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View Full Version : What happened to the color Butternut?



Richard Schimenti
10-26-2006, 06:17 AM
I have recently purchased a pair of butternut trousers from a top name supplier in the color shade of llite butternut.

I called them asking them to make a butternut kepi for me as well and they said that they would gladly make one but do not carry it in stock because it is a very slow moving color.

This made me think about the numerous articles I have read about confederae troops in butternut, ect. yet i must admit that i very rarely see any re-enactor in the field wearing that color of wool in the four years I have been in the hobby.

I see gray and tan in jean wool for jackets and trousers and quite a bit of kersy for trousers, yet rarely butternut.


I am a member of the 2nd Kentucky Cav. AoT and in many first hand articles about half were in gray and half in butternut

Just wodnering if anyone would share their thoughts on the subject.

Rich Schimenti, 2nd. Kentucky Cav. Co. D

Memphis
10-26-2006, 06:53 AM
You got robbed. See if you can get your money back.

Richard Schimenti
10-26-2006, 07:11 AM
Would you care to expound ?

Memphis
10-26-2006, 07:20 AM
Not really. The camel hair polyester wool blend fabrics sold as "butternut" to unsuspecting reenactors versus the oxidation of correctly produced cloth is a topic that has been beaten to death any number of times across the broad spectrum of forums. Some issues are so basic they don't require further discussion.

MStuart
10-26-2006, 07:48 AM
Rog:

Perhaps for someone that hasn't done the research or has been on forums for as long as you doesn't know. The "search" section of this forum was lost a while back during the crash and it's tough to research articles now. A little less contempt and a little more civility is called for. This ain't the A/C.
Would you talk to a friend that way?

Mark

Memphis
10-26-2006, 07:59 AM
Mark,

You are absolutely correct. A search for "butternut" yields 26 hits on this forum, and 18 on the Authentic Campaigner. Some of those threads appear to have more to do with a recent book about confederate uniforms, since the word "butternut" is in the title.

A book about confederate uniforms? Oh, my. Reading is fundamental.

tompritchett
10-26-2006, 08:03 AM
The camel hair polyester wool blend fabrics sold as "butternut" to unsuspecting reenactors

Pardon me, but I have seen numerous "butternut" jackets and trousers made from very authentic cloth blends. In fact, I own two jackets made from Childs materials (before he stopped supplying small quantities). Surely you are not suggesting that all his materials were polyester wool blends just because they were butternut.

MStuart
10-26-2006, 08:15 AM
Oh, my. Reading is fundamental.

So is civility. Being a gentleman is up there, too.

Mark

hanktrent
10-26-2006, 08:31 AM
I see gray and tan in jean wool for jackets and trousers and quite a bit of kersy for trousers, yet rarely butternut.

Showing my ignorance of military uniforms, I'm curious how the tan differs from butternut. Are you referring to uniforms that were supposedly issued in tan? I'm thinking that tan would be sorta close to the color of poor faded dyes trying to be gray.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Lwhite64
10-26-2006, 09:12 AM
Part of the problem is what exactly is butternut? Are the accounts refering to true butternut, dyed with butternuts? I think probably not, they are simply refering to brownish clothing, so it could be dark brown like what would come from Walnut dye, or a light caramel yellowish brown like what was made from copperas. Then of course there is the instability of the vegetable dyes that were used to make gray, which could fade to a light brown.

Lee

Jim Mayo
10-26-2006, 09:40 AM
Richard: Sent you a PM.

Richard Schimenti
10-26-2006, 03:25 PM
I placed a call to the supplier i bought the tan wool trousers from. They said that there is some very small amounts of poly in the wool.

I was told that all wool today has approx. the same amount of poly blend, about 10% or less. The reason is that they are able to get a tighter weave.

Again i was informed that all commercial wools on the market have some blend, including the sky blue kersy, dark blue union sack coats, ect.

I was told that the wool offered will pass the burn test and the only way you can determine the poly content is by a micron test or something very similiar.

They said that if you wanted to have a pure wool trousers or jacket is to have someone actually spin it for you.

they did say that the jean cloth, is pure wool and of course the cotton blend.

I want the moderator to know that i asked a sincere question, looking for some answers from some who have been in the hobby longer than i have.

I did not want to start some type of argument or get the caustic reply that i initially recieved.


Thank you to those who took the time to provide information and help

Spinster
10-26-2006, 04:24 PM
Dear Richard,

Other discussions have covered the 'reenactorism' that all modern wool fabric must have a certain amount of poly content. Nonsense, as an in-depth look into various governmental standards will prove. It is however, a common cost-cutting measure in the industry, as is the use of reprocessed wool. Adulterated products cost less than unadulterated ones.

