The Confederate States Marine Corps

On 16 March 1861 a Marine Corps was authorised, to consist of a major, a quartermaster, a paymaster, an adjutant, a sergeant major, a quartermaster sergeant, and six companies each with a captain, a first lieutenant, a second lieutenant, four sergeants, four corporals, 100 privates, and ten musicians. A total of 1,600 officers and men served in the Corps, no more than 600 at a time. The Corps fought in all the Navy's sea battles, as well as in the naval brigade around Richmond.

Officers' Uniforms

There are no known published Confederate Marine Corps dress regulations. However, enough photographic and written evidence remains to give a reasonable picture of this small unit.

Officers wore caps like French képis, ist Lt. Thomas P. Gwynn, in May 1864, referred to his

'uniform cap' as being blue, while Lt. Henry L. Graves wrote home that lie had a grey cloth cap stolen. 2nd Lt. Robert Ramson was photographed in a plain dark blue képi, while 2nd Lt. James C. Murdoch wore a képi with a dark blue band and crown and grey sides. Peaks and chinstraps were black leather.

Coats appear to have been universally grey lrock coats with two rows of seven brass buttons each. They were marked with Army officer's rank insignia: one, two, and three collar stripes for second lieutenant to captain; one, two, and three stars for major to colonel; and gold Austrian knots on each sleeve—one braid for lieutenant, two for captain, and three for field-grade officers. Many of these coats were all grey; however, a significant number had dark blue collars and pointed cuffs. A significant number also had the US Marine Corps officer's gold Russian shoulder knots.

Trousers were usually dark blue, although an original pair worn by Graves is sky blue with a black well down each outer seam.

Blue was also worn for fatigue dress. Lt. Graves wrote home in April 1863: 'I got me a coat & pr pants the other day, made out of a sort of blue flannel, which is light & will do for the weather lor a while yet.' Later he wanted 'some light material, jeans, or something else for a summer coat." He also wanted his family to 'look among my old clothes and sec if that pair of sailor pants are fit for wear. If so, please send them with as many more white pants as you can find, blue jackets and white pants you know are regular sailor style.' Lt. Thomas St. George Pratt wrote from Savannah that he wanted a 'dark jacket' in April 1864; and Lt. Ruffin Thomson wrote that he wore a blue flannel summer

A squad of US Marines in full dress. The shakos have brass plates with a silver Old English 'M' in the centre, and red pompons. The coats have yellow lace on the collars and cuffs, with yellow fringe which appears black here from the shoulder scales. The collars and cuffs are also edged in red. The sergeant (left) can be seen in the original print to wear three chevrons, points up, of yellow edged in red on each sleeve above the elbow. Trousers are plain sky blue except for the sergeant's, which have a red welt down each leg. The beltplates are plain rectangular pieces of brass, but the cross belt plates are of the Army pattern. (Library of Congress)

Confederate Marine Officers

outfit, as well as a grey wool uniform coat in late 1864—early 1865.

Graves also wanted, in April 1863, some 'white vests made military.' Such vests, or waistcoats, were also worn in winter. In November 1863 he wanted 'remnants of black cloth or casimer or indeed anything that will make a vest.' These vests were usually made with a standing collar, three or four slash pockets, and nine small brass buttons down the front.

Graves also wanted an overcoat. He sent home 18 buttons for this coat, and told his mother to cut it 'a little longer than Fa's coat (that black sack-looking overcoat of the raglan style is the one I mean) but 1 wish them cut exactly in every other respect. I

This Revenue Marine second assistant engineer, photographed in Baltimore, holds the officer's cap with the engineer's badge of a wheel within a wreath. His gold cuff lace and shoulder straps conform with the August 1864 uniform regulations. Deck officers wore a gold shield over the top line of cuff lace. (Author's collection)

Confederate States Marine Corps

believe I told you about the cape; make it to meet in front, under the throat to be held up by buttons under the collar of the coat. Please make button and eyelet holes to the number of six at regular intervals down the front of the cape so that it can be buttoned up and worn ai times by itself; 1 have buttons for the cape.'

