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JMByrnes
08-27-2006, 07:14 PM
Gents,

I just finished the book Cadet Gray and Butternut Brown, which focuses entirely on the uniforms of Confederate soldiers throughout the course of the war. It was a very short read, but was very informative, and in my opinion, well written. The author seems to think, and uses evidence to support, that confederate troops in 61-62 were clad in uniforms that were lacking uniformity to say the least. In fact the theme of lack of uniformity carries throughout the entire book to varying degrees even after the creation of the depot system.

Since we are currently in the "61 year" with most reenactments focusing on battles from 61, and will be moving into the 62 battles next year it made me wonder why there are uniform guidlines. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying you should be able to wear whatever you want. Let me give an example for clarification. I attended Rich Mountain this year, and the uniform guidlines for that event were pretty strict, yet when you read this book the author gives you the impression that there was next to no uniformity if any at all. Most of his evidence seems to come from first hand accounts penned by union soldiers. I wonder if when event organizers are researching uniforms for events if they aren't being too general in the sense that they can find research that tells you what one soldier was wearing and then they apply that to the entire regiment as if every soldier was wearing the same uniform.

For those of you who have read the book I'm interested in your take on this. Others can feel free to leave their two cents, but please stay away from whether or not polyester, feathers in hats, panty lines, etc are acceptable.

HighPrvt
08-27-2006, 07:51 PM
Many guide lines are based on a lot of documentation of a certain unit(s) being portrayed. Some are strict, some are just guidelines.
Imagine if you were hosting a LH at lets say, Perryville, for instance, and half your privates show'd up in RD-3's, or Peter Tait jackets or, Columbus Depot types at First Manasas, etc.

ewtaylor
08-27-2006, 07:53 PM
Actually this has been discussed several times in the past few weeks:

http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1503

and

http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1302

Guidlines for events usually state a certain jacket or trousers, however they don't state (at least the events I have attended) a certain color. Therefore, I think having everyone in RD2 jackets and trousers (but not stating what shade of gray or brown) leaves the uniformity of it all fairly realistic. Mixing in some civie stuff and maybe Union gear helps, but you have to remember guidlines are usually researched and fairly accurate for the events being held. Unless its a TYPE 2 event (as described by Mr. Greg DEESE) then guidlines don't really mean anything.
ew taylor

bill watson
08-27-2006, 08:00 PM
The early war events often have regulations that merely remind people not to bring late-war stuff. It seems like it ought to be one of those things that goes without saying, but it isn't. Events like Rich Mountain are NOT usually troubled by the kind of guy who wears something just to prove the event regulations are defective. However, this is Civil War reenacting. We are all nutcases. Events like Rich Mountain will, unless they write a lot of things down, occasionally find someone with stray cat proclivities attending with some danged odd thing that he'll claim virtue and antecedence for, and who, in the absence of a prohibition in the regs, will probably get to wear. Nobody sits at the registration desk with 30 volumes of reference material to check that crap against. Hence, regulations that spell out what the event organizers feel is the best material to use for the impression they want to create for the event.

Check me if I'm wrong, but the folks at Rich Mountain didn't give off any overwhelming similarity of impression, did they? There's almost always room for the kind of variation you're talking about. But it is also, almost always, in everyone's overall interest to keep the impressions plain, everyday and common.

Make sense?

JMByrnes
08-27-2006, 08:12 PM
Your comment about mixing in civilian garb and federal garb is a topic the book really focuses on. The author uses first-hand accounts from federal soldiers to support his claims. Many of the federals say rebs were primarily in homespun suits of butternut or gray. If you were just to go off what this author says it makes you wonder if homespun uniforms and civilian articles are under represented in the hobby.

There was also an interesting section attributed to cotton uniforms in the winter of 64-surrender in 65. I've never seen any real mention of cotton uniforms in event guidelines...

