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BobWerner
02-16-2006, 01:23 PM
A recent phone conversation with a gentleman whose opinion on this particular subject I very much respect has had me thinking about a peculiar situation that exists among reenactors and living history types. During our discussion we talked about the various levels of quality and attention to historical detail that is available with the clothing and uniforms produced by the many different makers for our Civil War time period. I was, as usual, complaining about imports (it's not just a living history thing with me, either), particularly those from Pakistan. Needless to say, I was very critical, but the gentleman made a good point that I had not given a whole lot of consideration to. He commented that with all the higher end makers out there offering such a variety patterns and materials based on solid historical evidence, we nonetheless have a problem created by well-intended folks making purchases they're rightfully proud of, but that contribute to a distinct lack of uniformity that would surely have existed during the period we're attempting to portray. Add to that the typical small messes that may have individual uniform guidelines or recommendations are frequently joined with others to form companies at campaigner or more progressive type events and you end up with a less than optimal overall impression. To further the problem, the weapons used are also of a greater variety than a typical company would have experienced in the 1860's. It seems we've broken out of the "cookie-cutter" habit and into the "coats of many colors" habit.
The point that was being made was that the flocks of folks who rush into places like Regimental Quartermaster to uniform and arm themselves at their companys' requests are actually appearing with a more uniform presence than many of us who are plopping down big bucks to have the latest, bestest, kewlest, most accurate coat, trousers or whatever. I'm not, in any way, advocating massed purchases of Pakistani goods by the more historically inclined. What I am asking is if we are not doing ourselves a great disservice, from a historical point of view, by not paying much more attention to uniformity? This is becoming much more apparent with Federal groups, too, but the Confederates are clearly getting pretty far off the mark.
I'd be interested to hear what others think.
Respects,

Dave Grieves
02-16-2006, 03:19 PM
The circuit of events at the highest rung of the authenticity ladder doesn't really have this problem. Uniform and equipment standards are set, inspections take place and, generally, problems with uniformity are resolved. Last year at Payne's Farm, for example, there were several people on the Yankee side who were very upset that their leather canteen slings would not be allowed to be used. That's uniform detail in minutia, but thems the rules.

Not every event is that strict. And there are events that are hawked as "campaigner" events that don't really fill the bill. Authenticity in general and uniformity will fall away where standards are lax or unenforced.

Of course, you have to bear in mind that the implementation of strict standards is what causes people to think that authentics are "mean."

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt
02-16-2006, 03:49 PM
Hallo!

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? ;-)
(History versus Authenticity versus Detail makes for a crowded pin head...) :-)

This is an on-going pendulum swing that gets discussed every so often here, on the AC Forum, and on other boards and fora.
In the "spirit" of the thing, yes- with each man US or CS going out and even buying premium goods from premium vendors/makers, whose products highly compare to the raw materials, patterns and forms, and methods of construction or technology- it is possible (and observed) that the overall impression of the group is that no TWO MEN served together in the same company.

However, the heresy is, when looking at say a "CW era company, there is NEVER EVER cookie-cutter uniformity.
The first factor is when and where the company or regiment was uniformed and outfitted, for the very first time, and how many of what arsenal or contractors' goods were on the shelves when the requisitions came in to be filled? (Looking for the "By Like Company" concept of regimental issuances where the most men received the most "same" goods, as far as the numbers of any one thing went...).
The second factor is what the company is doing to use up or lose clothing and gear? Hard marches and hard campaigns put a strain on the items themselves as well as the ability of the Quartermaster and Ordnance folks to "resupply" and in what "quantities."
A third factor is how close, or how far, is the unit from a "resupply?"
A fourth factor is the Clothing Allowance System as well as the US arsenal and the CS commutation and arsenal systems. Looking at "routine" and "emergency" type resupply requisitions, not all men, needed everything, and some men were allowed to pass on "new" if the "old" was still serviceable.
A fifth factor is unit consolidations. As larger units were shot up, they were often "condensed" into smaller unit groupings- mixing men in a brigade down to a regiment down to a battalion down to companies, etc.
Etc., etc.
And last but hardly least, is that even with the same clothing, accoutrements, and gear, the individual notions, druthers, field experience, the size of the men, etc., not everything is worn or carried in exactly the same way as veteran soldiers adapt and adopt.

Having said all that, IMHO, it is one of my heresies that (of course depending upon the unit, time, and place of the impression) there should generally be more "similarity" along the lines of "By Like Company" issuance. First with weapons. Then with accoutrements. Then with clothing and gear. (with druthers and personalizations so noted).
And when each and every man looks entirely too much different, even though they are all uniformed in Sekela, Daley, Brown, Wedeward, Nolin, Blunt, Hock, etc., etc. uniforms- they can be presenting the wrong image for some unit's time, place, and circumstances.
IMHO, the key is to fix through research and documentation, the particular unit's time, place, and circumstances- and then try to appear more like the period images rather than the images of reenactors at events.
When 100 lads have 100 different blouses, or 100 different canteen covers, or 100 different blankets, or 100 different accoutrement sets, it can present an unbelievable image.
Where it gets tricky, is in determining how many out of the 30, 50, or 100 can have reflect "campaign" loss, "arsenal/contractor" differences, "skipping on the Clothing Allowance," etc.?

