References, Links, U.S. Army Civil War Manuals




References & Links

Good on-line references to enhance your knowledge and your re-enacting impression.

Ammunition Boxes

For cartridge boxes the manual states: “The boxes are made of white pine boards, dovetailed and nailed together, and are furnished with wooden brackets or handles nailed to the ends with wrought nails, clenched on the inside ; the lids fastened with six 1.75 inch screws. They are painted different colors, to indicate the kind of cartridges. … Each box should be marked, on each end, with the number and kind of cartridges, and on the inside of the cover with the place and date of fabrication.” The manual lists the interior dimensions for each box by ammunition type as wood during that time period varied in thickness. The interior specifications were important in order to pack the designated number of rounds in the box. The manual also specifies box color by ammunition type as well.

For artillery boxes the manual states: "Packing-Boxes for field-ammunition are made of well-seasoned stuff, (generally white pine,) 1.25" inch thick, dovetailed, with the tenon on the ends. The top of the box is fastened with six 2-inch screws...The boxes are painted on the outside different colors, to indicate the contents of the box. Those containing shot are painted olive; shells, black; spherical case shot, red; and canisters, a light drab. The kind of ammunition is marked on each end, in large white letters. The place and date of fabrication are marked on the inside of the cover."

Battle Rattle

Ordnance instructions for the United States Navy, relating to the preparation of vessels of war for battle: to the duties of officers and others when at quarters: to ordnance and ordnance stores, and to gunnery >


521. To be made like those used by watchmen, of white oak, or some other similar wood. Rattle, 12 inches long; ratchet, 2 inches in diameter; spring one inch in width, and of sufficient thickness and elasticity to produce the requisite sound, Weight enough should be given to the butt to cause it to revolve round the handle with ease. 

Berdan Sharpshoopters

Uniform and hat of soldiers of the 1st Regiment of U.S. Sharpshooters, better known as Berdan's Sharpshooters. Mustered in 1861, this unit was commanded by Colonel Hiram Berdan. Berdan was an inventor considered by some to be the best marksman in America. At the outset of the Civil War, Berdan believed that current infantry tactics were outdated. He wrangled a meeting with President Lincoln and presented his idea of forming a special unit of soldiers. These soldiers would be “Sharpshooters” from every state. Their goal would be to fire on specific targets rather than simply firing en masse. Lincoln was impressed with the idea and authorized 100 men to join Berdan. To qualify, recruits had to place ten shots within five inches of a bull's-eye at a distance of six hundred feet. They were the only volunteer unit in the war to bear the designation “United States” and the only one supplied by the federal government.

The Berdan Sharpshooter Uniform: Jacket of army wool dyed a distinctive green color. Green wool forage cap with leather trim. Frock coat of green wool with brass buttons were later replaced with hard, black rubber buttons to prevent reflection from the light.

Blanket - How to Pack a Blanket Roll

How to Pack a Knapsack & Blanket Roll

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The Complete Civil War: The Definitive Fact File of the Campaigns, Weapons, Tactics, Armies, and Key Figures by Philip Katcher, Cassell  and Co. 2003

Chaplain Uniform

General Orders 108
December 16, 1861
131. The uniform for Chaplains of the Army will be plain black frock coat with standing collar, and one row of nine black buttons; plain black pantaloons; black felt hat, or army forage cap, without ornament. On occasions of ceremony, a plain chapeau de bras may be worn. 

CS Frock Coats from the Little Rock Quartermaster >

Arkansas was poorly prepared to raise and equip an army of its own in the early spring and summer of 1861. While the General Assembly had provided for a State Militia, this was a loose grouping of individual companies, each responsible for its own selection and procurement of uniforms and weaponry, and a small administrative staff at the state level.

Thus Arkansas was even more ill-prepared to clothe and equip an army when secession became a fact in the first week of May, 1861. Nearly completely a rural state and wholly dependent on agriculture, Arkansas's only clothing manufactory was at Nashville, in the southwestern corner of the state. Virtually all of the clothing supplied to the first companies to answer the call to arms was improvised, and mostly homemade, or consisted of the militia uniforms unique to each company.

On May 15, 1861 the Secession Convention, acting in a legislative capacity for the new Confederate state, created the Army of Arkansas and established the Arkansas Military Board to serve as a sort of war department for the state. Consisting of the Governor as chair, and two appointed board members, the Military Board had the power to mobilize the State Troops and volunteer forces, to launch military expeditions as needed to defend the state, and to manage and control the forts, arms, and munitions of the state as an auxiliary to the Confederate authority. The Convention appropriated two million dollars to the Board for its operations.

