The only state regulation on dress in use in Illinois at the outbreak of the Civil War was a requirement that officers could wear uniforms 'similar' to those worn by US Army officers. The state did not, however, have a unique state uniform for its Civil War troops. It was hoped that the US government could uniform and equip all the state's volunteers from the beginning. This was not to be the case; and the first Illinois infantry volunteers received a state-provided issue of grey shirts, blue caps, and red blankets worn horseshoe-style. More complete uniforms were ordered from New York, arriving in May 1861. These included a 'jacket and pants of course gray cloth, blue zouave cap, and substantial shoes'. The clothes were made of poor quality wool—known as 'shoddy' and wore out quickly.

Ten more infantry regiments were authorised on ■2 May 1861, and these wore clothing provided by their hometowns. Most of these uniforms included grey or blue jackets and trousers. The state itself contracted for additional uniforms on 12 June 1861, so that each of its volunteers would receive 'a blue or gray round jacket and pantaloons of the US Army pattern, two flannel shirts, two pairs of drawers, two pairs of socks, one pair of brogan shoes'. Most of these uniforms were grey, due to a lack of blue cloth. Plain grey frock coats or jackets, with some blue jackets, grey trousers, and grey broad-brimmed hats (turned up on one side, with a plain brass button over a red, white, and blue cockade) were issued to the 13th to 22nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiments from this contract. The 7th to 12th Regiments, in the 1st Brigade of Illinois Volunteers, received grey coats (edged in blue for infantry, red for artillery) with short skirts; grey trousers, and grey, broad-brimmed hats. 'The fatigue suit is a shirt, pantaloons and zouave cap in a firm hickory cloth', noted the Chicago Tribune in April 1861.

At the same time, the tst to 5th Cavalry Regiments received red shirts and 'dark blue reinforced pants' as their initial issue, after which they received 'jackets and black hats'. By mid-1862 they, too, were clothed by the US government in regulation dress.

In September 1862 Illinois turned over all its purchased clothing and equipment to the US Quartermaster. This included 25,044 dress hats, 59,172 caps, 3,432 havelocks, 19,046 dress coats, 64,412 jackets (obviously the most common state-issued type of coat), 11,072 fatigue blouses, 1 12,287 pairs of trousers, 21,878 pairs of boots, 93,148 pairs

Pierre G. T. Beauregard, soon to be a Confederate general, wears the all dark blue uniform of a colonel of engineers in the Louisiana State Army in i8fii. The trouser cord is gold; shoulder straps are gold on a dark blue ground; the cap badge has a castle within a gold wreath. (Author's collection)

Military Shoulder BadgeConfederate Generals Gettysburg
Simon Bolivar Buckner, who commanded Kentucky's volunteer units before joining the Confederate forces, wears that state's officers' uniform. Many of these uniforms were worn by Confederate Kentuckians and, indeed, apparently by other Confederate generals. (David Scheinmann collection)

of shoes, 72,866 overcoats, 95,967 wool blankets, 20,367 rubber or 'enameled' blankets, 35,223 knapsacks, 45,925 haversacks, and 54,740 canteens. The state nevertheless continued to issue clothing to its troops, equipping all its infantry regiments up to the 131st with uniform jackets rather than frock coats.

No buttons, belt plates, or cap badges with special Illinois insignia are known to have been issued.

Illinois armed its infantrymen with state-purchased weapons including Springfield rifled muskets and 0.69 calibre US and Prussian muskets. The state also purchased Sharps carbines, and Colt revolvers for its mounted men.

Indiana tccrs flocked to the colours. The stale quickly advertised for uniforms from private contractors, to include 'coat and pants of strong, cheap woolen goods ... flannel shirts .. . gray blankets'. The coats were to be 'jackets [which were] to be wadded in the breast, to be lined, etc. . . . with inside pocket, with nine regulation buttons in front and two 011 each sleeve'. Satinet was to be used to uniform three regiments, and jeans material another two. Hats were 'to be light colored, taper crown, felt wool hats to be looped up at each side'. Apart from the colour they must have looked like the US Army dress hat.

