worn on the sleeves of their white frocks in summer.

'All other petty officers except officers, stewards and yeomen will wear the same device on their left sleeves.'

A similar device was an 'honorable discharge badge', consisting of a foul anchor i\ ins. long, embroidered above the elbow on the left sleeve in blue or white. A ^-in.-long star above this was

The sleeve badge of a US Navy petty officer. This was taken from a printed sample issued for each petty officer to use to embroider his badge on his uniforms. (Author's collection)

awarded for every additional discharge.

The Navy made its own canvas shoes for seamen in a plant in Mobile, Alabama. Buttons for pea jackets were made in Britain from a black composition material. These had the design of a foul anchor, upright, over a pair of crossed cannon above the letters 'CSN' within a rope border; they also had four holes through the centre for sewing to thejacket. These buttons were first ordered in about April 1863.

.Naval Accoutrements and Weapons The belt for seamen, according to the 1864 Confederate States Navy Ordnance Instructions, was 'to be made of buff leather, 2 inches w ide, and from forty to forty-four inches long; a standing loop and eyelet-holes at one end and a brass hook riveted to the other.' An original surviving belt is similar to this, but is made of heavy canvas.

English-made pouches for gunners' fuses and implements were stamped with the foul anchor and crossed cannon design found on officers' buttons. Naval ordnance instructions call for the letters 'CSN' to be stamped on musket cartridge box flaps.

Russian Knots

ist Lt. Robert Meade wears the double-breasted dark blue frock coat, made without trim, which was the typical undress US Marine Corps officer's dress. He wears his rank insignia— the same as Army officer's insignia—on gold Russian knots on each shoulder. His trousers are sky blue with a red stripe down each leg. His forage cap bears the bugle horn with the Old English 'M' within its loop. (Author's collection)

ist Lt. Robert Meade wears the double-breasted dark blue frock coat, made without trim, which was the typical undress US Marine Corps officer's dress. He wears his rank insignia— the same as Army officer's insignia—on gold Russian knots on each shoulder. His trousers are sky blue with a red stripe down each leg. His forage cap bears the bugle horn with the Old English 'M' within its loop. (Author's collection)

Otherwise, accoutrements were similar to those of the US Navy.

In May 1861 Bulloch was ordered to buy 1,000 'navy carbines,' with ammunition and equipment. These were apparently the British Pi858 Naval Rifle. It is believed that Bulloch acquired Enfield-type carbines with 24-in. barrels. He also bought for

Mhe Navy British-made 0.54 cal., breechloading rifles made to a design patented by T. Wilson.

At the same time, Bulloch was to purchase 1,000 'navy revolvers', and he bought Kerr pattern revolvers lor the Navy. The Navy also ordered 2,000 French-made Le Mat revolvers on 7 April 1864. (Three Le Mat revolvers were captured on the CSS Atlanta.) Designed by a Southerner from New Orleans who had moved to France, this weapon was a novelty in that it had a cylinder holding nine 0.42 cal. pistol rounds which revolved around a 20 gauge smoothbore 'shotgun' barrel. Such a weapon could be useful for shipboard fighting; however, Confederate Navy inspectors said that their quality was generally poor.

Seamen carried cutlasses when required. Southern-made cutlasses were copies of the US Model 1841 and Model i860 types (mostly the M 1841), while the Navy also imported a number of Royal Navy-type cutlasses. Officers' swords were often imported from Britain, too. Firmin's were the largest supplier; their sword was like the Royal Navy officer's pattern with the foul anchor and crossed cannon cast into the hilt.

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Responses

  • IRIS
    What rank was a navay paymaster in the confederate navy?
    6 years ago
  • Dorothy Wilson
    What is the rank of a paymasters in the confederate navy?
    6 years ago
  • selamawit
    Where was the USS Hunchback stationed in 1863?
    4 years ago
  • leonardo
    What insignia did confederate navy warrant officers wear?
    4 years ago

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