While most of the historical interest in the activities of the Military Board have focused on the political maneuverings of its members and the general officers appointed to the State Troops, the Board also took measures to establish manufactories for military arms and supplies for the troops. Armaments came primarily from weapons seized from U.S. Army arsenals at Little Rock, Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, and Napoleon. Repair shops were established at the Little Rock arsenal and at Hopefield (present day West Memphis) to convert these weapons, primarily flintlocks, to percussion ignition and to attempt to repair the large number of "junker" weapons from the arsenals as well as others purchased or collected from private sources.

As the Arkansas troops were transferred to Confederate service, the central government in Richmond began providing funds to or reimbursing the states for their expenses in arming and clothing the troops. During the first year and a half of the War, the Confederate government did not furnish uniforms to the troops upon their entering the service, but paid them or provided funds to their state for their uniforms and equipment. This was known as the "commutation" system, and in Arkansas, the Military Board took these funds and used them to establish a clothing and equipment manufactory at the Arkansas State Penitentiary in Little Rock.

Arkansas had joined a number of other states in the early 1840s in establishing penitentiaries in the belief that criminals could be reformed and returned to society. The Arkansas State Penitentiary was located in a set of buildings atop a hill just outside the western edge of the city. Operated by contractors, the State Pen offered inmates vocational training in wagon-making, carpentry, and tailoring. With approximately a hundred inmates incarcerated in 1860, the penitentiary offered the Military Board an ideal, captive labor force with the needed skills to clothe and equip a state army.

Patterning its uniform after the pre-war uniform of the U.S. Army, the Military Board established a frock coat, trousers, and a forage cap, all made of gray woolen jeans material, as its basic ensemble. A.J. Ward, the penitentiary's superintendent, reported to the state legislature on November 18, 1861 that by that time the penitentiary shops had completed 3,000 sets of uniform, 8,000 pairs of shoes, 250 wagons, 100 sets of wagon and artillery harness, 500 drums, 200 tents, 600 knapsacks, and 500 cartridge boxes for the Arkansas regiments.

Issuance of the uniforms seems to have gone first to the regiments sent to the "seat of the War" in Virginia and the Mississippi River. Fagan's 1st Arkansas reported getting a new issue of uniforms while in camp around Fredericksburg, VA, and the regiments in the Mississippi valley were likewise issued uniforms in the early fall of 1861.

The clothing records of many of the Arkansas units serving in the Mississippi Valley show that they received an issue of new uniforms from the State between October and December of 1861, and it is likely that this is the style of the state "commutation" uniform thus issued. Phillip Dangerfield Stephenson of St. Louis, MO described the uniform he was issued upon his enlistment in Co. K, 13th Arkansas Infantry near Belmont, Missouri, in mid-September, 1861:

"I was about the last recruit for the regiment, at least for a season. When they fitted me out in soldier clothes, it was rare work. All the uniform shoes, hats, etc., had been picked over and only odds and ends were left. Lieutenant Bartlett roared as I tried on one thing after another. I finally emerged - and was a sight! I had on a long frock coat of coarse brown cloth, butternut color, very tight, buttoned up to the chin on my long rail-like body. My pants, of the same stuff, were a mile too big, baggy as sacks, legs rolled up at the bottom. Our uniforms were mostly the same dirt color, the coats having brass buttons and black cuffs and collars. My hat, a common light colored wool, was passable to fit, but my shoes, coarse brogans, were a No. 9 and a No. 8! I laughed it off and was proud of being in uniform."

Clothing records of the 34th Arkansas Infantry of Hindman's 1st Corps, Army of the Trans-Mississippi, show the issuance of a quantity of "coats", jackets, and caps in November 1862, and these items appear to have been from the Military Board's stocks.

Tintypes and ambrotypes of Arkansas soldiers taken during late 1862 and especially in the first half of 1862 frequently depict these frock coats. One of the most widely known features brothers James May of the 22nd Arkansas Infantry and George May of the 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles.

Private L. Yates of Company B, 18th Arkansas Infantry had his image taken in one of these jackets during the late spring or early summer of 1862. Private Yates enlisted in the 18th Arkansas on March 12, 1862, and fought with the regiment during the Corinth, Mississippi Campaign the following fall, and surrendered at Port Hudson in July, 1863.

