Monday, April 20, 2009

Uniform of the Union Army

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A plate showing the Union uniform of 1858, influenced by the French army
The Uniform of the Union Army was widely varied and, due to limitations on supply of wool and other materials, based on availability and cost of materials during the United States Civil War.
1 Generalization
1.1 Uniform coat
1.2 Headgear
1.3 Pants
1.4 Footwear
2 Other points
3 European and civilian influence
4 References
5 See also

Hiram Berdan in the double-breasted frock coat worn by officers. Unusually the uniform he and his men wore was dark green similar to the elite Napoleonic rifle units.

Garibaldi guard wore slouch hats and blue frock coats with red facings
The standard U.S. army uniform at the outbreak of the war had acquired its definitive form in the 1858 regulations.
It consisted in a campaign uniform a parade uniform and a fatigue uniform.
Described in general terms this uniform consisted of:
Service and campaign
A) Headgear: A black felt slouch hat with one brim being hold up and secured by means of a metallic eagle after the U.S. coat of arms of the day.
B) Coat: In Prussian blue, tight fitting and almost knee lenght, trimmed in arm of service piping for NCOs and other ranks. Cavalry and mounted artillery used a short jacket instead, more practical for riding. General officers wore a double breasted version with black velvet collar and cuffs.
C) Greatcoat: In sky blue, with standing collar and french cuffs and a fixed short cape. Officers could wear this or a dark blue variant.
D) Trousers for enlisted men were sky blue. NCOs had a vertical stripe in arm of service colours. Officers wore the sky blue trousers with or without piping or a dark blue one for Staff Officers and generals.
Parade order:
A) Headgear: The hat described with trimmings in the arm of servoce colours. Some units as marines and mounted artillery retained shakos for ceremonial purposes.
B) Coat: The same described (frock or short shell-jacket) with metallic epaullettes resembling scales. Officers wore french-type epaulettes and a sash.
C) Greatcoat: As described.
D) Trousers: As described.
A) Headgear: A forage cap with a floppy crown. Officers tended to privately purchase more elaborate versions after the french army model subsequently known as chasseur caps. Generals wore a variant having a black velvet band. Insignia was pinned on top of the crown or -in officers- in front of the cap.
B) Coat: A cheaply made dark blue sack-coat of a simple and unsophisticated design, having a loose cut, fall collar and no pockets.
C) Greatcoat: As described.
D) Trousers: As described.
In general terms, as the war went on, the service uniform tended to be replaced by the cheaper and more practical fatigue uniform. Anyway it is not uncommon to see pictures of soldiers combining items of all orders (i.e. frock coats and forage caps, elaborate taylor made versions of the sack-coat...).
The state militias (the modern National Guard) usually wore versions of the aforementioned uniform in medium grey, wich was gradually replaced by the standard blue uniform.

Pvt from the 95th Pennsylvania in state-issue shell jacket.
As a general rule, Union soldiers wore some sort of blue, usually a dark blue with the following items:

Cavalry Sgt wearing Hardee hat

Gun crew wearing the late-war sack coat. The officer's private purchase blue wool jacket is based on a typical civilian style. The soldier with his back to the camera has a pair of riding boots and several of the men wear civilian hats

Marines with their leather shakos, 1864. This is the full dress uniform consisting of a double breasted coat with red piping, epaulettes and inverted yellow rank stripes for NCOs. In the field a single-breasted coat similiar to the type used by the infantry was worn, with red rather than sky blue piping
Uniform coat
Single-breasted dark blue frock coat with sky blue piping for infantry or red piping for US Marines and heavy artillery.
An identical coat in rifle green was issued to Berdan's Sharpshooters as an early form of camouflage. These had black rubber Goodyear buttons that would not reflect the light and give away the sniper's position.
The cavalry, artillery and troops from Ohio or New York were equipped with dark blue shell jackets with shoulder straps and 12 small brass buttons down the front and colored tape around edges denoting their branch of service. The Veteran Reserve Corps were issued a similar pattern but in sky blue with navy blue tape. Wealthier soldiers especially NCOs would have shell jackets custom made for them by local tailors. The number of buttons on these coats varied between 12 and 8. Some had...(and so on)

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