Back to Civil War News

Confederate Uniforms


Once again the information here is very rudimentary, but is supplied here as a guide to help the SASA member who wants to adopt a Confederate impression for his alias/costuming. Hard core reenactment groups do enormous amounts of research to ensure that their image doesn't just look correct, but is in fact as correct as possible with the materials available today. For them the weave, density and colour has to be exact; the number of stitches per inch in the garment has to be correct; hand sewing versus machine etc. The uniform also has to match the war period. Early Civil War Confederate uniforms were obviously a lot flasher as opposed to those in the later period of the conflict, when uniforms and accessories were wearing out and new items weren't always readily available. For instance Hardee Hats were sometimes seen during the early stages of the war but almost non existent toward the end of the conflict.

The information on this page is far from exhaustive but it should provide a very good starting point for your research.

The Southern soldier was certainly a dashing figure (at least to begin with) as shown in this copy of a page that appeared in the Harper Weekly in 1861. This was sketched by an artist from actual soldiers he viewed within the Confederate camp:-

Harper Weekly

And in case you think it was just artistic license, have a look at a photograph of one of the South's most famous cavaliers, Colonel John S. "Gray Ghost" Mosby:-

Col. Mosby

Here is a picture of some of Mosby's troops:-

Mosby Men

So anyway, lets look at a few basic's.

Firstly, what colour gray should you use for your uniform. Some people get confused by the mention of butternut when referring to Confederate uniforms. Officially the Confederate uniform was meant to be gray. However poor quality dying techniques combined with poor quality vegetable dyes often produced less than satisfactory results. Some cloth actually came out of the factories butternut in colour, other cloth faded to this colour after use in the field. Also a lot of solider's had to make do with civilian clothing and sometimes tried to dye them themselves producing anything from brown to butternut to khaki. So I guess what I'm saying is, unless you are trying to do an impression of a specific regiment during a specific period of the war (for hardcore reenacting), it's going to be pretty hard to get it wrong as most colour's and shades were used at some time or another.

The Confederate troops going into battle at 1st Manassas were wearing everything from Gray to Blue to Green to Red to Yellow uniforms. You can bet the blue uniforms played havoc with the Federal troops.

Have a look at some of the generally accepted colour's and materials:-

Medium Grey

Medium Gray

Richmond Grey

Richmond Gray

Brown Grey

Brown Gray

Butternut Grey

Butternut Gray

Tait Grey

Tait Gray

Cadet Grey

Cadet Gray/Blue

Grey Wool Jean

Gray Wool Jean

Brown Wool Jean

Brown Wool Jean

Natural Wool Jean

Natural Wool Jean

As you can see quiet a range. From a medium gray to a very blue gray know as Cadet Gray/Blue. The bottom row is wool jean weaves which became very common as production of the finer and more refined weaves grew scarce.

To the almost endless range of cloth hues you can also add a large variety of trims. Below are the standard trims that were in use:-

Black Trim

Black Trim - Militia and Medical units

Buff Trim

Buff Trim


French Trim

French Blue Trim


Red Trim

Red Trim - Artillery


Sky Blue trim

Sky Blue Trim - Infantry

Yellow trim

Yellow Trim - Cavalry

With trousers they were usually either the same colour gray as the jacket or the most common other colour's were as shown below:-

Sky Blue Trousers

Sky Blue for Trousers

Blue CS Trousers

Dark Blue for Staff Commanders

For trousers any period trousers and suspender arrangement will work. You basically had infantry style and cavalry style trousers, the main different with the cavalry style being a padded insert in the back to provide extra comfort and wear and tear for the rider in the saddle.

With the enlisted soldier you are looking at three basic styles of jackets:-

Enlisted Frock

Frock Coat

Enlisted Sack

Sack Jacket

Enlisted Shell

Shell Jacket

Particularly with the Shell Jackets there were numerous cuts and types. These were usually issued by Government Depots such as the Atlanta, Columbus, Alabama and Richmond Depots. Obviously the shell jackets became more common in the later periods of the war as material became scarce.