The photograph of Yates gives us a lot more details about this uniform. It is a single-breasted frock coat of gray jean-wool, with an 8-button closure. The collar and cuff trim is a medium to dark blue, and the cuff trim are cut in a straight line rather than the pointed fashion seen on most reproduction coats.

McCulloch's troops in northwest Arkansas, which became part of Van Dorn's "Army of the West" received uniforms before the Pea Ridge Campaign early in 1862, and finally Hindman's troops in the 1st Corps, Army of Trans-Mississippi were issued new uniforms in November, 1862 just before setting off on the campaign which led to the battle of Prairie Grove. This basic style of uniform remained in use at least through the summer of 1863; when Little Rock fell to General Frederick Steele's Arkansas Expedition, and Confederate quartermaster and ordnance operations in Little Rock ceased and moved to southwest Arkansas and Texas.



While a hoop skirt is a good outfit for Gettysburg Remembrance Day on November 19th when ladies would have dressed up to hear Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, it is likely not what most citizens were wearing during the battle or while helping in hospitals.

Wealthy Victorian women wore several dresses each day. A "morning dress" was plainer. An "evening dress" was low on the shoulders, and suitable for a party. A "walking dress" had a longer peltote (a type of jacket essential to the outfit) over it that matched the skirt.

On the other hand, working class women during the Civil War likely only had two or three everyday dresses, one Sunday best outfit, and maybe the newest everyday dress reserved for going to town or visiting people.

According to magazine articles from the era, a lady should choose colors based on harmony, simplicity, and influenced by nature.

We might consider some of their flower inspired color combinations gaudy now; however, they were afraid of being gaudy and looking like they were wearing Joseph's coat from the Biblical story, so they stuck to two main colors in most ensembles.

Various styles of trim and braid were popular. Accessories for Civil War womens clothing were often covered in embroidery, as the vintage patterns from Godey's Ladies Book and Peterson's Magazine testify.

Enamelware Use & Care

Porcelain-coated steel ensures perfect conductivity and consistent heating properties, ensuring dependable results outside on the grill or in the oven at home. Enamelware can safely be used on the stove (electric or gas), in the oven, on a grill or barbecue, and over an open fire. Because enamelware is made of a steel core, it should never be used in a microwave.

Do not allow coffee servers or teapots to boil dry. This may cause damage to the enamel. If this happens, be sure to allow the pot or server to cool down to room temperature before adding any liquids.

Enamelware can be used in a dishwasher, but avoid harsh detergents and hard water stain remover. These chemicals can dull the shine of your enamelware over time.

When handwashing enamelware avoid scouring sponges or steel wool. Be sure to only use sponges that are “non-scratch.”

Be sure to dry your enamelware thoroughly after washing and do not allow to sit in water for an extended period of time. Only stack enamelware dishes once they are completely dry. If they are stacked while still wet, this will cause them to stick together and may be extremely difficult to pull apart.

Be careful when using sharp-edged metal utensils to keep from scratching your items. To avoid scratch marks on your enamelware, use rubber or wooden utensils. 

It is best to empty and dry the tea kettles and coffee pots after use to prevent any possibility of rust. If you do experience a little rusting, place 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a squeeze of lemon juice into the item. Add water and bring to a boil. Let cool and wash thoroughly before using.

Enamel on steel is hard and strong. But like all fine ceramic materials, enamelware will chip if dropped or handled too roughly. Chips affect appearance but not functionality. Items are still usable — there is no danger of lead or other materials leeching out of the items. The only drawback is that if not dried properly, you might see rust on pieces where chips have occurred. As a matter of fact, some manufacturers purposely distress enamelware to give it the look of antique pieces. Continued use of chipped pieces is an aesthetic decision. If rust does appear it can be removed by gently scrubbing with a baking soda and lemon juice paste.

As with any dinnerware, some scratching and dulling of the surface is likely to occur over time.

This enamelware passes all FDA and California Prop 65 food service requirements. Made with strict adherence to US government standards in the same factory since 1977.

Our enamelware is created by baking a porcelain enamel surface onto high quality steel. The edges of the items are either rolled or rimmed in stainless steel for extra durability. Each piece is hand-dipped multiple times – base coat and cover coats. For our traditional marbleized pattern, a second color is actually “flicked” on by an artisan using a specially designed brush. The marble pattern naturally varies from piece to piece — making each one a unique collectible.