Over the years of reenacting, there has been a Reenacting Tradition of sorts where Confederates were allowed if not encouraged to all look different as a "CS thing,"- and where to a point the blue blouse and sky blue trousers of a Federal tended to even out the "look" at 50, 100, or 300 yards more easily. ;-)

Others' mileage and heresies, will of course, vary...

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt

Frenchie_2006
02-16-2006, 08:07 PM
There's a period quote (can't find the exact reference) to the effect that the longer they served, the more the soldiers looked like day laborers who had bought second-hand military clothing. There's a photo of a unit of Regular infantry going out on campaign with all sorts of old uniform pieces, because why wear out your newly-issued duds when you have serviceable stuff at hand? In Guadalcanal Diary (WWII) the men are described as looking as variegated as "a bunch of pirates". Finally, there's the old axiom that no combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection.

TheQM
02-17-2006, 12:47 AM
Bob,

I belong to an unit that does mainly a Confederate impression. We desided a long time ago to try to maintain an uniform impression. We buy jean cloth and have a lady who makes up RD2 jackets and trousers for us, using our cloth and specs. Every new recruit is expected to buy one of these uniforms. The look doesn't gets too uniform, since we never seem to be able to get the exact same cloth twice in a row!

We are lucky, since many of the issue records for the unit survived, and we know jackets and trousers were issued in bunches. It was rare for just a few to be issued.

As a matter of interest, During the 4th. Quarter of 1864, Company B, 4th Texas Infantry, the unit we portray, received:

32 Pants (all the issue records refer to pants, not trousers)
32 Jackets
64 Shirts
32 Wool Shirts
64 Drawers
32 Pair of Shoes
64 Pair of Socks
32 Blankets

At the time, there were 28 men on the Company Roll. These Rebels weren't too ragged! :shock:

coffeeboiler
02-17-2006, 07:03 AM
From what I have read and seen, I believe it would be very rare to find a Company in which the men were not sporting a combination of old and new equipment. The army was, and still is, a very frugal service that has a long-standing practice of continuing to issue anything that is still serviceable and only replacing gear that is no longer serviceable. Members of our unit that served in Vietnam tell of the randomness in which gear was issued (even in boot camp when they were all issued gear at the same time) where some of the guys in the Company where handed new stuff and some where handed gear left over from WWII. The QM simply issued whatever he had on his shelves. Old or new didnít matter so long as it was still serviceable. Gear would then be replaced on a case by case basis as men lost stuff, or it wore out. The guys now serving in the Gulf tell similar stories of the mix of gear with their Companies.

A review of Col. Mansfields 1858 report on the inspection of the troops out west, also documents the variety of gear in service at that time by Company at each fort. Unfortunately, Iíve got that report packed away somewhere, but recall the report listing how many canteens where gutta-percha and how many tin, etc. for each Company and how many Mississippi rifles and other rifles, etc. However, I do believe that there was some effort during the pre-years to make the issuance of the more noticeable uniform changes to the new Hardee hat and dark blue trousers on a Company by Company basis. Certainly one can see significant differences in uniform and gear when viewing period photos through the detail available from the LOC tiff files. One example is the 1863 photo of the 8th U.S. Visible within this photo is a mix of the old 1855 rifles with the 1861 rifles. The men are also sporting a great variety of headgear too.

TheQM
02-17-2006, 11:15 AM
"The army was, and still is, a very frugal service that has a long-standing practice of continuing to issue anything that is still serviceable and only replacing gear that is no longer serviceable."

Bob,

When it come to equipmenmt, what you said is very true today, and I'm sure was equally true during the Civil War. Clothing is a different matter. I spent over twenty years in the service, and other then field jackets, was never issued used clothing. On occusion, you could buy slightly used clothing at Clothing Sales, but it was not a issue item.

I can't believe it was any different during the Civil War. With the exception of under garments, the soldiers were issued only one piece of clothing at a time. Where was the QM going to get used clothing, from the dead, wounded, or sick? In the Federal Service, I could see a Company issuing out used Great Coats, that had been put in storage, and had been signed for by someone who didn't need it anymore; much like the field jackets I received, that were actually Company property. Oh yeah, for accountability purposes, those used field jackets were entered on my TA-50 Form, not my clothing records.

