The Confederate Army

The Confederate Army did not have nearly the number of combat troops fielded by the Union Army, nor did it recruit nearly as many specialist troops. Many of those who were recruited did not have any special regulation uniform, either. Nevertheless, there were specialist personnel among the Confederates who did important work for the South.

General and Staff Officers

In all, the South commissioned 425 men as fully ranked generals; of these, 77 were either killed in action or died of their wounds.

Generals, and staff officers of the Adjutant General's department, the Quartermaster General's department, and the Commissary General's department were to wear grey frock coats reaching halfway between the hip and knee, with two rows of eight buttons in pairs for generals, and seven

These men of the gth Regt., Veteran Reserve Corps photographed in Washington, DC, were part of the group that defended Fort Stevens when Confederates under Jubal Early attacked it in 1864. They wear the standard infantry fatigue dress, with the insignia of their corps of service, regimental number, and company letter on the tops of their forage caps. {Library of Congress)

buttons evenly spaced for other officers. The standing collars were to be buff, as were the pointed cuffs. Rank was marked on the collar by three gold embroidered stars within a wreath for general; three, two, and one stars without a wreath for field officers from colonel to major; and three, two, and onehorizontal bars for captain to second lieutenant. In addition, each sleeve was to be decorated with a gold Austrian knot: a general had four braids in his knot; field officers, three; captains, two; and lieutenants, one. Buttons were to bear an eagle surrounded by stars.

Many generals preferred wearing waist-length jackets instead of the regulation frock coats. Maj.Gen. Thomas J. ('Stonewall') Jackson was photographed in a totally plain jacket. A British soldier in a New Jersey artillery battery described Confederate Brig.Gen. William Walker in May 1864: 'His uniform was not unlike our British Volunteers Gray, only he wore a jacket instead of a

Confederate Ambulance Corps

A corporal of the I7'2nd Co., and Bn., Veteran Reserve Corps wears the dress uniform of that corps—sky blue jacket trimmed with dark blue, and sky blue trousers. Second Battalion men were not considered capable of firing a musket and were assigned to hospital work. This particular company was stationed in Davenport, Iowa. (Author's collection)

A corporal of the I7'2nd Co., and Bn., Veteran Reserve Corps wears the dress uniform of that corps—sky blue jacket trimmed with dark blue, and sky blue trousers. Second Battalion men were not considered capable of firing a musket and were assigned to hospital work. This particular company was stationed in Davenport, Iowa. (Author's collection)

coat having three stars on the collar to indicate his rank like these * * *'. Col. Arthur Fremantle, Coldstream Guards, in July 1863 'saw General Wilcox (an officer who wears a short round jacket and a battered straw hat)'. Maj.Gen. Patrick Cleburne in 1864 was described by one of his men: 'He had on a bob-tail Confederate coat, which looked as ifit had been cut out of a scrimp pattern.'

Trousers were to be dark blue with two stripes of gold lace on the outer seam, J in. apart for generals; other staff officers were to have 1 ¿-in.-wide gold lace stripe down each leg. Caps were to be entirely dark blue French-type képis. These were to be decorated up the front, back, sides and top with the same number of gold braids as appeared in the wearer's Austrian sleeve knot. Generals and staff officers were also authorised to wear French-type fore-and-aft chapeaux', but only Maj.Gen. John B. Magruder, who was noted for his fancy dress generally, was photographed with such a hat. In the field, the broad-brimmed slouch hat was the most common headgear.

Sashes for generals were to be of buff silk—and, indeed, Gen. Robert E. Lee wore such a sash at Appomattox. Staff officers were to wear red silk sashes.

There was no regulation chaplain's uniform. Chaplains of the II and III Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia voted in June 1863, to wear, as a badge, 'the letter C, with a wreath of olive leaves worked in gold bullion, on a ground of black velvet, the whole about inches wide.' Chaplains of the Army of Tennessee later chose to wear the Maltese Cross as their badge.

The Specialist Corps

On 24 October 1861 President Jefferson Davis wrote that the Engineers were 'a corps not having lieutenants, and the members of which were selected for their special qualifications.' Originally the Corps did not have enlisted men either, men being put into temporary pioneer brigades whenever engineering work was needed. In late 1863 two regiments of Engineers were authorised, and filled in time for the 1864 campaign. The First Regiment served with the Army of Northern Virginia, as did two companies of the Second Regiment; the rest served in the West. The Corps was most active in fighting around Petersburg,

Navy Officer Sleeve Braid
Top, the shoulderstrap of a lieutenant, US Navy, c. 1864; the anchor is silver, the other embroidery gold. Bottom, the two-piece beltplate worn by US Navy officers. (Author's collection)

where it was responsible for the fortifications; and in the Appomattox Campaign, where it built bridges ahead of the army, destroying them while standing off pursuing Union troops as the rest of the army passed on.