For The New Reenactor

Tips for New Civil War Reenactors (Soldiers Only) 

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Hardee Hat

32...For Officers: Of best black felt...The binding to be 1/2 inch deep, of best black ribbed silk.
33...For Enlisted Men: Of black felt, same shape and size as for officers, with double row of stitching, instead of binding around the edge.
45...For Enlisted Men, except companies of Light Artillery: The same as for officers of the respective corps, except that there will be but one feather, the cord will be of worsted, of the same color as that of the facing of the corps, three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, running three time through a slide of the same material, and terminating with two tassels, not less that two inches long, on the side of the hat opposite the feather...The insignia of corps, in brass, in front of the hat, corresponding with those prescribed for Officers, with the number of regiment, five-eights of an inch long, in brass, and letter of company, one inch, in brass, arranged over insignia. Brim to be looped up to side of hat with a brass eagle, on the right side for mounted men and left side for foot men. The feather to be worn on the side opposite the loop.


32...For Officers: Of best black felt...The binding to be 1/2 inch deep, of best black ribbed silk.
34...For General Officers: Gold cord, with acorn-shaped ends. The brim of the hat looped up on the right side, and fastened with an eagle attached to the side of the hat; three black ostrich feathers on the left side; a gold embroidered wreath in front, on black velvet ground, encircling the letters U.S. in silver, old English characters.
35...For Officers of the Adjutant General's, Inspector Generals, Quartermaster's, Subsistence, Medical and Pay Departments, and the Judge Advocate, above the rank of Captain: The same as for General Officers, except the cord which will be of black silk and gold.
36...For the same Departments, below the rank of Field Officers: The same as for Field Officers, except there will be but two feathers.
37...For Officers of the Corps of Engineers: The same as for the General Staff, except the ornament in front, which will be a gold embroidered wreath of laurel and palm, encircling a silver turreted castle on black velvet ground.
38...For Officers of the Topographical Engineers: The same as for the General Staff, except the ornament in front, which will be a gold embroidered wreath of oak leaves, encircling a gold embroidered shield, on black velvet ground.
39...For Officers of the Ordnance Department: The same as for the General Staff, except the ornament in front, which will be a gold embroidered shell and flame, on black velvet ground.
40...For Officers of Dragoons: The same as for the General Staff, except the ornament in front, which will be two gold embroidered sabers crossed, edges upward, on black velvet ground, with the number of the regiment in silver in the upper angle.
41...For Officers of Cavalry: The same as for the Dragoons, except that the number of the regiment will be in the lower angle.
42...For Officers of Mounted Riflemen: The same as for the General Staff, except the ornament in front, which will be a gold embroidered trumpet, perpendicular, on black velvet ground.
43...For Officers of Artillery: The same as for the General Staff, except the ornament in front, which will be a gold embroidered cross-cannon, on black velvet ground, with the number of the regiment in silver at the intersection of the cross-cannon.
43...For Officers of Infantry: The same as for the General Staff, except the ornament in front, which will be a gold embroidered bugle, on black velvet ground, with the number of the regiment in silver in the bend.


What size hoop do I need? The answer to this question depends on how tall you are, the type of garment you are going to be wearing, your persona, and your personal preference.

The standard “Rule of Thumb” is that your hoop should be no more than 60-80% of your height multiplied by PI (PI = 3.14159). With all things scarce during the War, a smaller hoop was more common. It was considered “showy” if your hoop was extremely large.

The bands or bones provide the shape of the skirt and give support to the dresses. The heavier your skirts are the more bones you will require The flounces help to hide the bones and smooth the look of the skirt. If you have a flounced hoopskirt you will not require as many petticoats.

There are several “standard” sizes for hoop skirts as well as some “standard” designs.

Narrow Hoop with or without flounce: These usually run from 70 – 100”. Good for day-wear, under basic work/ camp dresses, and in casual settings. Provide the wearer with a more tailored, stylized look, a wonderful ease of movement, and are good in confined areas. Sometimes referred to as a “Junior Hoop” as this is the first size for young girls and their first long dresses. The hoop can have one, two or three bands.

Regular Hoop with or without flounce: These usually run from 110-125”. The most common hoop size. This is a favorite as it allows for ease of movement in and around, gives a pleasant shape and yet is not too large to be troublesome. The hoop can have three of four bands. Four bones provide adequate support for most dresses.

135-140” Hoop with or without flounces: This hoop is used by taller women and those who are shorter for more formal attire. Usually 5 or 6 bands.

Large Hoops with or without flounces: These usually run 150-160”. Used for an “elegant impression” and when you really want to make a statement. Provide the wearer with an illusion of wealth and privilege. Most of the larger hoops usually have six bands.