BobWerner
02-17-2006, 01:08 PM
Thanks to all for the responses. You're raising some good points. However, for clarification purposes, I realize I need to go into a bit further detail in what I was referring to in regard to the PRESENT lack of uniformity as actually compared to those of 1861-5 whom we are attempting to portray.
In my initial post I wasn't referring to the disparity of clothing items or variety, nor the many ways soldiers did, and still do, express their individuality. I also realize that different periods of the war and different theatres contribute to what the troops looked like. There are early war photos of troops such as the 9th Mississippi that are wearing just about anything and everything. To the opposite extreme, there are photos of units where each man appears almost identical to the next. Obviously, there are also numerous other circumstances in which soldiers aren't carbon copies of one another.
My point was in questioning just how well we're actually portraying how they truly appeared. When taking into consideration the many period photos and records of clothing and equipment issued, then comparing the look we present, I still believe we're missing the mark. With the quality and finely detailed work of so many modern makers, I see many, many fine individual impressions that harken back to the soldiers of the Civil War. It's when we're grouped together in companies and battalions that the multitude of variation really sticks out like a sore thumb.
When looking at photos from events, it's easy enough to see "coats of many colors" that I earlier referred to. Naturally, some units are better at avoiding these problems than others, but it seems pretty widespread. I just finished looking at one photo of Confederates at a well known event who all belong to a well known and highly respected unit. There were eight men in the photo and not one bore even the slightest similarity to another with the exception that the majority were wearing jackets. The materials were different; some patterns were distinctly different; weapons and equipment were different, and no two uniforms were even close to the same color. Men in the same company, while maintaining the variations we discussed previously, would still have presented a much greater uniformity than did these troops. Even among the Federal side, you can easily find far more variation than what existed among the 1860's soldiers. To find a mess where two fellows are wearing Martin contract blouses of different materials and shades of blue along with two fellows wearing Schuylkill Arsenal of different materials and hues, one carrying a '61 Springfield; one with a '42 Springfield or Harper's Ferry; one with a burnished Enfield and the other with a blued Enflield. Again, individually they all present a highly accurate impression. Together, they look like they all went out and bought whatever they each preferred rather than having been attired through government issue.
Take some time to visit various websites where they have unit and event photos posted. Then compare to period photos and accounts. I still feel we're missing the mark with the extent of individuality in our impressions. Keep the discussion going. I'd like to hear more thoughts on the subject.
Thanks.

flattop32355
02-17-2006, 10:14 PM
Together, they look like they all went out and bought whatever they each preferred rather than having been attired through government issue.

Exactly!

Isn't that precisely what happens? Each reenactor goes out and buys his gear as an individual, not as a unit (with rare exception, and usually then only for certain items, such as a common shirt, haversack, etc.)

The government rarely chooses to outfit reenactor units of any era. Therefore, the market for large numbers of similar items is quite low. And I, for one, am not really thrilled at the idea of some other reenactor, no matter how respected in the hobby, telling me exactly what I must buy with my own dollars. (Did I mention that the government paid for those mass-produced items?)

I doubt many, if any, modern day makers of the desired goods have the capacity to crank out the required number of widgets to supply all of us in similar fashion, even if the market was there for it. (Did I mention that those original items were through government contracts?)

So the odds of any large group of us ever looking like the cookie-cutter pictures of men all attired with common gear is slim. That's just one of the compromises, such as safety issues, that separate us from the "real" world of the CW soldier. You may be able to do it with a moderately sized group for specific items (Hardee hats, Springfield rifle-muskets), but not over all.

But your point is well taken.

reb64
02-20-2006, 04:24 AM
This is the great debate i have been known for writing on for the past few years. Thanks for revisiting it. My only purpose in responding is to help strengthen the pastime. As I have said before, the push for more authentic uniforms has caused much of this situation. every season it seems there is a new revelation into material and equipment that soldiers had at various times and specifc battles. What may have been thought orrect one year might be considered incorrect the following. Many are caught up into this and it is costly. those that can afford the latest garment made by the reigning top makers buy them, others cling to their old standbys. What you get is a unit that is miss matched as you stated. I have voiced at my meetings that our group ought to at least try to outfit ourselves reasonbly close to what was worn at the specific battles insead of having one jaket for all events. This leads to hurt feelings over whose will wins out. the result usually is a mess with all the egos involved and their idea of what should be worn. i am impressed by those strong units who do look uniform, even if they are incorrect, like the large groups of c depot wearers at corinth, or the mixed gray wearing boys where jean would be more appropriate. What is one to do? Our group has finally decreed a certain jean color and trouser requirement but there are those who still stand out. Being westerners, we need about 4 uniforms: early war civilian/militia, generic frocks, commutation jackets or c depots and federal for backup. unless everyone gets the same cut of cloth, and since we live very far apart from each other, we usually end up with the lack of uniformity mentioned. try as we might, their won't be uniformity until commanders have a rock solid guidline, even though it may be a expensive upgrade for the unit. I think dressing out appropriate for the specific event is more important than sporting the high dollar maker items just for individual posing. unity is the key and less individualism, which i see is getting harder and harder to comply with. Thats the difference between now and then. Back then they were together all the time, just not the weekend. they were supplied or bought from the same makers usually.

rcraig
02-21-2006, 11:59 AM
This is an interesting topic, and one which I have given some thought over the last couple of years. I've spent a pretty big chunk of the last couple of years in various combat zones with the Army. I have been struck every time by the variety of uniform pieces and equipment worn by soldiers even in this modern era. I mean, almost no two guys look exactly alike when it comes to uniforms and equipment. It got me to thinking that if someone 100 years from now were to reenact the GWOT, and went only by the army regulations that existed during the various years of the war, the result would look nothing like the reality in the combat zone as it exists today. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't have standards and all that stuff. I'm just saying that maybe the non-uniformity is an O.K. thing.

