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Thread: Civil War Uniforms, We need an Archive.

  1. #1
    Tom Arliskas is offline
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    Civil War Uniforms, We need an Archive.

    Just sitting here, retired. CW Uniforms-- Well we wear them in competition and have since 1949, the year I was born. In 1949 there was not a whole lot of research around on CW uniforms. The North wore Blue and the South wore Gray. Then came the Butternut Brown phenomenon and everyone was putting on cinnamon colored trousers or jackets. Then came a kind of sorta CW uniform based on the Official Records drawing and old ideas of what a CW might have looked like. That is all well and good, but today 2023 we need an Archive of CW Uniforms for the N-SSA. A collection of notes on the best articles and research out there. We have it on guns and do we have it on Artillery? That too!

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    I can think of no one better situated for that lofty task than yourself. jh

  3. #3
    H.Liniger is offline
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    Civil War Uniforms

    Echoes of Glory by Time Life Books has 87 pages dedicated Confederate uniforms and hats. HL

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Arliskas View Post
    Just sitting here, retired. CW Uniforms-- Well we wear them in competition and have since 1949, the year I was born. In 1949 there was not a whole lot of research around on CW uniforms. The North wore Blue and the South wore Gray. Then came the Butternut Brown phenomenon and everyone was putting on cinnamon colored trousers or jackets. Then came a kind of sorta CW uniform based on the Official Records drawing and old ideas of what a CW might have looked like. That is all well and good, but today 2023 we need an Archive of CW Uniforms for the N-SSA. A collection of notes on the best articles and research out there. We have it on guns and do we have it on Artillery? That too!
    What you are asking for is a very tall order. You could do decades of research and produce a multi-volume series of books on the subject of "Clothing and Accoutrements of Civil War Soldiers - 1860-1865"

    I remember when I got into this stuff 10 years ago, and I started asking questions over on The Authentic Campaigner - probably the best source on the internet for authentic information about Civil War reenacting. Unfortunately, the folks over there are generally hostile to basic questions, as they expect that you should go and read some level of information before asking relatively specific questions. The problem is a new person doesn't know what they don't know.

    It's common to hear, "I want to do Civil War reenacting. I want to be a Confederate. What should I buy?"

    The answer almost always boils down to "What unit, and what date during the war?"

    What the new person is hoping for is some kind of "generic" answer, but that is very hard to produce. Really, it's impossible. At a minimum, you have to consider early, mid, or late war, and eastern vs. western theaters.

    I've read an account somewhere that indicated that my unit (4th Louisiana Delta Rifles) left home at the start of the war with fancy green uniforms with fringe. I'm guessing some kind of "mountain man" getup. This clothing probably did not last long, and then they started getting supplied through whatever the supply chain was for whatever theater of operations they were in as the years went by.

    On the Confederate side, at the start of the war, a lot of units were custom-outfitted by a wealthy patron (sometimes being the person who raised the regiment or whatever). Others left out with state militia gear. Others with whatever they left out from home with. There was a "commutation" system where you could get reimbursed for your homemade uniform. As the war progressed and arsenal supply chains stabilized, more or less.

    The guys that are able to trace down the actual clothing and equipment that specific units were using have spent a lot of time pouring over quartermaster receipts and similar surviving documentation. For a lot of units, we just don't know as the documentation doesn't exist or hasn't been found yet.

    I wonder if the new ChatGPT AI bots will be able to help with this kind of thing in the future. It would be fun to ask it, "What would a typical Confederate soldier be wearing in 1863 if they were in the 4th Louisiana Delta Rifles?
    Steve Sheldon
    Commander
    4th Louisiana Delta Rifles
    NRA Certified Muzzleloading Instructor

  5. #5
    Tom Arliskas is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maillemaker View Post
    What you are asking for is a very tall order. You could do decades of research and produce a multi-volume series of books on the subject of "Clothing and Accoutrements of Civil War Soldiers - 1860-1865"

    I remember when I got into this stuff 10 years ago, and I started asking questions over on The Authentic Campaigner - probably the best source on the internet for authentic information about Civil War reenacting. Unfortunately, the folks over there are generally hostile to basic questions, as they expect that you should go and read some level of information before asking relatively specific questions. The problem is a new person doesn't know what they don't know.

    It's common to hear, "I want to do Civil War reenacting. I want to be a Confederate. What should I buy?"

    The answer almost always boils down to "What unit, and what date during the war?"

    What the new person is hoping for is some kind of "generic" answer, but that is very hard to produce. Really, it's impossible. At a minimum, you have to consider early, mid, or late war, and eastern vs. western theaters.

    I've read an account somewhere that indicated that my unit (4th Louisiana Delta Rifles) left home at the start of the war with fancy green uniforms with fringe. I'm guessing some kind of "mountain man" getup. This clothing probably did not last long, and then they started getting supplied through whatever the supply chain was for whatever theater of operations they were in as the years went by.