Child’s Hoop: These are smaller versions of the regular hoop. They are meant to fall to the knee and provide the fluff and puff that girls desire. The hoop can have one, two or three bands with the largest band measuring up to 70”.

Hoop Skirt

Civil War Ladies Clothing 

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Civil War Southern belles are best known for their hoops. Civil War ladies clothing and fashion in the 1860s featured the hoop skirt at its greatest width. The hoop extended slightly father out in the back than in the front.

It took up to 5 yards of fabric to make a Victorian hoop skirt.

The cloth supply to the South from northern mills was cut off during the war, so some women made smaller skirts to save material and help the war effort. Or perhaps they recycled curtains as in Gone with the Wind!

Imported Clothing

C&C Sutlery strives to meet the needs of both the Entry Level reenactor as well as the reenactor desiring the most authentic representation.

To meet the needs of the entry level reenactor as well as outfit the continuously growing younger reenactor, we have introduced a line of high quality and affordable imported uniforms. These imported products DO NOT replace our Made in USA, high quality products, but enable the new reenactor and budget-conscious to get started in reenacting without a huge monetary investment. Then, over time, upgrades to C&C Sutlery's high quality, Made in USA products can be made.

Each of these imported garments have been evaluated by C&C Sutlery for quality, correctness, and durability. C&C Sutlery has worked, and continues to work, closely with the manufacturer to provide garments to C&C Sutlery's exacting specifications. 


  • The wool is approximately a 15 oz. weight.
  • The jean wool is a good quality and has a nubby texture like that which may have been used in the Civil War.
  • Buttonholes are lightly stitched around the edges and would benefit from overhand re-stitching.
  • The buttons are loosely sewn on and will most likely need re-enforcement or reattachment at some point in time.
  • Shell Jackets are NOT available in Tall or Short. But remember, during the Civil War the uniforms did not always fit the soldier perfectly.
  • Sack Coats and Frock Coats are NOT available in Tall or Short but fit adequately on most sizes.
  • Sleeve length is adequate for both regular and longer arms.
  • The cotton shirts WILL SHRINK when washed. A baggy fit is desired. You may wish to order one size larger to allow for washing shrinkage.
  • The wool garments will shrink once they get wet or are washed.  You may wish to order 1 size larger than your normal size.
  • Wash wool garments by hand or in the machine in COLD WATER on GENTLE HAND WASH CYCLE. Hang to dry, inside the house, out of sun or heat. DO NOT machine dry.
  • Wash cotton garments by hand or in the machine in COLD WATER.  Hang to dry, inside the house, out of sun or heat. DO NOT machine dry.



From The Complete Civil War: The Definitive Fact File of the Campaigns, Weapons, Tactics, Armies, and Key Figures by Philip Katcher, Cassell  and Co. 2003.

On 21 March 1863 each member of a corps in the Army of the Potomac was assigned a unique insignia to wear on his cap, front or side or left breast so that he could be identified easily on the battlefield. The identification insignia idea was adopted by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker after he assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, so any soldier could be identified at a distance. Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, Hooker's chief of staff, was assigned the task of designing a distinctive shape for each corps badge. Butterfield also designated that each division in the corps should have a variation of the corps badge in a different color generally red for the first division, white for the second division and blue for the third division. Corps with added divisions used green for the fourth and orange for the fifth divisions.. The Union Army fielded 25 corps, each designated with a roman numeral, i.e., IX Corps.

Knapsack - How to Pack

How to Pack a Knapsack & Blanket Roll

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Ladies Clothing Layers

Civil War Ladies Clothing 

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Here's a list of the Civil War womens clothing that they wore starting next to the skin and working out in layers:

Layer 1
* Drawers (underpants) made of cotton or linen and trimmed with lace
* Chemise (long undershirt) usually made of linen
* Stockings held up with garters

Layer 2
* Corset or stays stiffened with whale bone
* Crinoline, hoop skirt, or 1 or 2 petticoats (dark color if traveling due to mud and dirt)

Layer 3
* Petticoat bodice, corset cover, or camisole

Layer 4
* Bodice
* Skirt, often held up with "braces" (suspenders)
* Belt
* Slippers made of satin, velvet, done in knit, or crochet

Layer 5 (outerwear for leaving the house)
* Shawl, jacket, or mantle
* Gloves or mitts
* Button up boots
* Parasol
* Bonnet or hat
* Bag or purse
* Handkerchief
* Fan sometimes made of sandalwood
* Watch pocket

