Personalising Uniforms

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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During the Civil War, many regiments were renowned for the individual touches they made to their uniforms. The Bucktails who sported strips of deer hide in their kepis have already been mentioned, but they were far from being the only Union regiment who stood out even though they wore regulation army dress. Some members of the the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry, who were mainly recruited from Orange County New York State, wore orange ribbons looped in their buttonholes when they left to join up with the rest of the army and at the Battle of Chancellorsville in A-lay 1863, where the regiment lost two fifths of its men the 124th's commander Augustus Van Home Ellis urged his men forward using their nickname. The craze for men of the 124th pinning orange ribbons to their coats was noted by Private Henry Howard in his diary: 'One of the late (General Amiel) Whipple's aides came through the ward and saw the


The way Union soldiers wore their uniform differed greatly. Some looked immaculate while others, like this soldier wearing his sack coat open favoured a devil-may-care appoach. This soldier has an oilskin cover on his forage cap.

David Scheinmann.

Soldiers Wearing Forage Cap

red tape on one of the men's buttonholes. He said "there is an orange blossom" and put his hand in his pocket and gave him a dollar.'

Already a fine unit, the ribbons gave the 124th New York an even greater sense of identity and purpose as they showed at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, two months after they had been nicknamed Orange Blossoms at Chancellorsville. During the Battle of Gettysburg the 124th was stationed near Devil's Den and lost many more men trying to force back a Confederate attack that ultimately overwhelmed them.

A frock coat worn by Major John H Thompson of the 124th New York still survives and has an orange ribbon still tied around the fifth buttonhole. The ribbon is nine inches long and five eighths of an inch wide.

Civil War soldiers wore a wide variety of unofficial insignia. Some menbers of Rush's Lancers wore badges with crossed lances and the men of the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry, the Fire Zouaves, were very fond of wearing the badges of the various hose, hook and ladder companies of the firefighting crews they had belonged to before the war.

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