CONFEDERATE IMPRESSION GUIDELINES
While portraying the common soldier is the ultimate goal, uniform variations resulting from the Confederate Commutation and later Depot systems of supplying the Army lends itself to developing a convincing though individual impression. To learn more about this fascinating subject please follow the link provided to the Company of Military Historians website and read the three part article written by Les Jensen, former curator of the Museum of the Confederacy: Here
Some of these variant patterns are only appropriate for specific events and/or time frames and would be poor choices for a generic impression. On the other end of the spectrum are patterns that shared common traits that were manufactured on a large scale at depots over relatively long periods, utilizing a variety of materials as they became available at the time of production.
Jackets: With the previous information in mind the best choice for a 24th VA Infantry impression and one that will cover the greatest period of the war, is an untrimmed Richmond Depot Type II shell jacket with the following characteristics:
- Constructed with a six piece body, two piece sleeves, stand up collar, having shoulder straps (epaulettes) and with or without belt loops. While normally seen with a nine button front closure, from six to eight can also be encountered.
- Materials of wool/cotton blend jean cloth, cassimere or satinette in an authentic natural or period dyed color. By mid 1863 imported English blue/gray wool kersey was used in quantity by the Richmond Depot and would be appropriate for mid-late war events. (Avoid 100% wool garments of non-period colors with sutler row names like Richmond/Tuscaloosa/Confederate Gray, Butternut, etc.)
- Lined in osnaburg, cotton drill, sheeting or correct color/pattern period shirting material.
- Appropriate buttons are VA state, Block "I", Script “I “, Federal Eagle (all correct period brass), plain coin (brass, copper or plated) or wooden.
- Colored trim or piping on the jacket (a type I trait) should be avoided unless you are complying with event-specific uniform standards. The addition of such trim should be temporary and removed after said event.
Another option for a primary jacket would be a Four button jacket. Whether they are products of the commutation or depot systems cannot be ascertained with 100% certainty though there is photographic evidence of their use throughout the war and examples with provenance to the Richmond area survive. These should not be confused with civilian sack coats which differ in style and construction.
- Constructed with four piece bodies coming below the waist, one or two piece sleeves and stand up collars. They have no shoulder straps or belt loops though most surviving examples have one outside welted pocket.
- Materials, linings and buttons as above.
- This is a good choice for those who find shell jackets restrictive or otherwise a hard fit.
A early war impression would be appropriate for 1861 and early 1862 events. This impression has perhaps the greatest leeway in attire as the Confederate States were in the infancy of recruiting, forming and outfitting new regiments for service using civilian volunteers or existing militia units as the basis. There are three appropriate choices for this impression, all of which would have been encountered in newly formed units.
- A civilian Sack or Frock coat. Or, what you wore from home to your initial rendezvous point or camp of instruction. Stay with documented period styles and materials. If you go this route, a sack coat is more affordable than a correctly made frock.
- The 1858-59 Virginia militia uniform regulations called for a gray single breasted frock coat and gray pants. If you were in or, came from an existing militia company this is most likely what you wore. The frock should be made of light to medium gray wool or jean cloth and lined in osnaburg or appropriate shirting. Trimming if used, should be of black cotton or wool tape. The wearing of a trimmed frock is only appropriate for 1861 or 1862 events. Remove the trim and it is wearable for later war events.
- The over shirt was a common working garment of the time that was transformed into the “Battle Shirt” by embellishing the otherwise plain garment with contrasting trim and brass buttons to achieve a more military appearance in the absence of any standard or issued uniform. They were commonly made of wool flannel, jean cloth and lindsey/woolsey (linen/wool blend).
For these events there are two well documented options in lieu of the Richmond Depot Type II. Those being either the Richmond Depot Type III or, a Peter Tait Jacket. Both of these were made exclusively of English blue/gray wool kersey. This material is often referred to as English Army cloth or Cadet Gray in period references.
- The Richmond Depot Type III is the last pattern type produced by the depot having traits of the Type II with the absence of the shoulder straps and belt loops. The majority of surviving examples are encountered with either 8 or 9 button fronts.
- The Peter Tait Co. of Limerick Ireland produced three variations of jackets concurrently and ran these, along with trousers through the blockade in late 1864. The surviving examples are machine sewn and topstitched, have five piece bodies, two piece sleeves, linen linings and 8 button fronts with either old English or lined block “I” buttons. Red trimmed Artillery versions are encountered with lined block “A” buttons and were also issued to Infantry units. The three variations are:
- Shoulder straps and collar piped in dark blue.
- Shoulder straps and collar faced in either French blue or red.
- Collar faced in French blue or red without shoulder straps.
Documentation has shown that Tait manufactured jackets are only appropriate for late war events from Nov 1864 to the end of hostilities in the Virginia and Carolina theaters.
- Trousers are to be of the Richmond Depot or documented civilian pattern type.
- As in jackets, the materials should be of wool/cotton blend jean cloth, cassimere or satinette in an authentic natural or period dyed color. There are extant examples of imported blue trousers. In addition there are records of substantial amounts of imported blue wool kersey for use in the manufacture of trousers. However the color is a Royal or French blue color quite unlike the sky blue color of Federal trousers. By mid 1863 imported English blue/gray wool kersey was used in quantity by the Richmond Depot for both jackets and trousers and would be appropriate for mid-late war events.
- The use of Federal trousers by confederates is to be discouraged as documentable instances of such use are rare or battle specific. The practice should be considered a modern reenactorism.
All shoes or boots must be of correct period style, material, and construction with either pegged or sewn soles of black or russet leather.
- Documented Confederate or U.S. issue brogans, Jefferson Bootee, imported British Blucher Shoe or, period civilian patterns.
- Pull on boots of the Artillery, Cavalry or civilian stove pipe styles are only appropriate for the former or, for wear by an Officer and are not recommended for an infantry impression.
- Slouch hats; Colors of black, gray, brown, or tan. Ribbon around base of crown and brim having either high or low crowns which may be rounded, flat or telescoped. Correct period linings are encouraged.
- Kepi; Authentic pattern made of appropriate materials as used for jackets/trousers. Wool/cotton blend jean cloth, cassimere or satinette in an authentic natural or period dyed color or imported kersey. Brim and chin strap of leather or painted cloth with appropriate cuff sized, military, coin or civilian brass buttons.
- Civilian style wheel/mechanic hat; authentic pattern and materials.
- Federal forage caps are permitted on a limited basis within the ranks.
Military or civilian patterns constructed from wool flannel, linen or cotton cloth in colors, stripes, plaids or prints appropriate to the period.
Must be of period style and construction. Your modern tortoise shell frames and transitional polarized lens’, etc. will not be allowed. Note: Colored lenses used before 1875 usually served a medical purpose. Eyeglass types commonly found in the 19th century were.
- Sliding temple spectacles; were made from the early 1760's until 1880. They featured two piece, retractable temple arms. The temple arms were extended for use or could be retracted for storage. This type of spectacle stayed in place better than straight temples.
- Straight temple spectacles; were produced from 1833 until 1920. Most lenses in this type of spectacle are oval. However, square and octagon lenses are also encountered.
- Curved temple spectacles; did not appear until the 1880’s when makers took advantage of mass produced spring steel wire. These temples curved around the ear and were the most secure for holding the eyeglasses in place. While not 100% correct, they are the most commonly encountered authentic frames available.