So as far as setting up an impression of a Confederate enlisted man, you have quiet a variety of choices. You can't go far wrong with civilian period dress, just with a few military buckles and pieces of equipment thrown in, as this is what a lot of the enlisted men wore. Even parts of Federal uniforms were commonly worn by the Confederate solider. In point of fact, in a few cases, Confederate prisoners were nearly shot as spy's because their outfit was composed of so many items of Federal clothing. Foraging off Federal dead was a good way to increase your wardrobe in those days.

 

With hats you have a wide choice as well:-

Foreage Cap

Forage Cap

Cavalry Kepi

Kepi (French style) - Yellow Band indicates Cavalry

Artillery Kepi

Kepi - Red top indicates Artillery (could also be a band as in the cavalry kepi and visa versa)

General Kepi

General's Kepi - indicated by four rows of gold braid. Colour of kepi can vary.

If you look at most of the original photos of groups of Confederate soldiers you will usually see a smattering of kepi's and forage caps throughout the crowd, but you will notice the main head gear of choice for the Confederate was the slouch hat. Any sort of wide brimmed cowboy hat will work, however most of the hats of that era tended to be smaller brimmed. Below is a picture of a hat I had made to do an impression of a Missouri Guerilla (irregular Confederate forces):-

Capt. Kealy

Badges and buttons were almost an endless variety again. Of course you have the three major branches of the service which could be represented by either brass pins or cloth patches as shown below:-

Infantry Patch
Artillery Patch
Cavalry Patch
Infantry
Artillery
Cavalry

Here is just a small sampling of buttons:-

Officers Buttons
Virginian Buttons
Lousiana Buttons
Georgia Buttons
Texas Buttons
Officers Buttons
Virginian Buttons
Louisiana Buttons
Georgia Buttons
Texas Buttons

Below are two examples of belt buckles:-

Belt Buckel Belt Buckle

Obvious each state, etc. had their own version of belt buckle and once again the choices are almost endless. Even a Federal buckle worn upside down was a common choice for the Confederate Soldier.

When it comes to officers uniforms, once again unless trying a specific impression, it's pretty hard to get it wrong. Confederate officers were expected to supply their own uniforms so needless to say, endless variations were created. With officer jackets we had two choices, the frock coat or the shell jacket. A version of the sack coat was available to officers but not that commonly worn.

Confederate officers liked to stand out on the battle field. In those days officers lead their troops into battle and needed to be readily recognized in order to rally the troops. Unfortunately this also made them a good target for the other sides sharp shooters. The number of dead field officers in a major battle was always staggering. Below are examples of officers jackets:-

Officer Frock Coat Officer Shell Jacket

Confederate insignia consisted of collar patches, combined with gold braid on their sleeves known as an Austrian Knot as shown below:-

Braid

The various ranks were identified with the following collar insignia's:-

1st Lieutenant
2nd Lieutenant
Captain

1st Lieutenant

2nd Lieutenant

Captain

Major
Lieutenant Colonel
Colonel
General
Major
Lieutenant Colonel
Colonel
General

As well as the number of rows of gold braid in the Austrian knots on their jackets also designated their rank:-

1 row = 1st and 2nd Lieutenant
2 rows = Captain
3 rows = Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel
4 rows = General

A generals coat has 2 rows of 8 buttons, grouped in pairs. All other junior officer grades wore 2 rows of 7 buttons equally spaced.

Dark blue was the standard colour for officer trousers. Generals wore two 5/8 inch gold stripes on the outer seam of their trousers. All other officers wore a single 1 1/4 inch stripe. As usual there were all sorts of variations but a good guide for trouser stripes would be:-

  • Militia - Black Wool Stripe
  • Artillery - Red Wool Stripe
  • Cavalry - Yellow Wool Stripe
  • Infantry - Light Blue Wool Stripe (or sometimes French Blue)
  • Staff Officer - Gold Metallic Stripe
  • Medical Officer - Black and Gold Stripe
  • General - Double 5/8 inch Gold Metallic Stripes

So anyway, even though we've only covered a few basic points here, this should give you a good basis for going out and doing a little more research and then putting together a real good Confederate impression. There is an awful lot of information readily available out there on the web.

So good luck with your impression and I look forward to seeing you in gray.

Stonewall and Savannah

- Stonewall (SASA # 4866)

Confederate Group


SASA Footer