Just some food for thought.

Doc

RJSamp
02-21-2006, 03:32 PM
Actually you miss the point here.

The AOP looks great ......at the 1 foot view and the 500 yard view. To see them marching as veterans with their brown blankets slung is awesome...

It's at the 100 or 50 yard view that the LACK OF UNIFORMITY is readily apparent in even the most authentic Battalion.

ACW:
Batches of 1,000 blouses, trowsers, caps are handed out to the regiment.
They march around a bunch and have 56 blouses and 39 trowsers and 17 caps replaces.....and that's just company A.

AC Reenactors
Batches of 1 - 6 blouses, trowsers, caps come from several highly regarded vendors in the style and fabric color/weave of the year. One person's John Wedeward JT Martin Sack is another's Nick Sekela Frock Coat. And the Colors/cut/work change over time/research.

I rode down the AOP line at Corinth last year, say 60 yards away.....the color variations in the sack coats were unreal....and what Private was wearing 8 year old sack coats in October 1862?

So out on the field you can see who's wearing 10 or 6 or 2 year old uniforms......

It's not Uniform, and that's not being mean.

Rifle's are a whole nother (expensive) story.....

RJ Samp

Jim Mayo
02-21-2006, 06:27 PM
Since there are no color photographs of orignial troops I think this question will never be positively answered to everyone's satisfaction. I do remember reading a description of CS troops crossing the Potomac into Maryland where the writer was commenting on the variety of uniform jackets seen at any one time. He further stated that since most troops had their trousers off that they looked uniform in that respect. Now if I can only remember where I read that.

coffeeboiler
02-22-2006, 12:12 AM
Hi Bill, in my haste my first post may not have been that clear. Didnít mean to imply that they were re-issuing used clothing if that is how it was read. I was really attempting to address the issuance of older stock that had not been previously issued and was still on hand. Although the practice of re-issuing used weapons and accoutrements is worth noting.

SgtTodd
02-22-2006, 06:05 PM
Rj, look at images of infantry formations and you'll see variations in shade of sack coats then too. Also trousers, overcoats. I've seen color variations in different panels of THE SAME GARMENT.

Generally speaking, reenacting Federals look as uniform as original Federals did - if you squint.

Reenacting Confederates, on the other hand are far to diverse. Quite often 6 guys in one unit are wearing 6 different jackets, of different pattern, color, and cloth because they bought what they liked.

TheQM
02-23-2006, 10:55 PM
"I was really attempting to address the issuance of older stock that had not been previously issued and was still on hand."

Hi Bob,

I agree. I more often do a Confederate impression, and tend to look at this issue from a Confederate perspective. You are dead right, they would issue out uniforms and equipment from stocks at hand. A perfect example is the type II & III Richmond Depot shell jacket. There are surviving type II's from near the end of the War, even though the Depot switched to the type III in mid 1864. They issued what they had in stock. But it's my guess that when the Depot got an order for X number of jackets, they'd take them from the same bale of uniforms. I don't believe there was a lot of uniformity in the Confederate Army, but there should be more uniformity in companies. Of course, there's any number of reasons an individual could have a completly different uniform then his pards. Clothing from home, a new recruit, or a hospital issue are just three examples.

BobSullivanPress
02-24-2006, 12:13 PM
Many years ago, when reenacting 18th century stuff, I was told "This is the correct coat", and "This is the correct wool", and a whole bunch of "This the correct (fill in something else)."

So, having a knowledge of Civil War photographs, and World War One and Two photographs, I asked the guy, "How come everybody wore the same thing until photography was invented?" :D

Well, the intent of my question went right over his head, my point being, of course, that virtually all existing photographs of soldiers not on dress parade show a wide variety of colthing etc.

As a corollary to this, a good friend of mine's father landed on Utah Beach in 1944. He was a captain in the 8th infantry. One of our acquaintances had meticulously research European theater US uniforms, especially those that were in vogue during June of 1944. So this guy showed up at my friend's house to inverview his dad and check his equipment.

After several exclamations from the former captain about stuff that he had never seen until his return to England, he finally simply said to the reenactor, "Look son, let me explain it this way. I didn't think anyone was getting off that beach that morning, so I let them wear whatever the **** they wanted to."

