Artillery Uniforms

Broadly speaking, there were two types of uniforms worn by the Union artillery. Heavy artillery who manned costal defences or the fortifications around Washington wore the infantry regulation dress of frock coats and Hardee hats. Light artillery who served in the field officially wore shell jackets like the cavalry but artillery jackets were trimmed with scarlet braid, marking the artillery's branch of service. Unique to the light artillery was the dragoon style Ringgold cap with its high peak and red horsehair plumes.

In 1858, light artillerymen wrere ordered to wear Hardee hats like the rest of the army, but they were unwilling to part with their Ringgold caps and in early 1859 they were authorised to wear scarlet cap cords and tassels on the hats and to place crossed cannon and regimental numerals on the fronts. In practice it seems that the elaborate headgear saw little field service being replaced by kepis or forage caps.

In practice a field battery would wear a variety of uniform styles and infantry sack coats were common. In I860 the government authorised a special jacket for light artillery officers, which had Russian shoulder knots of gilt cord, but many officers also wore the regulation nine button frock coat in the field, or like infantry and cavalry officers adapted dress to suit their fancy.

Northern artillery units never quite boasted the same individuality in their uniforms as some artillery units in Confederate service like the Washington Artillery of New Orleans or the Richmond Howitzers, but they performed admirably. At Gettysburg, the 9th Massachusetts Artillery who had previously seen precious little action manning the defences of Washington found themselves in the thick of the action when almost single handedly they delayed the charge of a Confederate brigade and bought precious time for Union troops to entrench on Cemetery Ridge.

Manpower shortages late in the war meant that many Union heavy artillery regiments who had little service posted in the defences around Washington, were ordered to go to the front. Their smart frock coats and Hardee hats set them apart from the other soldiers and they became objects of derision, but the 'bandbox soldiers' proved they could fight. In May 1864 the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery lost 476 men at the battle of Harris farm and would also sustain heavy casualties at Petersburg.


The muzzleloading field piece was the standard workhorse of the artillery of the Civil War and usually six guns wrere grouped into a battery. The field artillery piece that saw the most use in the Civil War was the 12 pounder Napoleon 1857 model. A smooth bore weapon, it was ideal at close ranges against enemy infantry. Parrott guns had breeches reinforced by a thick metal jacket and were accurate up to a range of two miles. Other deadly weapons in the North's artillery arsenal included three inch ordnance rifles which wrere cast in wrought iron. Columbiad guns, manned by the heavy artillery on the coast, saw little service.

Cavalry and Artilleiy 85

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