Essentially, as produced, the 6th and 7th Infantry Regiments (the numbers 1 to 5 were reserved for the Mexican-American War Indiana regiments) wore short greyjackets and grey trousers with blue flannel shirts. The 8th wore light blue short jackets and trousers, possibly trimmed with dark blue. The 9th wore grey satinet jackets and trousers. The 10th probably wore plain light blue jeans jackets and trousers. This uniform was replaced by grey uniforms trimmed in black in September 1861. All of them wore the grey felt hats.

1'he 1 ah wore Zouave-style jackets and trousers as their first uniforms. Their first commander, Lew Wallace, recalled later: 'Our outfit was of the tamest gray twilled goods not unlike home-made jeans- a visor cap, French in pattern, its top of red cloth not larger than the palm of one's hand; a blue flannel shirt with open neck; a jacket Greekish in form, edged with narrow binding, the red scarcely

A white cotton duck haversack with bone buttons. Both the inside of the haversack and the detachable food bag that buttons inside it are marked 'STATE OF MASS./ INSPECTED/ACCEPTED'. (Author's collection)

When the Civil War broke out there were only six volunteer companies active within Indiana. Immediately, however, six regiments-worth of volun-

A white cotton duck haversack with bone buttons. Both the inside of the haversack and the detachable food bag that buttons inside it are marked 'STATE OF MASS./ INSPECTED/ACCEPTED'. (Author's collection)

Brass Haversack Buttons

noticeable; breeches baggy, but not petticoated; button gaiters connecting below the knees with the breeches, and strapped over the shoe'. In December 1861 this uniform was replaced by a blue one, which Wallace wrote included a 'dark blue jacket, and sky blue Zouave pants with shirts'. Cpl. Sylvester Bishop wrote home that the new jackets 'are black with a blue front that buttons up close, which makes it look like a vest'.

Regiments raised subsequently wore standard US Army uniforms issued by the Federal government. However, broad-brimmed black hats were widely issued to and worn by Indiana soldiers, as were blue fatigue jackets of the same general description as the first regulation grey jackets.

Indiana troops wore no special state cap badges, buttons, or belt plates. The state's first regiments were issued Mi 842 muskets; later, Indiana acquired 40,000 Pi853 Enfield rifled muskets, and about half the state's volunteers received these weapons, while the rest received various US-made longarms. Cavalrymen received Wesson breech-loading carbines and, probably, Lefaucheux revolvers.


Iowa had been apathetic about supporting an active militia before the Civil War, and was therefore unprepared to equip its volunteers in 1861. The governor quickly sent an agent to Chicago to buy cloth for 1,500 uniforms, to be made up by patriotic women in the state. All he could find in sufficient supply was a grey satinet; this was deemed acceptable, and the material was purchased, sent back to Iowa, and turned into uniforms.

This material was used for uniforms issued to the ist Iowa Infantry Regiment. Volunteers from Davenport had uniforms made which included loose-fitting blouses, like shirts, worn over the trousers, v\ith green collars; and dark grey trousers with a stripe down each leg. Officers had black felt hats, turned up on the side with a red, white, and blue tin cockade. Volunteers from Kcokut and Burlington had much the same uniform, except that the trim was of red flannel. These uniforms were totally worn out after the Battle of Wilson's Creek,

15th Massachusetts

Colonel Charles Devens, Jr., 15th Massachusetts Infantry, wears a typical Massachusetts version of the US Army uniform, with white trim on his collar and kepi, and white cords down each trouser leg. His collar is also edged with gold, and the kepi has additional gold decoration. The 15th was pari of the defending force that stopped Pickett's Charge and helped win the Battle of Gettysburg. (David Scheinmann collection)

Colonel Charles Devens, Jr., 15th Massachusetts Infantry, wears a typical Massachusetts version of the US Army uniform, with white trim on his collar and kepi, and white cords down each trouser leg. His collar is also edged with gold, and the kepi has additional gold decoration. The 15th was pari of the defending force that stopped Pickett's Charge and helped win the Battle of Gettysburg. (David Scheinmann collection)

to the extent that many of the soldiers wore aprons of flour sacks to hide their ragged trousers. New uniforms were ordered from a Boston contractor, including grey wool frock coats and trousers, grey wool flannel shirts, and grey felt hats. This dress, called the 'state gray uniform' was issued to the ist to 3rd Infantry Regiments; but later regiments were supplied by the Federal government with regulation Army dress, accoutrements, and weapons.