Lucifer Matches

In 1827, John Walker, English chemist and apothecary, discovered that if he coated the end of a stick with certain chemicals and let them dry, he could start a fire by striking the stick anywhere. These were the first friction matches. The chemicals he used were antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch. Walker did not patent his "Congreves" as he called the matches (alluding to the Congreve's rocket invented in 1808). Walker was a former chemist at 59 High Street, in Stockton-on-Tees, England. His first sale of the matches was on April 7, 1827, to a Mr. Hixon, a solicitor in the town. Walker made little money from his invention. He died in 1859 at the age of 78 and is buried in the Norton Parish Churchyard in Stockton.

In 1829 Samuel Jones saw Walker's "Congreves" and decided to market them, calling his matches "Lucifers". "Lucifers" became popular especially among smokers, but they had a bad burning odor.

In 1855, safety matches were patented by Johan Edvard Lundstrom of Sweden. Lundstrom put red phosphorus on the sandpaper outside the box and the other ingredients on the match head, solving the problem of "phossy jaw" and creating a match that could only be safely lit off the prepared, special striking, surface.

Pens and Writing


Sack Coats

My Capsule History of the American "Sack" Suit >

What the Victorians knew as the “sack” coat first appeared in France at the end of the 1840s and quickly spread to England and America, becoming very popular in the Eastern United States by the mid-1850s.

Originally intended for extremely informal occasions, sack coats soon became working and business wear for skilled workers and clerks across America. By the end of the 1850s, the U.S. Army had adopted a military version of the sack coat as fatigue wear. By the 1870s, sacks were being worn as general purpose outdoor and working jackets by many Americans, particularly outside of the East.

Despite what you may have read, they are not called “sack coats” because they are oversized, loose, or otherwise fit like a sack, nor is it because there is no “front dart.”  Sack, sac, sacque, etc. all refer to the way the back (not the front) of the jacket is cut; i.e. “sack cut.” This simply means the back is formed of two pieces only, cut relatively straight down, instead of being made up of four curved pieces with hidden pockets in the tails as on more formal and traditional coats, such as tail coats, morning coats, and frocks.

Some tailoring manuals of the 1850s and 1860s refer to the sack coat by other names, but they are all the same garment. Length of skirt and sleeve, number and style of pockets, collar, lapels, and the cut of the front skirt were the elements of changing style in the sack coat from 1850 to 1900. At all times in that period, sack coats were diverse and made in “close cut,” “full cut,” “single breasted,” and “double breasted” versions.

Shirts - Men's

Author: Jason Rich

The Civil War era was a time of transition for men’s shirt styles. Women at home were making shirts based on patterns that had been passed down through generations. In the 1850’s a major change in the construction of the man’s shirt was introduced from France. It became known as the "French Pattern" shirt. The sewing machine which had been around for many years was becoming more prevalent and accepted in the 1860’s. Paper patterns and ready made garments were also becoming more acceptable during this time. Volumes could be written on this subject, but we will focus on some general areas of interest for those wanting to wear a period correct reproduction shirt.

Shirts of the 18th and 19th century were regarded as underwear and were not designed to be exposed to the general public. While working men may be in their shirtsleeves as soon as they ventured out into public they at least put on a vest.

The homespun shirt pattern passed down through generations was known as the "Square Cut Pattern". This shirt made some transitions from the one button open front to the multi button placket front. However the basic pattern remained the same. This shirt was made from a series of rectangles and squares. The only fitting was at the neck, and wristband into which the sleeves were gathered. Early shirts were made of white linen, then prints, stripes, and plaids by the 1860’s. The shirt body was a large rectangle extending to the thigh. The shoulder was reinforced. It had rectangular sleeves with gussets and the seam was off the shoulder. The cuffs were long about 3" and extended to the knuckle area. This was so the cuff could be seen while wearing a jacket then folded back on itself while working. The cuff buttons and button holes were placed close to the sleeve / cuff hem and on the edge of the cuff. The placket was not much longer than mid chest and more than 4 or 5 buttons would be unusual. Generally the collar was a fold down collar which could be worn with a cravat.

The "French Pattern" totally changed the style of shirts. The body was more fitted. It narrowed at the waist and flared out at the bottom. The sleeve fitted into the body. Gone were the gussets under the sleeve and the off the shoulder seam. The cuffs were narrower about 1 ¾" and the collar was banded as opposed to a fold down collar. The materials used were generally prints and plaids.

