Union Infantry Officers Dress

Officially all infantry officers in regulation dress were to wear frock coats of dark blue cloth. These coats had a standing collar usually about 1 '/, inches in height and reached down two thirds to three fourths of the distance from the top of the hip to (continued on p. 56)

Dog Soldier Sash
This comfortably dressed officer wears a sack coat with a narrow cut. This sack coat does not appear to have any shoulder straps, but he wears an officer's sash underneath his waistbelt. David Scheinmann.
Union Infantry Uniform OfficerTypical Union Soldier

Union Infantryman, July 1863.

Although the American Civil War saw the creation of many exotically clad regiments, the Union private depicted here is a typical foot soldier of the Union Army. He carries a knapsack with his blanket neatly stowed on top. Northern mills couldn't manufacture enough supplies of wool for standard Army issue blankets, so lightweight blankets were distributed, made out of a woollen and cloth mixture.

Army blankets had the letters 'US' crudely stiched into them and they also had black stripes at each end. Blankets were large enough for the average soldier to curl up in, but the warmth value of many blankets was negligible. Of far more worth would be the single rubber blanket that each soldier carried in his knapsack. Spread on the ground it would keep him reasonably dry at night. Soldiers also carried a canvas shelter half in their knapsacks which when buttoned together with a comrade's shelter half and secured over a wooden frame, usually the locally cut branches of a tree, made a small tent as illustrated in this picture. Called shelter halves or dog tents, they were extremely uncomfortable for two or even sometimes three soldiers to sleep in. Shelter halves were narrow and short and often leaked badly; but they were 'home' to many soldiers.

The soldier's forage cap is regulation and has a 5th Corps badge sewn on top. A distinctive forage cap variation; the

McDowell pattern with its high crown, is also illustrated.

The private wears a standard four button sack coat and sky blue regulation trousers, long in the leg on this soldier. Many men tucked their trousers into their heavy woollen socks, making a crude form of gaiters. Shoes were often hobnailed as illustrated, but even then heavy marching could quickly reduce a pair of shoes to shreds very quickly.

This soldier keeps his tin cup suspended from the chain of his canteen, a practice with some infantrymen. Many canteen straps and haversack straps were too long, so soldiers would shorten the straps by knotting them.

By the time of Gettysburg, arms in the Union Army had become more standardised. There was still an odd mixture of domestic and imported weapons, but many soldiers were armed with a Springfield rifle musket like the one illustrated here. Bayonets played their part in combat throughout the Civil War, most memorably during the charge by the 20th Maine at Gettysburg. Painting by Chris Collingwood.

Above.

Colt firearms provided many pistols to the cavalry before and during the Civil War. This is a Colt .44 Army model 1860, a leading cavalry weapon of the Civil War. Peter Newark's Military Pictures.

Civil War Gaiters

The officer in this picture holds a kepi decorated with gold braid and it's likely that he is a Zouave or Chasseur officer. Despite the gaudy dress of their men, many of these officers wore standard frock coats and one of the loops to support the waist belt can be seen on this officer's coat. David Scheinmann.

the bottom of the knee. Coats were double breasted for colonels and single breasted for captains and lieutenants. Colonels' coats had two rows of seven buttons on the chest, while captains' and lieutenants' coats had one row of nine buttons on the chest, placed at equal distances. Since 1851 the sleeves of officers'

frockcoats had been getting fuller. Sleeves were generally 17 inches wide in 1861 and some officers wore them 20 inches wide before the war ended.

For full dress, officers wore gilt epaulettes with a sky blue disc set on the crescent with the regimental number embroidered on the disc in gold. Rank badges were displayed on the epaulette strap. Colonels had a

Opposite.

The collar of this officer's jacket appears to be lined in black velvet. His regiment isn't known, but judging by the bagginess of his trousers and the amount of ornamentation on his sleeves he was an officer in a Zouave or Chasseur regiment.

David Scheinmann.

Thomas Callan was a lieutenant in the 128th United States Coloured Troops whose officers and men took a particular pride in their appearance. Not only did they have to face the enemy, but also prejudice about the worth of coloured troops from their own side. All officers of coloured troops were white and most were staunch abolitionists. Many black troops serving under officers like Callan preferred wearing frock coats in the field and their clothing was standard infantry issue. Some black troops were outfitted in red trousers but these were later rejected because the men didn't want to be set apart from white troops. David Scheinmann.

The Union InfantrymanWithout Prejudice Field Coat

Neatly turned out Union infantryman with a watch chain hanging from his non-regulation waistcoat. The majority of Union soldiers liked to adapt uniforms to suit themselves.

David Scheinmann.

This company officer wears regulation dress. Despite the habit of many officers of wearing various forms of clothing, this is what a typical officer, perhaps without his waist sash, would have looked like in the field. David Scheinmann.

Neatly turned out Union infantryman with a watch chain hanging from his non-regulation waistcoat. The majority of Union soldiers liked to adapt uniforms to suit themselves.

David Scheinmann.

This company officer wears regulation dress. Despite the habit of many officers of wearing various forms of clothing, this is what a typical officer, perhaps without his waist sash, would have looked like in the field. David Scheinmann.

silver eagle, captains had two silver bars while lieutenants had one silver bar. On campaign, officers wore shoulder straps, embroidered in gold around the edges with rank insignia displayed on each end.

Like their frock coats, infantry officers' trousers were made of a finer material than those of enlisted men. Regulations of 1861 stated that they should be of

Opposite.

An infantry company officer poses with the regimental colour of his regiment. Union regiments carried two colours into battle, the national colour and the regimental colour. Some became so worn in combat that little more remained of them than shreds and they had to be 'retired'. David Scheinmann.

