History Wednesday/American Civil War Uniforms

cavalry-uniformLet us talk a little about the American civil war, we all know that during the war the North wore blue uniforms and the South wore grey but did you know at the start of the war that wasn’t necessary the case.

In fact many soldiers on both sides wore both blue or grey as they wore the uniform of the militia they were part of, as the men of the 5th Virginia Militia who wore a blue uniform and they had to wear a white strip of cloth around their hats and were told if challenged to place their hand over their left breast and say “our homes”. Like that was going to happen in the middle of a battle or pretty much at any time.

confederate-uniform

 

Regular U S Army troops wore their traditional dark blue trousers, jackets and kepi caps, to distinguish the volunteers who comprised the vast bulk of the federal armies from the professionals of the regular army.

xZouave_New_York_uniform_of_the_Civil_War_by_Matthew_Bisanz.jpg.pagespeed.ic.BtiYpIw8SF

However, many Union soldiers also wore grey uniforms again because that was the uniform of the militia they were part of. Then there were the men who turned up to fight decked out in baggy trouser usually bright red or striped because their uniform was influenced by French Zouaves of North Africa. I will talk about the Zouaves in another post.

Confederate uniform volunteers were grey kepi jacket and trousers but as the war went on they would fad and took on a light brownish appearance, which gave rise to the nickname “Butternuts” for Southern soldiers.

confederat uniform

On both sides artillerymen had red kepis, shell jackets with red trim and depending on rank a red stripe on their pants legs. Cavalry riders had a yellow stripe on their pants and yellow trim on jackets. Other special units had different uniforms the Hiram Berdan’s Union sharpshooters wore green uniforms.

Of course many in command and in Washington thought the whole thing would be over after the first battle, never thinking it would last as long as it did or that so many would die during the war.

Union uniform

The first major battle of the war took place at Bull Run River, now try and picture it a battle fought my mostly untrained soldiers with both sides wearing both blue and grey uniforms and some wearing no uniform at all, it must have been crazy chaos and it was fought only 25-30 miles from Washington. The battle lasted around 12 hours, with between 3,600-4,600 dead or wounded and around 1,200 missing in action.


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