JMByrnes
08-27-2006, 08:19 PM
Bill,

Rich Mountain seemed to stress military clothing much more heavily than civilian. I know in our company frocks, kepis, and military trousers were pushed much harder than say battleshrits or even civilian articles. I'm not taking what the said book says as gospel, but it does make me wonder if at an event like Rich Mountain we should have saw a higher percentage of civilian clothing in the ranks....in regards to the confederates?

flattop32355
08-27-2006, 10:38 PM
The author seems to think, and uses evidence to support, that confederate troops in 61-62 were clad in uniforms that were lacking uniformity to say the least.

Let's define "lack of uniformity" first. Are you talking about each individual man, or from company to company, regiment to regiment, or higher? Local or state militia or troops sent off to the national armies?

With the confederacy starting from scratch on nearly everything, as well as having the states' authority elevated above that of the national government, it's to be expected that they would have to scramble to equip their men at all, much less in a standard way, and using multiple standards by state.

That said, it was often a point of pride and honor for a town or county (or even a wealthy commander) to equip a company or regiment so that everyone went off to war dressed alike. Such uniforms could be based on a local militia outfit (which could be of any color or style) or something brand new, and at that point there were no real indications that one side would always wear blue and the other gray.

For reenactors, it's virtually impossible to afford all the variations available to cover each battle. So you get what you can safely afford. And "ragged" isn't a discription of the uniform other than its state of repair; it could be anything from civilian to standard depot issue and be ragged.

ewtaylor
08-27-2006, 10:40 PM
Bill,

Rich Mountain seemed to stress military clothing much more heavily than civilian. I know in our company frocks, kepis, and military trousers were pushed much harder than say battleshrits or even civilian articles. I'm not taking what the said book says as gospel, but it does make me wonder if at an event like Rich Mountain we should have saw a higher percentage of civilian clothing in the ranks....in regards to the confederates?

I think a good idea would be to ask those in charge of the uniform research for the RM event.
I encourage everyone attending an event to email or call the officers who you will be serving under if you have questions about the event. I think this would cause alot less post-event complaining. Especially if you are traveling a long distance.
ew taylor

bill watson
08-28-2006, 08:07 AM
"it does make me wonder if at an event like Rich Mountain we should have saw a higher percentage of civilian clothing in the ranks...."

I think EW is right on this, you might talk to Eric Tipton and others to find out how they developed the impression guidelines.
As a point of comparison, there was an event last summer west of the mountains, can't remember exactly where, that stressed the motley appearance of the Confederates; impression guidelines for one of the portrayals, I think Missouri, came down pretty heavy on civilian clothing AND a variety in armaments, with a desire expressed for third and fourth class stuff. There's a great photo of the event on the cover of Civil War Historian; they look a lot like a spirited mob. Point is, they started out with a concept -- centered on how best to depict the history they were interested in experiencing -- and built the guidelines around the concept.

Event organizers are almost never opposed to talking about impression guidelines and learning more. Most would prefer it ahead of the event, so that if there's a compelling reason for a change, it can happen. Even at history-heavy events, there's awareness that very few of us have the resources to add an expensive item for a one-time use. There's also awareness that even affordable items might not be available if 300 guys all want one from the guy who makes them out of his garage on weekends. Conversely, if a uniform item or piece of gear has specific application for an event and also wider application beyond that, you can be pretty sure someone will be organizing a mass order to get a better price and insure availability -- enough of an order to make the supplier rearrange his resources and give the item priority for the event.

Let me add one more thought. When you move into the realm of civilian clothing, a lot of other factors come into play. What you wore reflected who you were, much more than today -- today a stock broker looks like a tennis player and even street bums can dress respectably. In 186x, if you were a teamster, you dressed like a teamster. And you dressed your age. There were trends then just like there are trends now. Take a look in a high school yearbook from 1965 to see how my generation dressed as teenagers, and look around you now. Same then. Styles change.
So here's what very often happens when civilian clothes are allowed: We need to know more to "get it right." Civilian clothing is sometimes, it very much seems, selected for its 21st century "coolness" and "wow" rather than to support a specific impression.