TheQM
02-24-2006, 01:37 PM
"Well, the intent of my question went right over his head, my point being, of course, that virtually all existing photographs of soldiers not on dress parade show a wide variety of colthing etc."

Bob,

There is one major difference between the Civil War and later conflicts. After about 1862, if you weren't a zouave, there wasn't much choice in clothing, except for the details like shirts, hats, and maybe leggings. Soldiers were issued one suit of outer clothing that was replaced when it wore out, or the unit got a general reissue.

In later wars, the soldiers had a whole duffle bag full of clothing to pick from. Not to mention all the changes that took place in uniforms during the course of these conflicts. You see pictures of infantrymen in the same unit, during World War Two, wearing their dress overcoats, field jackets, or "Tanker" jackets during the winter months. Civil War soldiers didn't have those options.

I'd be the first to agree that Civil War soldiers wore their issued clothing in many different ways. Federal sack coats being a perfect example. There's pictures of them being worn like a modern sport coat, or even worn as a shirt, but it was still the same basic sack coat.

Rob
02-24-2006, 04:57 PM
When looking at photos from events, it's easy enough to see "coats of many colors" that I earlier referred to.

Here are some good examples of color variations:

http://www2.inxpress.net/jwedeward/original_sack_coats.htm

BobWerner
02-25-2006, 12:44 PM
Rob:
Thanks for the examples showing a distinct variation. In keeping with the context of my initial post and the follow-up, however, I simply have to ask - to what company of what regiment at what time period were these fatigue blouses issued? :roll:
Respectfully,

BobWerner
02-25-2006, 01:17 PM
It seems I've either failed miserably to communicate my initial point, or the debate has somehow become one of whether or not there existed any uniformity during the Civil War or to just what degree the variation existed. Was there uniformity or was there variation???? The answer is YES! We seem to have some who feel it's either all one thing or all another, the old black and white arguments. As in most things, in this topic there are surely many shades of gray. The point isn't whether there was or wasn't uniformity among the troops; there was! The records and photos documenting such are more than abundant. The point also isn't whether there was variation among the troops; there was! Again, the evidence is there proving it beyond any doubt. The point IS, once again, whether or not modern reenactors and historical interpreters are accurately portraying the appearance of their 1860s counterparts in regard to uniformity. With the extent of variation seen among modern representations of companies and regiments, especially among the Confederate side of things but certainly not exclusive to, I'm suggesting that we leave a good bit to be desired. And, once again, the argument isn't that soldiers of a particular company or regiment appeared as "cookie-cutter" copies of one another. There are certainly factors such as individual expression, private purchase, old-issue vs new issue and similar circumstances that account for certain ever changing levels of variation among men of the same company or regiment. The photos show this. To see reenactors portraying a Federal company adorned in a multitude of distinctly different blouses, jackets, coats, with a great variety of cuts, colors, weaves, etc., similarly presenting nearly as much variation in weapons and equipment just ignores photographic and archival evidence as well as the whole issue process. On the Confederate side, I just finished looking at still another set of pix from an event showing a group of well kitted and attired Rebs (taken individually) in which no two are wearing the same jacket and display an absolutely amazing collection of different equipage and weaponry. In our standards for impressions, shouldn't we be making some effort to address this? :?:

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt
02-25-2006, 01:17 PM
Hallo!

Herr Bob. I think you comunicated it well.

ALL of the arsenal produced and contractor produced fatigue blouses did not come in ONE color as both indigo dyeing (and the rarer "shoddy" use of potassium bichromate mordanted logwood) was complicated and varied due to many, many variables.
However, the small "assemblage" of blouses in the Smithsonian collection (and Wedeward images) are taken from something like a potential near 6 million garment pool.
One could borrow the Smithsonian collection for a group of reenactors, and even with original items still be historically incorrect.

In some respects, as with the Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, are we taking parts of the elephant and declaring them to be the whole?

I would still argue that:

The first factor is when and where the company or regiment was uniformed and outfitted, for the very first time, and how many of what arsenal or contractors' goods were on the shelves when the requisitions came in to be filled? (Looking for the "By Like Company" concept of regimental issuances where the most men received the most "same" goods, as far as the numbers of any one thing went...).

The second factor is what the company is doing to use up or lose clothing and gear? Hard marches and hard campaigns put a strain on the items themselves as well as the ability of the Quartermaster and Ordnance folks to "resupply" and in what "quantities."

A third factor is how close, or how far, is the unit from a "resupply?"

A fourth factor is the Clothing Allowance System as well as the US arsenal and the CS commutation and arsenal systems. Looking at "routine" and "emergency" type resupply requisitions, not all men, needed everything, and some men were allowed to pass on "new" if the "old" was still serviceable.

A fifth factor is unit consolidations. As larger units were shot up, they were often "condensed" into smaller unit groupings- mixing men in a brigade down to a regiment down to a battalion down to companies, etc.
Etc., etc.