The "French Pattern" exhibit the change from hand sewn, to partly hand sewn, to all machine stitched. The same could be said for the homespun shirts. Sewing machines were become more prevalent during the 1860’s but like with all new items the price dictated who was able to buy them. Many home spun shirts were still completely hand sewn.

Regardless of the pattern there were some similarities. The cloth used was woven linen or cotton. Solid colors or plaids were the most common with earth tone colors. Paisley and printed patterns were also used, but were made differently than they are today. The inside seams were either flat felled or at least crossed stitched so that they would not fray. The button holes were hand stitched. Shirt buttons were no larger than ½" in size. The most common shirt buttons were: white glass other wise know as white china or milk glass buttons. China ringers and ink wells, they were a white buttons with a painted rim. Calicos, they had a printed calico design and finally pie crust with an indented rim. Hard rubber (Goodyear’s, yes they made buttons before tires), mother of pearl, wood, and occasionally tin buttons were also used. Two hole bone buttons were not used as shirt buttons they were used for under drawers.

These are just a few things to think about when looking for and purchasing a reproduction shirt. A whole lot more could be written, but following this information will lead you to a period correct garment. Exceptions and individual instances can always be found for any subject, but what has been shown here is some general information to use in creating the impression you may wish to develop.

Brown, William. Thoughts on Men’s Shirts in America 1750-1900. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1999.

Stuckey, Mike. Reproduction Civil War Era Shirts a Quick Summary. 81-82. The Hardcracker Handbook. Bixby, OK 74008.

Brown, William. The Shirt Off My Back. 93-94. The Hardcracker Handbook. Bixby, OK 74008.

McKee, Paul. The Wartime Use of Civilian Shirts. 95-100. The Hardcracker Handbook. Bixby, OK 74008. 

Soap & The Civil War Laundress

Updated April 27, 2016.

Unlike the highly organized and efficient Quartermaster Corp of today's Army which handles laundry for our troops, America's Civil War men in blue and grey relied upon the camp laundress and laundry men. She often became one of the most respected and highest paid members of the camp for her basic, but important, work. She was also in charge of the men who assisted her in providing clean clothes for the officers and troops.

The Civil War Laundress

According to the Union Army's 1861 Military Handbook, only women of good character were allowed to be a laundress. Each woman had to obtain a "Certificate of Good Character" from Army headquarters before she was allowed to begin working. The laundress was usually married to or mother of one of the soldiers in the company with which she served. According to records, each Union company was allowed up to four laundresses while Confederate companies had up to seven laundresses. When broken down, this meant each Union laundresses was responsible for mending and cleaning the clothes of around 20 men.

The salary of the laundress was paid by the Army by deducting the fees from the soldiers' pay. Each enlisted man had 50 cents withheld monthly, unmarried officers $1.00 to $2.00 monthly and married officers paid $4.00 monthly. If the officer's had family traveling or visiting with the company, additional fees were negotiated. For the men who could not afford to pay the fees, they washed their own clothes or simply wore them unwashed until the clothes fell apart.

The laundress was provided a tent, rations, a hatchet and services of the company surgeon. They were allowed to bring along their children, dogs and household items like beds, cribs and linens. In her "free time" she often assisted the doctor with wounded and sick men. "Suds Row" where the laundresses worked and lived was off-limits to the rest of the camp. The women did not move with the troops during sieges and battles but did move as a new camp was set.

Civil War Laundry Equipment And Supplies

The laundress was required to supply her own equipment and supplies. The basic supplies for each woman were two 25-gallon oak tubs (each weighed about 35 pounds when empty), buckets, iron cauldrons for heating water, fire grates, scrub boards, homemade soap, bluing, ropes for clothes lines, irons and sewing supplies.

These tools were crucial to her livelihood and had to be kept in good shape. The wooden tubs and buckets leaked if they were left to dry for too long, so they had to be soaked to keep them watertight. However, the water had to be changed often because if left too long, the wood became slimy and rotted. Irons had to be stored standing up to keep the bottoms smooth, clean, and free of rust. Wax was placed on the irons to keep them from rusting.

And, the laundress had to make her own soap by rendering animal fat and adding lye. Soap making was a day long process of stirring the soap while it "cooked" over an open fire. A few women did have access to soap from a company called Procter and Gamble. During the Civil War, the Cincinnati company won contracts to supply the Union Army with soap and candles. The military contracts introduced Procter and Gamble products to soldiers from all over the country. Once the war was over and the men returned home, they told their families about the company's products and launched their national, and then global, growth.