There's a huge amount of ground to cover to learn to do this "with style." http://www.lahacal.org/gentleman/attire.html just for a taste. Check out the sketch of the dandy. He looks like Huggy Bear on Starsky and Hutch.

huntdaw
08-28-2006, 10:32 AM
"As a point of comparison, there was an event last summer west of the mountains, can't remember exactly where, that stressed the motley appearance of the Confederates; impression guidelines for one of the portrayals, I think Missouri, came down pretty heavy on civilian clothing AND a variety in armaments, with a desire expressed for third and fourth class stuff. There's a great photo of the event on the cover of Civil War Historian; they look a lot like a spirited mob."

That would have been Athens, an early war battle where both sides were pretty much militia - the Home Guard on the Union and State Guard on the Confederate. Many of these men would make up very good volunteer regiments but at the time of the battle it was pretty much what you showed up with.

TimKindred
08-28-2006, 11:30 AM
Comrades,

I had it in mind to post a long response to the idea of "motley" confederates, but have declined. Folks will see what they want to see, and argue for their point regardless of the information that's out there.

What I will say is this: Those who argue for greater variety in dress are missing the point. Uniformity in dress was much more common than you think, throughout the period, and the vagaries of color and cloth and pattern have more to do with misinterpreting what you are reading than with the accuracies of the statements of the witnesses. It all comes down to context.

Basing an idea of a regiment's appearance based upon an eyewitness statement by the guards is frought with potential error. It assumes that the witness was properly interpreting what he saw, and that you are fully understanding what he was saying. For example:

Historians have long argued that bayonets were of little consequence during the war, that they were seldom used, and caused an insignificant amount of casualties. This conclusion was based upon the postwar reports of the US Surgeon General regarding casualties treated in Federal Hospitals. Basically, the report shows fewer than 1,000 bayonet wounds treated in all of the federal hospitals. And yet, letter after letter and diary and journal entry all speak of "pitching into the enemy with bayonets and clubbed muskets". How to resolve the issue? Well, the Surgeon general's report is absolutely factual, but represents only those soldiers who survived their wounds and were brought to the Hospital for recovery. The vast majority of those wounded died as a result of their wounds and never made it to the hospital, or were so lightly wounded that they were treated by the regimental surgeon and returned to duty.

The same happens with descriptions of clothing. Prisoners are representative of larger groups of men, but they are not always from the same regiment. A few here and there are, but as a whole, they represent the gleanings from the battlefield, and thus many units. To say they represent the whole is accurate, but to say they represent the look or state of uniformity within any particular regiment is unsupportable.

That is also true of examining images of casualties upon the field. The 1862 Antietam image of CS casualties along the Hagerstown Road is an excellent example. Many have used these as an example of the parti-dress of CS soldiers at that battle, and yet, these poor souls represent a variety of regiments, with only one or two from any specific regiment. These men were killed as a result of artillery fire upon ther BRIGADES, as those same units marched by. Thus, again, they are a mix of units visible, and cannot be said to represnt any partucular level of uniformity within ant specific regiment. They are indicative only of the dress within the Brigade and Division to which they belonged, nothing more.

Anyway, that's long enough. Basically, the lower you get down an organization, the more uniformity you will find. At the levels we represent, IE: companies and rarely battalions. it is much more accurate to stress uniformity than part-colored fashions. No two regiments may have looked alike within a Brigade, but within the regiments, there were certainly more uniformity and especially so as you got down to the company level.

Again, I'm not talking about cookie-cutter clothing in all cases, but the same type of jacket, the same issues of accoutrements, etc. Uniformity by like issue. Shades and subtle nuances of color and fit will always be present, but to abandon the overall uniformity within the size of units we portray would be as much of an error as the opposite approach.

Respects,

Tim Kindred