Thursday, December 16, 2010

Union Artillery Uniform Impression

The United States Army, up to the time of the Civil War and throughout that period, was very standardized in their uniform regulations. For the horse artillery, it was required that you wear a mounted services jacket, sky-blue trousers and shako. For work detail you had a fatigue blouse and a forage cap in place of your dress uniform. In the infantry, instead of the mounted services jacket, you had a frock coat issued to you. Frock coats were also issued to the heavy artillery regiments. Very standardized regulations!

As an ex-member of the South Mountain Artillery Detachment, we had two basic uniforms that we wear during our programs. The first is the obvious, a mounted services jacket with red tape. Many of our mounted service jackets are patterned after the original from the Schuylkill Arsenal in Pennsylvania. At least one other member has his patterned after the St. Louis Arsenal. Purchasing the pattern for the Schuylkill Arsenal jacket from a reputable vendor such as Charlie Childs and constructing it on your own, is much more cost effective than purchasing a brand new one. The Schuylkill Arsenal jacket was completely hand sewn.

The second jacket of choice is the fatigue blouse made from wool flannel. For the trousers, I wear a J.T. Martin pattern with slit pockets made from sky-blue wool. Other members of the gun detachment wear some type of documented pattern trousers. Footwear is the basic bootie or brogan. Other pieces of the uniform one can not see is the under garments as well as a civilian style shirt. I also wear the standard McDowell style forage cap with brass for early the war appearance, and for late war I have a standard New York manufactured forage cap with no brass.

The main accoutrements consist of the standard canteen and haversack for rations. We also wear knapsacks where we keep spare blankets, ground cloths and extra clothes such as socks and a domet flannel shirt. The knapsack also holds shoulder scales if the gun detachment chooses to wear them.

Although during demonstrations, we don’t wear any belts or weapons, research suggests that light artillery was armed and could be based upon personal preference. You see in photographs covering the span of the Civil War, men wearing saber belts with an artillery saber hanging from their side. I have also seen members of gun detachments in the field armed with the light cavalry saber. Another observation, if you look closely, you can see saber belts among all members of the detachment, with the hooks snapped together. Some of the field photographs, you’ll also see holsters for side arms and cap pouches and maybe a cartridge box around the wearer’s waist.

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