Marine buttons, which were made in England, were brass, plain, bearing the Roman letter 'M' on the face. Examples of this button have been found at Fort Fisher, where a number of Marines were stationed. There was, however, no unique Marine Corps beltplate design.

Enlisted Uniforms

The Navy's purchasing agent in England, James Bulloch, was told in May 1861 to buy 1,000 fatigue caps for the Marines. These appear to have been dark blue wool French-type képis with black peaks and chinstraps and brass side buttons.

Bulloch was also told to buy 2,000 jackets, the regulations indicating that each enlisted Marine was to receive two uniform coats and four fatigue jackets during his enlistment. 'Marine cloth,' the Secretary of the Navy wrote Bulloch in March 1863, 'is gray.'

Both coats and jackets appear to have been worn—Marines were described in 1864 near Richmond in jackets; however, the longer frock coat appears to have been more common. A corporal who deserted from the Marines in Savannah in June 1863 was described as being 'dressed in a grey coat trimmed with black.' From quartermaster vouchers it appears that this black trim, probably used to pipe the collar and the culls, was common; it was made of linen flax or, for senior noncommissioned officers, silk. From other quartermaster reports it appears that the cloth was 'blue grey' in colour, and each coat had a single row of seven brass buttons, each bearing the Roman letter 'M' on its face. A drawing of Marines near Richmond shows the frock coat reaching to just above the knee.

Grade was indicated by black chevrons, worn points up. Two chevrons indicated a corporal; three, a sergeant; three with a diamond, a first sergeant; three and ties, a quartermaster sergeant; and three and arcs, a sergeant major.

Trousers were dark blue wool for winter and white cotton for summer. Capt. J. E. Meiere wrote to the Corps Quartermaster on 9 June 1863 that he could obtain in Mobile, Alabama, 'about eighty or ninety yards of Blue Cloth such as the Marines' Pantaloons are made of . . . from the Naval storehouse.'

Both grey and blue flannel shirts were also worn as outer garments from time to time in hot climates. White cotton shirts were also worn, usually under the coats. Bulloch was told to buy 2,000 flannel and 1,000 linen and cotton shirts for the Corps. Black leather stocks were to be worn over the white shirt collar and under the frock coat. A hundred of these were issued to a company in Florida in October 1861, but they were quickly stored, and apparently not issued in the Corps thereafter. Drilling or canton flannel drawers, like those provided in the Army, were issued, along with 'infantry bootees' and woollen socks.

Marine Accoutrements and Weapons Bulloch ordered 1,000 black leather waistbelts, probably made with two-piece brass 'snake buckles' like those used by British riflemen. Bulloch also acquired British-made cap boxes, cartridge boxes, bayonet scabbards and knapsacks 'such as used in the British service, with straps to connect with the waist belt.' Southern-made haversacks and water-bottles were also issued as needed.

The Navy Department allocated 1,000 Pattern 1853 British Enfield-type rifled muskets to the Corps in early 1862. A Marine recruiting advertisement published in February 1863 says that the Corps was armed with 'Enfield Rifles, with Sword Bayonets.' However, the Corps also used whatever other weapons were available. Marines in Mobile in March 1863 had 'very worthless Old Flint Lock Muskets altered. A very few will snap a cap—some with Bayonet—& some without.' Later they received 0.54 cal. Austrian Lorenz rifled muskets. Marines who surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865 were armed with 0.58 cal. captured US Army rifled muskets, or copies of those weapons made in Richmond or Fayetteville, North Carolina. These were the types of weapons captured on the CSS Tennessee in August 1864.

Bulloch was also told in September 1861 to buy 20 swords with shoulder belts for Marine noncommissioned officers. Officers carried Army or Navy officers' swords.

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  • leighton
    Where can I purchase Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Chevrons?
    8 years ago

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