But, on to your larger question of 'butternut'---there is a good bit of controvesy over this color, what the actual shade was (rather than the later oxidized shade) and whether it was actually made from butternuts or some other substitute dyestuff.

Mordant choice can also significantly affect shade, and one cannot know what color was derived from butternut without also knowing the mordant used.

Then there is the question of whether this is actually the name of a color rather than a reference to the dyestuff used. All this uncertainty has certainly served to make the authentic community cautious in utilizing a term when we can't really pin a reasonable definition on it.

And thus, you just don't see much of what you really can't have a good degree of certainty about.....

Fifer26
10-27-2006, 10:03 AM
Some used the word "butternut" to refer to any shade of brown or tan. David L. Thompson of the 9th NYV described North Carolina dead at South Mountain as "clad in 'butternut'--a color running all the way from a deep, coffee brown up to the whitish brown of ordinary dust."

Bill Bynum
26th NCT

hanktrent
10-27-2006, 12:32 PM
And there's also the cultural issue. Before the war, butternut-colored clothes "meant something" in the same way that talking today about a redneck is referring to more than the suntan on the back of their neck.

Prior to the war, people who wore "butternut" colored clothes, even if they were actually dyed with something else, were backwoodsy, poor, old-fashioned types.

For example, from February 1860 Editor's Drawer, Harper's Monthly:

[In Alabama] our judges, as a class, are practical, intelligent, well-informed, and common-sensed, having no aristocratic notions, fearing no harm to their ermine from contact with Kentucky jeans or butternut homespun

So when the term was used during the war, the echoes of its pre-war usage remained, even as its meaning expanded to describe southern sympathizers or southern uniforms. It could be a proud example of southern self-sufficiency following in the footsteps of pioneers and backwoodsmen, or it could be a put-down against ill-equipped hicks.

In this example from the same source, January 1864, it's hard to tell whether it's still being used more in its pre-war sense, or more in reference to a Confederate soldier or sympathizer.


We had stopped for lunch by the wayside, about two days' travel from Fort Smith, in Arkansas, and were discussing the prospects of the Confederacy and the contents of a basket and a demijohn, when a stranger rode up and inquired the way to Colonel Stone's winter-quarters. The stranger was a perfect specimen of the genus "butternut." He was dressed in bilious-looking jeans, with a home-made hat and coarse boots, and wore his hair and beard very long. He was mounted on a good horse, and carried on his shoulder a long, old-fashioned rifle.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Spinster
10-27-2006, 04:28 PM
" He was dressed in bilious-looking jeans"

What a fine reminder of a 'surprise' dyepot in last fall's dyerun--a big pot of red oak, out of which I expected brown, but actually got a bilious green on wool. Its proved to be very light fast, and retains its pukey color.

Gather most anything in quanity in the Southern forest, chop it up, soak it, and simmer it down in the 140-160 degree range, put some wool, cotton or linen in it, and you'll get varying shades from yellow to green to brown to grey, some stronger than others, many of them not light fast, and oxidizing to brownish tan. Beats the heck out of greyish white undyed cloth in appearance, and easily accomplished any industrious person of the period.

Tarky
10-28-2006, 07:32 AM
" He was dressed in bilious-looking jeans"

What a fine reminder of a 'surprise' dyepot in last fall's dyerun--a big pot of red oak, out of which I expected brown, but actually got a bilious green on wool. Its proved to be very light fast, and retains its pukey color.

Gather most anything in quanity in the Southern forest, chop it up, soak it, and simmer it down in the 140-160 degree range, put some wool, cotton or linen in it, and you'll get varying shades from yellow to green to brown to grey, some stronger than others, many of them not light fast, and oxidizing to brownish tan. Beats the heck out of greyish white undyed cloth in appearance, and easily accomplished any industrious person of the period.

With the references in this thread to the title of my book, and the question of what is butternut brown and should Confederates wear it, Yes most definitely but not without doing some research. The term butternut pops up many times in descriptions of Confederate soldiers, and in my opinion butternut refers to both color and weave when describing their clothing. The rough homespun cloth, and the use of natural dyes, like butternut, or walnut, produced the green tan, shades of brown and tan we read about.
What has been sold over the years as butternut is that funky tan wool cloth, no weave. smooth finish, blanket like material that is passed off as butternut cloth. Dont buy that stuff-- Buy the woven jeans in a brownish tint, like a tan and use that.
You would see more butternut homemade cloth in the early years 1861-through the Summer and Fall of 1863, and to a lesser extent afterwards.
Butternut was a term to describe a back woods, country boy, wearing all homespun clothes.

Tom Arliskas
Cadet Gray and Butternut Brown.