    On the Confederate side, at the start of the war, a lot of units were custom-outfitted by a wealthy patron (sometimes being the person who raised the regiment or whatever). Others left out with state militia gear. Others with whatever they left out from home with. There was a "commutation" system where you could get reimbursed for your homemade uniform. As the war progressed and arsenal supply chains stabilized, more or less.

    The guys that are able to trace down the actual clothing and equipment that specific units were using have spent a lot of time pouring over quartermaster receipts and similar surviving documentation. For a lot of units, we just don't know as the documentation doesn't exist or hasn't been found yet.

    I wonder if the new ChatGPT AI bots will be able to help with this kind of thing in the future. It would be fun to ask it, "What would a typical Confederate soldier be wearing in 1863 if they were in the 4th Louisiana Delta Rifles?
    AWESOME! Yes, when you get down to actual time lines and specifics, the uniforms changed often in four years of War. You can and did have early, middle and late war changes for the Confederacy, not so much for the Union side, but there were special exceptions like Zouaves or special orders for uniforms. What I am proposing is a collection of notes on CW uniforms, in the collections of N-SSA Members. We have had and still do have people with extensive knowledge on CW stuff from guns to shoes! I fear that will be lost with time. How many have already passed or quit who had extensive collections of letters and diaries or photos of the team or unit they represent, or just had notes like me. This collection would not and should not be used as a hammer to new units or even the old ones, but as a guide and source for research. It is all part of our 5013C History Status with the IRS. Your 4th LA statement of uniforms with fringe! I am doing Shiloh right now for my book on guns and the 4th LA was in Gibson's Brigade. I have notes on their guns and some photos but that is it. This uniform thing you mentioned should be saved and put in a library reference. Not Rocket Science. TomName:  52688625_640343376418608_2134358064734666752_n.jpg
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  6. #6
    Tom Arliskas is offline
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by John.Hayes View Post
    I can think of no one better situated for that lofty task than yourself. jh
    AND! I have put in your name as my qualified assistant in all things Uniform!!!

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    Not quite, sir, I've read your book. I'm hoping you will produce another one or two soon. Thank you. jh

  8. #8
    Tom Arliskas is offline
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    Yes, Well I thought about it-- but, am doing or writing a books on Smoothbores vs. Rifles, Did it make a difference first-- and then I have some titles I want to finish on Grant at Belmont, and Missouri in 1861. Yes, I have found a lot of new research on uniforms, but will include those in my folders.

  9. #9
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    Hi Tom,

    I think its a good idea and as previously mentioned its a tall order. While reading the different replies to your post I wondered if the N-SSA has a historical board? I would guess we do since we have a museum but not sure of how much say there is with unit uniform accuracies. I think that the CS side has so many variances depending on theater of war, state, depot, and importer. I know when I started my unit I did countless hours of research and I am still fine tuning details of what was or could have been worn. I know there are some great resources and new details that get uncovered every few years.
    Trent L.
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    N-SSA member since 2019
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  10. #10
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    It's just a huge, huge, amount of research and publication. The best approach would probably be to crowd-source and use some kind of online Wiki that individuals could add to over time.

    From following along with reenactor friends, the way it is typically is that they usually reenact with a particular organization or unit. Then they will "dress the part" for whatever time period the reenactment is for that unit. They will research that unit, and try and find quartermaster records or other materials that indicate the kinds of equipment and arms and such that were issued by that point in time during the war. Where exact details cannot be known they rely on known supply depots and the known time periods when certain equipment became available.

    So you can approach this from a few ways. The first way is as above - start with a unit and a date. This is only particularly interesting if you are interested in that particular unit. But, it's probably going to give you the most accurate specific impression.

    Another way would be to create an inventory of "things". For example, "The 1861 Spingfield Musket" or "The Type II Columbus Depot Jacket". Then you populate an article about the item that indicates dates in use, units that used it, etc. This gives you highly accurate details about things, but doesn't always help very much figuring out if the thing is the right one for you.

    Another way would be to go with "generic soldier kit" descriptions. "Early War" vs. "Mid War" vs. "Late War", "Western" vs. "Eastern" theaters, "Union" vs. "Confederate". This is probably the simplest way to go but is also quite generic.

    No matter how you go about it, it's a daunting and massive undertaking. Likely a lifetime of effort doctorate-level effort. Schuylkill Arsenal trousers or J.T. Martin Contract trousers? Contract shirt or Federal Issue? Cincinnati Depot canteen or Philadelphia Depot canteen?

    Then, too, a tremendous amount of work has already been done and published. Which on one hand could make it easier to create some kind of compendium but on the other hand risks duplicating work that has already been done.

    Here are some fantastic videos by Lionheart Filmworks that give great overviews on generic "by time and theater" uniforms.

    They have a 4-video series on this that will show up in the sidebar when you watch the one below on YouTube.

    Steve Sheldon
    Commander
    4th Louisiana Delta Rifles
    NRA Certified Muzzleloading Instructor

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