Beards For The Well DressedInfantry Officer

Posed against a painted background this officer is wearing white gloves and the detail of his waist sash shows up well. With his style of hair and beard, he looks very 'old school'.

David Scheinmann.

Posed against a painted background this officer is wearing white gloves and the detail of his waist sash shows up well. With his style of hair and beard, he looks very 'old school'.

David Scheinmann.

dark blue cloth with a sky blue welt, one eighth of an inch in diameter, let into the outer seam. Officers were authorised to wear ties or cravats, but regulations stated that the tie was not to be visible at the opening of the collar.

Custom dictated that an officer should not show his shirt front, waistcoats worn under the frock coat were extremely useful for covering up the officer's shirt when he opened his frockcoat for comfort in the hot weather.

Commissioned officers wore a cloak coat of dark blue cloth closed by four frog buttons made out of black silk and loops of black silk cord. Rank was indicated on both sleeves by a knot of black silk braid. A colonel's coat had five braids in a single knot and a captain's had two braids in a single knot.

Union officers, like officers in all armies, enjoyed considerable freedom of dress. In the field they often discarded their frock coats in favour of short jackets and loose fitting sack coats, which were longer and shouldn't be confused with enlisted men's sack coats.

Civil War Nine Button Dress Frock Coat
Well groomed infantry officer wearing regulation frock coat and forage cap. David Scheinmann.

Some officers even left off the authorised shoulder straps on their sack coats so that they would be less conspicuous in the field, but this was not common practice. Since they were not regulation, officer's sack coats came in a variety of styles. The most common was a four button coat made out of flannel, while a style favoured with New York officers was of dark blue cloth with five buttons and pockets on either side in the front. These pockets, together with the fronts, collars and bottom edges of the coats, were edged in half inch black mohair braid. Some officers' sack coats were even made with comfortable velvet collars, to provide maxiumum comfort to the wearer on campaign.

The dress of officers commanding the many militia regiments in the Union forces, provided variations on the regulation officers' uniforms. In 1861 officers of the 11 th New York Volunteer Infantry wore grey double breasted frock coats with two rows of seven buttons on the chest and four small buttons set on gold braid loops on the cuff slashes. Shoulder straps

Union Soldier Wives
A typical Union soldier has his image taken with his wife. Judging by the man's war weary demeanour, it was taken during a period of leave. David Scheinmann.

were dark blue with a red edging and the officer's trousers were also grey with gold stripes down the seams edged in red. Captain J. Blake of the 69th New York State Militia wore a short jacket edged in gold and black braid. The jacket also had gold shoulder knots. Completing the uniform, Blake's trousers were dark blue edged with gold stripes down the seams. Not only did Thomas Francis Meagher wear a gold trimmed Zouave uniform when he formed Company K of the 69th New York, at Fredericksburg in December 1862, he was reported to have worn a frock coat made out of green velvet. Colonel Robert Nugent of the 69th, was renowned for wearing a checked shirt under his jacket and an officer's black and gold hat cord as a neck tie.

As might be expected, the uniforms worn by Union Zouave officers were extremely colourful. Minutes of a meeting held by 5th New York officers on April 27 1861 prescribed that the trousers should be 'red and large no stripe'. Officers also wore smart dark blue frock coats for full dress, but their fatigue uniforms were a matter of personal choice. One officer, Captain

Union Infantry Uniforms

The picture of this infantry officer demonstrates the way swords were carried, hooked up comfortably on the waistbelt.

David Scheinmann.

The picture of this infantry officer demonstrates the way swords were carried, hooked up comfortably on the waistbelt.

David Scheinmann.

Cleveland Winslow, was particularly spectacular in his mode of dress. Zouave Thomas Southwick wrote: 'Instead of a military frock coat which was part of the uniform worn by other officers, he wore a fancy Zouave jacket gaudily decorated. His military cap he jauntily wore on one side of his head. Altogether he was half Italian bandit and half English highwayman, a romantic looking fellow.'

Zouave Jacket
This infantry officer wears a short fatigue jacket. Many officers designed such jackets to their own specifications. David Scheinmann.

The uniform of Felix Agnus who commanded the 165th New York, Second Battalion Duryee Zouaves, was equally as spectacular. Tailored by Brooks Brothers of New York, the jacket was decorated with red tape and cord offset with gilt cord. The jacket sleeves had galloons of two intertwined strips of gold braid and each sleeve opening from cuff to shoulder was decorated with 10 brass ball buttons.

Lieutenant William M. Wells of the 56th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment wears a long four button officer's sack coat. His hat is a cut down Hardee hat with all the insignia removed.

David Scheinmann.

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Responses

  • ELIZABETH
    How people dressed back in the civil war?
    8 years ago
  • marzio
    What inferintry officers wore in the civil war?
    8 years ago
  • asphodel
    Did some union officers wear enslisted sack coats?
    8 years ago
  • Ulrich
    How to paint civil war gaiters?
    8 years ago
  • PANTALEONE
    What color is the union infantryman in battle dress?
    8 years ago
  • Mattalic
    Did officers wear enlisted sack coats during the civil war?
    6 years ago
  • matta
    Did soldiers wear sack coats on campaign?
    6 years ago
  • Segan
    What were sack coats made of?
    6 years ago
  • Marilyn
    Did union officers wear regular enlisted mens sack coat?
    6 years ago
  • EULA
    Where does colonel rank on frock coat go?
    5 years ago
  • pasquale
    What would a union infantry officer carry?
    4 years ago
  • ulla
    Did union soldiers wear ties or cravats?
    4 years ago
  • Awet
    Did union officers wear knapsacks?
    3 years ago

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