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Thread: Cotton Uniform

  1. #1
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    Default Cotton Uniform

    I've noticed a few sutlers selling Richmond Depot jackets made from cotton duck, supposedly simulating cotton uniforms issued to militia units in some states. I can't find much information to verify the historic accuracy, I'm hoping to find some photos or documentation. Can anyone here recommend a good resource for that kind of information?

  2. #2
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    Hard to find documentation for issues of cotton uniforms as few returns list what fabric the uniforms being issued are made from. I've found some references from personal accounts/diaries of individual soldiers. I know in November of 1863 the 34th Battalion of Va. Cav., (actually a mounted rifle unit) in the Dept. of SW Va. and East Tennessee were issued cotton jean jackets when they were stationed near Rheatown, Tennessee. The men were complaining about them not being very warm with winter coming on. They were also issued "imported Jackets" near Saltville, Va. in the early fall of 1862. No one knows what these were, ( French? English?), but most were deemed too small for the men to fit into and were rejected. Best of luck in your search.
    Paul Manzo
    "Never had I seen an army that looked more like work"......Col. Garnett Wolseley

  3. #3
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    Cotton duck? The only military clothing I can recall that matches your description would be the 1840's-early 1850's "summer" uniform worn by the U.S. Army out west. Richmond may have made cotton jean jackets, and cotton jean trousers were very common out west, but I don't remember ever seeing anything made out of duck. I'd be wary of any sutler selling anything with out proper documentation.

    Will MacDonald

  4. #4
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    This description of Confederate clothing/arms in 1861 is quite interesting as relates to cotton clothing in general and Eastern KY/Cumberland Gap in particular.

    “ . . . On the 1st of November 1861 Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall was sent by the Confederate Government to take command of certain troops at Prestonburg, Ky., then under the command of Colonel John S. Williams. These consisted of a regiment and a battalion on the bank of the Big Sandy . . . The regiment was the 5th Kentucky, the famous ‘Ragamuffin Regiment’ composed almost exclusively of mountain men, and one of the finest corps of soldiers ever enlisted in the army. They were hardy, raw-boned brave mountaineers, trained to hardships and armed with long rifles . . .”

    “It was a very severe winter, and Marshall’s men were poorly clad, and many of the soldiers were nearly naked. One regiment had 350 barefooted men and not over 100 blankets for 700 men.General Albert Sidney Johnston . . . sent them one thousand suits of clothes, including hats and shoes. These supplies reached the army at Whitesburg, Ky. . . When the quartermaster distributed the clothes among the soldiers, it was noticed they examined with suspicion the peculiar color and texture of the cloth. General Marshall discovering that it was cotton, and fearing the result of such a discovery by the men, rose to the occasion by a stirring speech . . . and relieved their fears as to the quality of the goods by assuring them they were ‘woven out of the best quality of Southern wool, with which, doubtless, many of the Kentuckians were not acquainted.’ The men took the general’s word for it (with a grain of salt) and walked off to their quarters with their cottonade suits . . . the army was not only badly clothed, but in general badly armed. Many of the men carried only shot guns and squirrel rifles . . .”

    From “ Marshall and Garfield in Eastern Kentucky, Battles and Leaders of the CW,” Vol. I, pp. 393-394.
    Bob Williams
    26th NCT
    AAIG, Carolina Legion

  5. #5
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    Here are examples of what one sutler in North Carolina sells as early war and summer uniforms.

    Uniforms 030 (Copy).jpg Uniforms 032 (Copy).jpg Trousers 4-18-2013 003_edited.jpg

  6. #6
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    At least one southern state issued cotton uniforms for sure - Florida in 1864. There are several letters and invoices involving several hundred jackets made of Osnaburg from the mills in Monticello, Fla. This is not to be confused with the shirting grade osnaburg we're accustomed to today, but a hardier garment weight closer to heavy linen. There are no surviving examples and the written accounts do not show what type or pattern the jackets were made to.
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
    On Facebook at: Tampa Bay History Center Living History Programs

    "The simplest things, done well, can carry a huge impact" - Karin Timour, 2012

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by California Joe View Post
    Here are examples of what one sutler in North Carolina sells as early war and summer uniforms.

    Uniforms 030 (Copy).jpg Uniforms 032 (Copy).jpg Trousers 4-18-2013 003_edited.jpg
    I've found no written evidence whatsoever that any state or government issued a "summer" uniform. Clothing was too scarce for much of the war to differentiate between a summer or winter uniform
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
    On Facebook at: Tampa Bay History Center Living History Programs

    "The simplest things, done well, can carry a huge impact" - Karin Timour, 2012

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ross L. Lamoreaux View Post
    I've found no written evidence whatsoever that any state or government issued a "summer" uniform. Clothing was too scarce for much of the war to differentiate between a summer or winter uniform
    That's what I thought. I'm just looking for some justification to wear something a little cooler than jean wool in the summer time.

  9. #9
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    There is the striped ticking uniform (frock and trousers) which belonged to Pvt. Schumpert (3rd South Carolina Inf.), but its origins are in question - unless someone else has more info - and the type seems to be limited to the western theater.

    If it is that much of an issue, how about a lighter weight jean cloth, there seems to be quite a variety in original garments and available modern material.
    Bob Roeder

    "Why, it's just like shooting squirrels, only these squirrels have guns, that's all."
    Pvt. A.C. Varis, 17th Illinois, at Shiloh

  10. #10
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    Actually it is an often overlooked fact that the CS government did differentiate between a summer and winter uniform. QM General A. R. Lawton reported to the Confederate Congress on January 27, 1865: "By using cotton clothing in the summer and spring and reserving the woolen goods for fall and winter it is hoped and believed that enough [clothing] may be to hand to prevent suffering next winter. We will get through this season without much trouble. The supply of cotton clothing has heretofore been abundant and is now ample."

    By "cotton clothing" Lawton is no doubt referring to mixed jeans and "woolen clothing" to kersey.
    Bob Williams
    26th NCT
    AAIG, Carolina Legion

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