And last but hardly least, is that even with the same clothing, accoutrements, and gear, the individual notions, druthers, field experience, the size of the men, etc., not everything is worn or carried in exactly the same way as veteran soldiers adapt and adopt.

Differing Mental Pictures aside, while I would agree that Federals at 100 or 300 yards do "blend," at arm's length say 50 men in a company with 50 different "everything" from 50 different makers simply does not fit any historical circumstance I can think of at the moment. (types of garments, color, weave, accoutrements, gear, etc., etc. Hats/caps can be, at times, a different thing..
Eight say original blouses out of roughly 6 million OBVIOUSLY shows the color ranges in indigo dyed blouses. But, IMHO, should not be used to
explain eight different color ranges among eight men. (Not saying that WAS the view or intent of the poster...)
Of course,

Others' mileage will vary...

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt
Heretic Mess

Rob
02-25-2006, 03:16 PM
Eight say original blouses out of roughly 6 million OBVIOUSLY shows the color ranges in indigo dyed blouses. But, IMHO, should not be used to explain eight different color ranges among eight men. (Not saying that WAS the view or intent of the poster...)

The Wedeward photo was used merely to illustrate the possible variations.

I think it would be reasonable to say that a group of soldiers who enlisted at the same time would all be outfitted similarly... but, as time went on and items wore out, they would be replaced by whatever the quartermaster had on hand. Soldiers who joined the unit later on would add to the mix.

We already know that, when the change was made from dark blue to sky-blue trousers, several units had men dressed in both for a while, until the dark blue trousers wore out and were replaced. The 157th New York was issued dark blue trousers, and they were not mustered into service until September of '62.

If you are portraying a unit fresh on the field in '61 or '62, the men should have a similar look. If you are portraying a unit on campaign in '64, perhaps not. If color photography as we know it today had existed, we would know for sure.

reb64
02-25-2006, 11:18 PM
There is probably nothing to be done unless the co. officers/senior ncos of said groups are willing to put out absolutes. It may involve some magor changes with cash flow and egos standing in the way. Either the better dressed have to step down a notch or the others step up, etc. It may mean losing memebers in already depleted units over yet another purchase. I could not stand it in the US army active. To thios day I still cannot put my hands in my pockets for long but we were pretty uniform alright. Maybe some on the spot corrections and healthy debate.

bob 125th nysvi
02-28-2006, 08:56 PM
Bob:

A quick question before I comment.

Are you looking at color or black and white pictures of the reenactors?

The reason I'm asking is because when we circulate the color pictures the differences are easy to pick out. When we look at the same picture in black and white the differences tend to fade and blend and that's with pretty good digital photgraphy.

I'm wondering if the archival evidence is presenting more uniformity than actually existed.

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

bob 125th nysvi
02-28-2006, 10:09 PM
Bob:

Having read through all the posts I think a lot of valid points were made about there WASN'T uniformity but I think your issue is a little different.

Maybe you should have phrased the question is there too nuch diversity?

Let me 'splain.

Of course there would be some diversity across a unit. Clothes issued at different times, different dye lots, even different manufacturers (thus quality), different levels of wear and tear and repair. All that would create diversity.

But on a gross scale men drawing supplies from the same quartermaster's stores at the same time would draw basically the same supplies. So twelve men drawing sack coats on Tuesday are probably getting pretty similiar items. So across a regiment there would be guys who look similair. The only question is how many of them.

Now about weapons your probably a lot closer to the mark than your getting credit for. The ordinance officer (not an official position but someone in every unit is stuck with the job of making sure all weapons are in working order) would try as hard as humanly possible to standardize. One of the great blessings of the industrial revolution was standardization. So if a unit started with enfields the man in charge of guns would want as much as possible to keep getting enfields. Broken ones could be stripped of usable parts to put in others (think nipples and springs). Springfield parts ain't going to do him much good. At the very least he'd want everything to use the same ammo meaning he didn't have to carry multiple types. No it wasn't official but when success depended on getting every rifle on the line you could, good commanders made sure EVERY rifle was on the line.

So maybe the solution is at the unit level. A unit should decide not only what they are going to wear/carry but who specifically they can get the gear from. That way while there will always be subtle differences they will tend to even out. New members buy into the program or find another unit. You may find yourselves being a pretty small outfit but that will be the price you pay for getting what you want.

Then at the event level units with compatable gear should be bundled together. Variation and uniformity will both be accomadated.

Of course there is nothing you can do about the freelancers.

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

BobWerner
03-01-2006, 11:48 AM
Bob:

Having read through all the posts I think a lot of valid points were made about there WASN'T uniformity but I think your issue is a little different.

Maybe you should have phrased the question is there too nuch diversity?

