Generals Staff and Special Units

Union Generals were authorised to wear double breasted frock coats with dark blue velvet collars and cuffs. Major-generals had nine buttons placed in threes in two rows and brigadier generals had eight buttons in each row placed in pairs. Generals wore white shirts under their coats, black ties and usually a dark blue waistcoat with nine buttons. Dark blue trousers completed a typical general's clothing. The truly extravagant part of a Union general's uniform was the French style chapeau de bras he was authorised to wear. The chapeau de bras had been cancelled in the dress regulations of 1851 but was re-authorised in the regulations of 1859. In practise though most generals preferred to wear smart black felt Hardee hats pinned

Wearing Cavalry Sword Belt

up on the right side with an embroidered gold eagle badge and with three black ostritch feathers on the left. Around their waists, generals wore a silk sash over a sword belt. The sashes were tied over the left hip.

Generals' overcoats were dark blue with four silk buttons at the front and a cape, a double silk knot on each sleeve indicated rank. Away from official work many generals preferred to wear officers' sack coats in the field, but some Union army generals were lacking in sartorial style. Surrendering at Appomattox Court House in 1865 General Lee wore a bright new uniform and a jewelled dress sword, but General Grant who had finally been able to wear Lee's army down, turned up to the surrender ceremony dressed very shabbily. 'Grant covered with mud in an old faded uniform looked like a fly on a shoulder of beef,' recalled one of Grant's staff, Colonel Amos Webster.

Staff officers wore basically the same basic uniforms but their cuffs and collars were dark blue. Field grade officers had two rows of seven buttons down the fronts of their frock coats, while company grade officers had a row of nine buttons. Epaulettes carried their corps and rank insignia, and rank insignia was also worn on dark blue shoulder straps. Colonels had a silver eagle, lieutenant colonels had two silver oak leaves, captains had two gold bars at each end of their shoulder straps while second lieutenants had a single gold bar at each end. First lieutenants' shoulder straps were plain. Staff officers' trousers had gold braid cord down the seams, their hats were decorated with black and gold cords and their

Major General Nathananiel Prentiss Banks in full dress, including an ornate chapeau. David Scheinmann.


This portrait of Brigadier General Dan Sickles details the velvet standing collar of his frock coat and the single silver star that designates his rank can be seen on his epaulette. David Scheinmann.

Colonel Amos WebsterGeneral Israel Richardson

Brigadier General George Brinton McClellan and his wife. The two separate rows of eight buttons designating his rank can clearly be seen on McClellan's regulation frock coat. David Scheinmann.

Brigadier General Israel B. Richardson was killed at the battle of Antietam in 1862, one of the 47 generals on both sides who died in the war. David Scheinmann.

Brigadier General George Brinton McClellan and his wife. The two separate rows of eight buttons designating his rank can clearly be seen on McClellan's regulation frock coat. David Scheinmann.

together with the Fire Zouaves of the 11th New York broke and ran during a heavy artillery bombardment, the Marines performed well in many coastal operations. For full dress, Marines wore dark blue frock coats with yellow braid and scarlet trim. For campaign dress, they wore single breasted frock coats trimmed in red on the collars and white linen trousers which were very suited to the humid conditions on the coast which they often fought in. Officers commonly wore double breasted frock coats with Russian knots to indicate rank. Caps were Chasseur pattern kepis with a brass infantry horn and M on the front. Marines also had white buff equipment belts with brass rectangular belt plates and NCOs wore their yellow silk chevrons the tips up, not down like the army, (continued on p. 92)


Major General Ambrose Burnside wears a nine buttoned frock coat. His style of beard was much imitated and called a Burnside. David Scheinmann.

waist sashes were crimson.

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  • cordelia
    How to wear a sword belt?
    8 years ago

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