There was no unique state insignia worn 011 buttons, belt plates, or cap badges. Iowa was able to obtain a hodge-podge of weapons, including Austrian, Prussian, French, Belgian, and British muskets and rifles, along with M1842 muskets from the US government, all of which it issued to ¡1» volunteers.


Kentucky's volunteers of 18(> 1, drawn from pre-war volunteer units, wore both blue and grey coats and trousers—grey being slightly more common. However, as a 'neutral' state which rapidly fell into Union hands, Kentucky provided both Confederate and Union units equipped and uniformed by their respective armies rather than by the state. There were two-piece sword belt plates with the state seal on the male part; and buttons with the state motto and seal, made both in the North, possibly by the Scovil Co., and in France. Men on both sides wore these items.


'The Louisiana troops were, as a general thing, better equipped and more regularly uniformed than any others in the motley throng', wrote an observer in Richmond in 1861. However, there was 110 state-wide uniform; and volunteer companies out West wore a red flannel stripe 011 their left shoulders, according to the Rock Island Register of 11 September 1861.

Generally, state staff ollicers wore dark blue copies of US Army uniforms, while various companies selected their own uniforms. Blue appears to have been the most common volunteer colour in New Orleans, with ten companies of

'Blues' raised, mostly in that city, among Louisiana's volunteers. There were also, state-wide, nine companies of 'Grays'. The grey uniforms appear to have included mostly jackets trimmed in various colours, although black was the most common colour.

As one might expect from an area with traditional ties to France, a number of Zouave and Chasseur uniforms were seen among the 1861 Louisiana volunteer units. These included the Confederate States Zouaves (St. Leon Dupeire's Louisiana Infantry), the Louisiana Zouaves, and the Zouaves and Chasseurs. They all seem to have worn basically the same dress, similar to that described by a soldier of the 79th New York Infantry Regiment, who saw a member of Wheat's Battalion of Louisiana Zouaves: 'His uniform attracted our attention: a Zouave cap of red, and jacket of blue, with baggy trousers made of blue and white striped material, and white leggins'. The jacket was trimmed with scarlet.

There was so much blue among Louisiana uniforms in 1861 that in the First Battle of Bull Run the state's soldiers wore red armbands above their left elbows as a field sign. By early 1862, however, Gen. Richard Taylor wrote that his brigade of the (5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Louisiana Infantry Regiments was 'over three thousand strong, neat in fresh clothing of gray with white gaiters, bands playing at the head of their regiments. . .'

Louisiana also raised a state navy to defend the Mississippi River. Confederate Navy Capt. C. W. Read later wrote that each of Louisiana's gunboats '.. . had a frigate's complement of officers, and they all wore the blue uniform of the United Slates Navy'. However, a photograph of Capt. Beverly Kennon, commander of the LSS Governor Moore, shows a double-breasted coat that appears to be grey, with a dark blue or black standing collar edged with a wide gold lace trim along the top and front and a narrower lace trim along the bottom. He wears a pair of shoulder straps of dark blue or black edged gold with an insignia inside, possibly that of a US Navy captain. While not shown in the photograph, the use of grey for the coat suggests grey trousers and a grey cap, possibly with a gold band like that of the US Navy.

The standard-issue Louisiana belt plate was rectangular, of lead-backed stamped brass, bearing the state insignia of a pelican feeding its young within a laurel wreath. Examples of this plate in cast brass also exist, as do two-piece buckles with the seal on the male part. The female part is often plain, without the traditional laurel wreath, although wreathed examples do exit. The state button bore the same insignia.

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  • tommy
    Did the Illinois regiments in the civil war wear kepi or slouch hats?
    8 years ago

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