CPrivate US Coloured Infantry

Beginning with the Corps d'Afrique (Louisiana Native Guards) and the ist Louisiana National Guard, the first 'black' regiment in U.S. service (mustered 27 September 1862), about 300,000 coloured troops were enrolled in Federal service following the Emancipation Proclamation (I January 1863) in 166 regiments (145 infantry, seven cavalry, twelve heavy artillery, one field artillery, one engineer), of which about sixty were employed in the field. Officers were white; negro regiments, though they behaved admirably in action, were not extensively used in battle: 143 officers and 2,751 men were killed in action. XXV Corps was reorganised late in the war to consist entirely of negro corps, use of such troops being restricted almost entirely to the Union. Racial feelings were such in the Confederacy that (though a regiment of negroes was raised in New Orleans in 1863) the use of coloured troops was not seriously considered until the war was almost over, when 300,000 slaves were conscripted in March 1865; though a few companies were formed, none were used.

The 1st Heavy Artillery of the Corps d'Afrique (previously the 1st Louisiana Heavy Artillery (African Descent)), formed part of the garrison of New Orleans, manning some of the batteries which protected the stronghold. Their uniform was basically the artillery full dress, with the battery identification letter borne above the crossed cannons badge on the hat. The New Orleans sector being comparatively quiet, the troops there were able to maintain their uniforms near to the full dress regulations, never having to succumb to the more ragged appearance of their more heavily-engaged comrades in other theatres of war. The sidearm was the 1833 pattern Foot Artillery sword, a copy of the French weapon originally based on the ancient Roman gladius.

Other coloured regiments wore standard fatigue uniform with no special distinctions, except that in many cases many regiments received uniforms of excellent quality, the normal coarse cloth having temporarily run out at the time the coloured regiments were raised. This plate, however, illustrates two variations, both taken from contemporary photographs. The private wears the regulation full-dress frock-coat with the collar turned down, and has a kepi covered in a black 'waterproof', a common addition in wet weather. The 1st Sergeant of the 56th Coloured Infantry (originally the 3rd Arkansas Infantry [African Descent]) wears what appears to be a shell-jacket, but which was, in fact, a cut-down frock-coat (note the piping on collar and cuffs).

Exactly what uniform the Confederate slave regiments were intended to wear is doubtful, but the Charleston Evening News of 1 May 1861 noted a company of '125 free Negroes' uniformed in 'red shirts and dark pants' and bearing the Confederate flag; these were almost certainly an engineer or civilian labour unit.

29. U.S.A.: a) Drummer, 1st Artillery, b) Private, 1st Artillery.

This plate shows the Artillery full dress uniform, basically the standard infantry style with red piping and hat-cords, the distinctive colour of the artillery arm of service. Hat-badges consisted of crossed cannon-barrels with regimental and company dis-

Private Full Dress

29 a) Drummer, 1st Artillery, b) Private, 1st Artillery.

1830 Army Uniform Images

30 a) 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Artillery, Service Dress, 1862.

b) 1 st Lieutenant, 14th Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery, 1864.

c) Gunner, Light Artillery, Full Dress.

tinctives; equipment was on infantry pattern, with the unserviceable 1833 pattern artillery sword. This uniform, like that of the infantry, was almost immediately replaced on active service by the k├ępi and fatigue-blouse, though occasionally items of the full dress were retained for a time: for example, a photograph of a mortar battery at Yorktown in 1862 shows a sentry dressed in fatigue uniform and full equipment, yet still wearing the brass shoulder-scales. The drummer wears the usual braiding on the breast in the red distinctive colour.

The Federal Government issued 7,892 fieldpieces to the five Regular artillery regiments, and to the fifty-seven regiments, seventeen battalions and 380 independent companies of Volunteer artillery.

30. U.S.A. : a) 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Artillery, Service Dress, 1862.

b) 1 st Lieutenant, 14th Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery, 1864.

c) Gunner, Light Artillery, Full Dress.

The U.S. Artillery was divided into two branches, Artillery and Light Artillery, the latter roughly approximating to the 'horse artillery' (i.e. the more mobile) of European armies. There was no clearly-defined distinction between the two, both operating 'medium' fieldpieces, the heavier siege-guns and mortars being the responsibility of the heavy arm. The lack of precise distinction between the two arms is shown by the fact that some ordinary artillery regiments included totally mounted batteries: Battery 'B' of the 4th Artillery, for example, served as Light [horse] Artillery in the Indian and Mormon campaigns of the 1850's.

In uniform, however, there was a much clearer distinction, the light artillery having a style of dress corresponding to that of their European counterparts. The blue cloth shako with hanging plume and red cords bore a brass crossed-cannons badge on the front, together with a U.S. shield badge. Apparently there were two styles of shako-badge in use, those of about 1861-62 having ornaments of the 1830's pattern, while those of the later period used badges normally worn on the 'Hardee' hat. The remainder of the uniform, consisting of shell-jacket and trousers (cut loose to spread over the boot) was in obvious cavalry style, whilst maintaining the red distinctive colour in the form of piping. The light artillery was the one arm never ordered to wear the dark blue trousers which were replaced in the rest of the army by the more familiar light blue. The full-dress uniform was almost immediately replaced by the standard fatigue dress when active service commenced: indeed, it is doubtful whether many volunteer light artillery units ever received the shakos and shell-jackets. The sabre carried was the 1840 pattern light artillery weapon, with very long black leather knot; when available, pistols were also carried by all ranks.