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

Bob:
I think you're quite right :oops: Initially, within the context of our lack of uniformity as compared to that actually displayed by the soldiers of the 1860s, it made sense to me at the time. Of course, there are a lot of things that made sense to me at the time that I later realized should have been done differently :) Taking cold medicine also doesn't aid the creative juices when attempting to compose thoughts in text. Somehow, it just doesn't seem to get from the brain to the keyboard.
Your points are well noted and I particularly appreciated your comments on possible ways to correct the problem at events. I truly don't believe most event organizers, or even most company commanders, are looking at this as a problem. It appears there are many who feel the broad extent of variation is not only acceptable, but actually accurate to the unit, time, place, etc., being portrayed. I also realize that portraying ourselves in a most accurate fashion for each and every event is totally unrealistic. I just believe that a little more effort could be made to avoid some of the extreme lack of uniformity we see within company and regiment sized units.
My thanks to those who were able to read through my foggy messages. :P

BobWerner
03-01-2006, 12:50 PM
Bob:

A quick question before I comment.

Are you looking at color or black and white pictures of the reenactors?

The reason I'm asking is because when we circulate the color pictures the differences are easy to pick out. When we look at the same picture in black and white the differences tend to fade and blend and that's with pretty good digital photgraphy.

I'm wondering if the archival evidence is presenting more uniformity than actually existed.

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

Bob:
I'm actually looking at mostly color pictures of the reenactors, but there are a few who have had either wetplate photography done or have altered their photos to a period look. You raise a good point about the difficulty in making such comparisons as I've been making.
As far as the archival evidence appearing to offer more uniformity than actually existed, though, I'll still argue that's not the case. The photos I've been looking at are from a variety of sources. Some are online at places like the Library of Congress; some are reprinted in books of photography of the period; and some are reprints made from originials from places like the National Archive or the U.S. Military History Institute. They come from a number of sources and offer their own challenges when trying to scrutinize each detail. The first problem is in getting an image of a company size or regimental size unit of men that is even of the quality to allow any sort of scrutiny. The large file sizes of the few photos who fit the billing at the Library of Congress does allow for some detailed examination. The reprints from the few originals who fit the billing also allow for a bit closer look. While the tons of photos available in printed form in the photographic books offer a lot more images of men in the sized units I'm comparing, the quality of the reprinted image is often less than desired for such a comparison. All that said, the conclusion I've reached was that there are images at various periods during the war of units displaying an amazing amount of uniformity in their uniforms (catchy name), weapons and equipment. I've also seen some early war photos (like those of the Ninth Mississippi) that show precious little uniformity. Then there are some where you'll see a group of 25 or so men with 12 wearing the same faded looking fatigue blouse while 6 or 7 are wearing faded frocks and the rest are wearing much darker (more recently issued ?) frocks. There are photos with 85% of the men in the typical fatigue blouse/light blue trousers with the remainder of their comrades intermixed with frock coats & dark blue trousers. These clearly looked like some must have missed out on an issue or were issued completely different clothing items. The rest of their equipment/weapons were uniform, as near as I could tell. Trying to examine cap and cartridge boxes on a photo is something better left to the professionals. Still, conspicuous differences can and do stand out when men are grouped together. This is what I feel the average reenactor needs to keep in mind.
In any rate, your point about the possible differences from one soldier to another being lost in the photography is noted and does present problems when trying to make such comparisons. Sometimes it's difficult to pick out when a coat might be a different color or shade, and when it's just the way the sun light is picked up on particular soldiers standing in close proximity to one another. Nonetheless, the bottom line of examining period photos, then making a comparison to modern reenactors is that our unit portrayals typically (key word) don't accurately resemble theirs.
That is only when considering the photos on their own merits or lack thereof. Add to this the documentation regarding the clothing, equipment and weapons issued and the argument becomes still stronger. I was hoping, however, that one of the guys like Nick Sekela, who has a strong knowledge and understanding of the actual material end of things such as how uniforms go through the process from the textile mills to the final issue by Arsenal or contractor to the quartermasters, might add to the discussion to enlighten us further. I still have some questions about just how much variation we'd see due to mixed dye lots entering into the piece rate equasion of production and thus into the possible degree of variation we might see in a single company level or regimental level issue.
Anyway, when you have the opportunity, visit some of the sites where they have original photos posted, like LoC, and some of the reenactor sites and I think you'll see what I'm talking about. The one thing about this discussion and debate is that it's got me taking a much closer look and asking myself more questions about the process.
Thanks for the input.

BobWerner
03-01-2006, 12:57 PM
Herr Schmidt:

I think you've captured what my intitial intent was when making the post. A certain level of variation is accurate, but the extent we so often see among modern reenactors rarely existed among their 1860s counterparts.
Respectfully,

bob 125th nysvi
03-04-2006, 03:12 PM
Thanks for responding in such detail.

There are a number of reasons you didn't list that men could be wearing different items when the pictures were taken. Something lost/damaged, something being washed, being given something by the QM that didn't fit but as you point out the majority of the men were approximately the same.