Officers of the Engineers wore staff officers' uniforms, with buff facings and red sashes; their buttons bore the Old English letter 'E'. Engineer enlisted men did not have an authorised button, probably wearing general service or even plain wood buttons. Their typical wear was waist-length grey or brown jackets with matching trousers. Non-commissioned officers would have worn, when available, buff or white chevrons, and perhaps, in more established posts, a white cotton stripe down each leg.

A visiting Austrian officer wrote in 1863: 'The signal corps is an institution peculiar to the American armies. On marches and during battles, high and commanding positions are occupied by squadrons of this corps, who communicate with each other by flags, on the old semaphore system, and report all important communications to their generals. The corps was found very useful last year, and has been very much increased since.'

The Corps had been authorised on 19 April 1862 under command of a major. It consisted of ten captains, ten first and ten second lieutenants, and

30 sergeants. These were especially trained in signal techniques. Privates were detailed from various line units as needed. Their signal flags came in two sizes, the largest being 12ft by 8ft, the smaller ones being described as 'about four feet by two and a halffeet in size and contain in their centers squares of another color than that of the body of the flag.' Unlike other Confederate organisations, the Signal Corps appears to have had special cap badges. One Corps member described 'a pair of silver plated cross flags w'h can be gotten on Wall St., or near the Columbian Hotel' in a letter dated 2 October 1863. This badge would apparently have resembled that worn by the US Army Signal Corps. Otherwise, Signal Corps officers and men wore standard issue dress, with buff facings and general service or staff officer buttons.

An Invalid Corps of veterans unable to fight but still able to stand guard duty was authorised on 17 February 1864. It had 110 special uniforms, although frock coats were a standard issue.

The Medical Department

According to a visiting Austrian officer in 1863: 'The medical department is organised thus: Medical director of the army; medical director of the army corps; chief surgeon of division; senior surgeon of brigade. Each regiment has a surgeon, an assistant-surgeon, two ambulances, and a medical waggon, belonging to it. Two men from each company are detailed to act as litter-bearers and attendants upon the wounded; these follow the troops on the field of battle, and convey men to the hospitals in the rear.'

Recalled Pte. James Nisbit, 21st Georgia Infantry: 'Each company had two men detailed as litter-bearers who were excused from all company duty and the regimental drill. Their principal duty was to pick up wounded men and carry them back to the surgeon and assist the surgeons after the battle. The captains selected the strongest and bravest men for this duty. Often each litter-bearer had to carry a man on his back or in his arms, which called for great strength, and to return to the firing line was more trying than to stay and shoot.' These men were described by Col. Fremantle as 'unarmed men carrying stretchers and wearing in their hats the red badges of the ambulance corps.' The badge was not described in army orders and was probably

Navy Admiral Undress Uniform

Capt. William B. Shubrick came out of retirement to serve as chairman of the Navy's Lighthouse Board during the war. He wears the US Navy officer's dress uniform coat, apparently with undress trousers—dress trousers had a gold lace stripe down each leg. Full dress was not required of officers during the war. (Author's collection)

Capt. William B. Shubrick came out of retirement to serve as chairman of the Navy's Lighthouse Board during the war. He wears the US Navy officer's dress uniform coat, apparently with undress trousers—dress trousers had a gold lace stripe down each leg. Full dress was not required of officers during the war. (Author's collection)

any shape and size of red cloth, ranging from a circle on the hat front to a band around the entire hat.

Surgeons and assistant surgeons wore double-breasted grey frock coats, with black collars and cuffs. The surgeon wore the single star of a major, while the assistant surgeon wore the three stripes of a captain on his collar. Their trousers were to be dark blue with a i^-in.-wide black velvet stripe, edged with gold, down each leg. The regulation sash was green silk net. Although not regulation, many of them wore the gold embroidered Old English letters 'MS', sometimes within a gold wreath, 011 the front of their képis.

Each regiment was supposed to have a hospital steward to assist the surgeon. According to Confederate Surgeon Deering J. Roberts, 'the chevrons on the coat sleeves and the stripes down the trousers of the hospital stew ard were similar to those worn by an orderly or first sergeant (three chevrons and a lozenge), but were black in color.' This insignia is not mentioned in Confederate dress regulations.

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Responses

  • may
    How mnay austrian knots for a general?
    8 years ago
  • fre-swera
    Did confederate army officers wear sashes?
    8 years ago
  • amy delagarza
    Did confederate officers wear shoulder boards?
    8 years ago
  • Arto
    Did Confederate officers wear shoulder straps on their uniforms?
    8 years ago
  • Huriyyah
    Did confederates wear shoulder rank?
    6 years ago

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