As with other branches of the army, the service uniform for officers of artillery consisted of frock-coat with rank bars, light blue trousers with red stripe, either kepi or felt hat, and crimson silk sash. The uniform of the 14th Ohio Light Artillery illustrated (taken from a photograph of 1st Lieutenant Thomas Jeffery) shows a variation on this uniform; the hat-badge consisted of a simple design of crossed cannon-barrels instead of the prescribed gold-embroidered cannon with silver regimental number beneath, on a backing of black velvet; the sash was omitted, and a black leather telescope-case was hung from one shoulder.

The other figure (taken from photographs of Lieutenant-Colonel William Hays and 1st Lieutenant William N. Dennison of the 2nd Artillery) wears a more unorthodox and yet very common style of uniform, consisting of an other ranks' fatigue blouse with rank-bars sewn on, with shirt and scarf underneath. The hat, with small brim, was of a not unusual style; another officer in the aforementioned photograph wears a crossed cannon-barrels badge high up on the front of such a hat. Not all officers carried sabres, but the pistol was an almost universal sidearm. Buff or light brown gauntlets were common to officers of all branches of both armies. Light artillery officers for 'undress duty' were allowed to wear short blue jackets with red trimming, similar to that worn by the rank and file, with the addition of appropriate rank insignia.

Dress, b) 1 st Sergeant, U.S. Engineers, Full Dress.

The Ordnance Corps was responsible for the issue and maintenance of weapons in the field, for armouries and for gun-foundries operated at government arsenals, duties vital to the maintenance of an army. In 1861 two corps of Engineers existed, one of Topographical Engineers, with a total strength of 105 officers and 750 other ranks. Their strength increased as the war progressed, the two branches being amalgamated in 1863 to form a single Corps of Engineers. Their duties consisted of the construction of fortifications, bridges, roads, siege-works, and map-making, equally vital to the success of an army as the duties of the Ordnance Corps.

Both corps wore full dress uniforms based upon the infantry pattern, with piping, hat-cords, trouser-stripes and chevrons of the corps facing colour: crimson for the Ordnance and yellow for Engineers. The rank of Ordnance Sergeant was distinguished by a crimson star over the normal three-bar chevrons. Hat-badges consisted of a brass grenade for the Ordnance, and a brass castle with regimental and company identification for the Engineers.

Officers' uniforms conformed to the same basic style, but included the following distinctions: the Engineers hat-badge consisted of a wreath of laurel and palm in gold embroidery encircling a silver castle; that of Topographical Engineer officers was a shield surrounded by an oak-leaf wreath, all in gold embroidery.

Federal Army Uniform 1830

31 a) U.S. Ordnance Sergeant, Full Dress, b) 1st Sergeant, U.S. Engineers, Full Dress.

Parliament Infantry Uniforms

32 a) Hospital Steward, Full Dress.

b) Lieutenant-Colonel Surgeon, in overcoat.

1830 Army Uniforms

33 a) Private 4th New Hampshire Regiment.

b) Private, 22nd New York Regiment.

c) Captain, Invalid Corps.

Officers' shoulder-bars had dark blue backgrounds. Ordnance officers in full dress wore the Staff uniform, with the hat-badge of an exploding grenade in gold embroidery on a black velvet background.

32. U.S.A.: a) Hospital Steward, Full Dress, b) Lieutenant-Colonel Surgeon, in overcoat. The Medical Department consisted of only 115 officers at the commencement of the war, of whom twenty-seven resigned upon the outbreak of hostilities, twenty-four forming the nucleus of the Confederate Medical Department. The Union Department was rapidly expanded.

Officers (the army surgeons) wore the Staff uniform, with their own pattern of sword, and the letters 'm.s.' in old English style on the epaulette-straps. Medical Cadets were distinguished by green shoulder-bars, with a half-inch wide strip of gold lace running down the centre. Officers of all branches of the army were permitted (by an order of 22 November 1864) to remove the conspicuous shoulder-bars, provided the rank insignia was embroidered directly onto the coat; this gave official sanction to the attempt by many officers to render themselves less obvious to enemy marksmen. The officer illustrated in this plate wears the regulation officers' braided overcoat.

'Other ranks' of the Medical Department were the Hospital Stewards. In full dress they wore the standard infantry uniform but with crimson trimming and trouser-stripes. Their rank-badge consisted of a 'half chevron' on the sleeve, of emerald green cloth with yellow edging, bearing a badge of a yellow caduceus in the centre. The badge on the 'Hardee' hat consisted of a brass laurel wreath encircling the white metal letters 'u.s.'; hat-cords were of mixed green and buff cord.

Officers of all branches of the Union army wore embroidered cloth badges in place of the brass hat-badge used to hold up the brim of the 'Hardee' hat on occasion; this badge consisted of a black velvet oval with gold thread edge, with the same device embroidered in gold thereon as on the more usual brass hat-badge.

Confederate surgeons (holding the nominal rank of major) wore the standard frock-coat, with black collar and cuffs, black kepi and trouser-stripes, gold lace and green sash, their uniform in other ways conforming to the regulation pattern.

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  • James Gray
    Do you have a picture of the uniform worn by the 1st Regiment New York Marine Artillery? I need it for a memorial I am working on for a veteran buried in Australia.
    8 years ago
  • maia
    8 years ago
  • Mark
    What do Artillerymen wear?
    8 years ago

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