I think I'm going to conduct an experiment next time were out. We have a corporal who is pretty good with a camera and can product photos that get pretty close in appearance to period photos.

I think I'll take one from the next action and compare it to some originals. It will be interesting to see the comparison.

Thanks

Bob Sandysky
125th NYSVI
Esperance NY

hiplainsyank
03-04-2006, 11:10 PM
I have been following this discussion for a bit now, and went to look through my Civil War library to see what I discovered.

By looking at photos (of Union troops; groups of Confederates are rare), as far as clothing, there really was a lot of variation. I would say over half the time there was not 100% fatigue blouses; either a few frocks thrown in or jackets (sometimes cut off frocks and sometimes other issue jackets). A few times there were mostly jackets with a couple blouses thrown in.

About the only thing we can examine on the blouses is the collar shape, which from my understanding varied from manufacturer to manufacturer (for example, the SA blouse having a squared collar vs. the rounded collar of other types). Some of the collars are wide, some of them are narrow. I do not know whether this means they were made by different contractors or just variations in the individual person who sewed the coat.

One thing I've noticed over the past few years is that not always are AoP troops universally wearing forage caps. Many of the photos I've seen show at least one or two guys wearing slouch hats of some sort. If you look at the drawings by Waud and other eyewitness sketch artists, they often portray variation in headgear as well.

In equipment, while often companies would have the same muskets, does anyone know how often soldiers who received substandard weapons would pick up improvements on the battlefield? Or, for those whose muskets broke in the midst of battle?

Obviously, since muskets are so expensive, having more than one musket to portray weapon uniformity is out of reach for many, but one way to portray this aspect at an would be to invite companies to be formed for drill and battle (or maybe even subdivisions of companies) on the basis of like weapons. THis is also somewhat based in fact since I believe that often enough different companies of a regiment had different weapons. Say for instance, in X battalion, there would be a couple companies of Enfields, a couple companies of 1861 Springfields, and if enough, a company of 42s (and those with other earlier weapons)...

bob 125th nysvi
03-05-2006, 11:58 AM
I think we all agree that there was variation but I think the crux of the discussion has boiled down to how MUCH variation.

As you pointed out not everyone was wearing a sack coat. But how many weren't? Was it 10% or 20% of the people in the pictures? Whatever the number an appropriate representation by us would be a similiar proportion dressed in something else. But not double the number (say like 50% of the unit). You'd probably want to stay away from any portrayal that was less than 10% because that's just too small a percentage compared to the numbers of people we field.

Now if you are protraying a specific individual all bets are off but it had better be a really good first person impression.

Now to me hats are an easily fixable soultion, get a couple they just aren't that expensive. If you are going to fall in with a different unit, put on the right hat and generally you'll blend in without too much variation.

Weapons are a little trickier because of the related expense. My wife bought me a Springfield to get me started, a couple of years later I found a unit I felt comfortable with and joined. Historically the unit was issued Enfields and they preferred that you have one. They allowed the Springfield to be used and I decided that I would acquire everything else I had to get first before I started saving up for the Enfield. I'm now at the point where I can start saving for the enfield. But to take me (then) as a "fresh fish" and throw me in with a springfield armed unit for accuracey would have probably left a sour taste in my mouth about that event.

Besides there are historically valid reasons a soldier my have a different weapon. As you pointed out sometimes companies within a regiment were issued different weapons. A soldier may have broken his on the filed of battle and just grabbed the nearest available gun as long as it fired what he had on hand in his cartridge box.

Oh well, Interesting debate.

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

john.vansickle
03-05-2006, 01:52 PM
I also agree that there can be variation is levels of fading, even pattern when within reason. Having read every possible primary source on the OVI units, they would periodically receive back-fills from Ohio with newly issued equipment and uniforms. The had a particularily hard time while in Tennessee when they were cut off and having to steal feed corm from the mules or pick it out of the dirt and manure.

In Lt. Col Voris's journal, on June 18th, 1862, he writes, "We came here yesterday morning, and are waiting to get supplies, such as boots, shoes, clothing & mean to be paid before we leave here" (page 63). This is consistant with every other account. There are descriptions of soldiers going barefoot because their shoes fell apart and the supply chain couldn't keep up with the demands or were cut off.

These two factors alone would create an appearance of "mottled" shades in the formation as you would see veterans who's uniforms were faded and worn or freshly resuppplied uniforms, co-mingled with fresh replacements from the home state. Add to that, the inexact science of the dye and textile industry of the period and you end up pretty much where we are now. IMHO, the only place where one would see a completely uniform appearing unit would be when they were first mustered and outfitted as a whole unit.

As living historians, we need to look more at accurately recreated the technologies of the period such as the dyes and fabrics. There are two many wool/poly blends floating around which are dyed with modern dyes. Of course they won't behave similar to the original uniforms. By properly recreating the original fabrics, then we can look much more historically accurate for the period even with the correct variations.

Yr Obt Svt,
John Van Sickle