Doing laundry for the troops was, at best, a three to four day process for each load of clothes involving ten steps.

  • Mending by hand
  • Presoaking and stain removal
  • Washing in hot water
  • Scrubbing on the wash board
  • Boiling in hot water to kill insects
  • Rinsing three times in cool water
  • Bluing of white items
  • Drying
  • Ironing
  • Folding

Ironing was not included in the usual price. Each ironed shirt cost an extra three cents. Most of the troops saved their money for other things, but officers did pay for ironed shirts.

The job of laundress was hard labor under the conditions of weather and war. But the incentives that drew draw women to it were the pay and the opportunity to stay with her husband or son rather than endure a long or probable permanent separation.

Union Frock Coat

For Commissioned Officers
1442. All officers shall wear a frock-coat of dark blue cloth, the skirt to extend from two-thirds to three-fourths of the distance from the top of the hip to the bent of the knee; single breasted for Captains and Lieutenants; double-breasted for all other grades. 1443. For a Major-General--two rows of buttons on the breast, nine in each row, placed by threes; the distance between each row, five and one-half inches at the top, and three and one-half inches at the bottom; standing-up collar, to rise no higher than to permit the chin to turn freely over it, to hook in front at the bottom, and slope thence up and backward at an angle of thirty degrees on each side; cuffs two and one-half inches deep to go around the sleeves parallel with the lower edge, and to button with three small buttons at the under seam; pockets in the folds of the skirts, with one button at the hip, and one at the end of each pocket, making four buttons on the back and skirt of the coat, the hip button to range with the lowest buttons on the breast; collar and cuffs to be of dark blue velvet; lining of the coat black.
1444. For a Brigadier-General --the same for a Major-General, except that there will be only eight buttons in each row on the breast, placed in pairs.
1445. For A Colonel--the same as for a Major-General, except that there will be only seven buttons in each row on the breast, placed at equal distances; collar and cuffs of the same color and material as the coat.
1446. For a Lieutenant-Colonel--the same as for a Colonel.
1447. For a Major--the same as for a Colonel.
1448. For a Captain--the same as for a Colonel, except that there will be only one row of nine buttons on the breasts, placed at equal distances.
1450. For a Second Lieutenant--the same as for a Captain.
1451. For a Brevet Second Lieutenant--the same as for a Captain.
1452. For a Medical Cadet--the same as for a Brevet Second Lieutenant.
For Enlisted Men
1454. The uniform coat for all enlisted foot men, shall be a single-breasted frock of dark blue cloth, made without plaits, with a skirt extending one-half the distance from the top of the hip to the bend of the knee; one row of nine buttons on the breast, placed at equal distances; stand-up collar, to rise no higher than to permit the chin to turn freely over it, to hook in front at the bottom and then to slope up and backward at an angle of thirty degrees on each side; cuffs pointed according to pattern, and to button with two small buttons at the under seam; collar and cuffs edged with a cord or welt of cloth as follows, to wit: Scarlet for Artillery; sky-blue for Infantry; yellow for Engineers; crimson for Ordnance and Hospital stewards. On each shoulder a metallic scale according to pattern; narrow lining for skirt of the coat of the same color and material as the coat; pockets in the folds of the skirts with one button at each hip to range with the lowest buttons on the breast; no buttons at the ends of the pockets.

Union Trousers

25. For General Officers and Officers of the Ordnance Department -- of dark blue cloth, plain, without stripe, welt, or cord down the outer seam. 
26. For Officers of the General Staff and Staff Corps, except the Ordnance -- dark blue cloth, with a gold cord, one-eighth of an inch diameter, along the outer seam.
27. For all Regimental Officers -- dark blue cloth, with a welt let into the outer seam, one-eighth of an inch in diameter, colors corresponding to the facing of the respective regiments, viz: Dragoons, orange; cavalry, yellow; Riflemen, emerald green; Artillery, scarlet; Infantry, sky-blue.
28. For Enlisted Men, except companies of Light Artillery -- dark blue cloth; sergeants with a stripe one and one-half inch wide; corporals with a stripe one-halt inch wide, of worsted lace, down and over the  outer seam, of the color of the facings of the respective corps.
29. Ordnance Sergeants and Hospital Stewards -- stripe of crimson lace one and one-half inch wide.
30. Privates -- plain, without stripe or welt.
31. For Companies of Artillery equipped Light Artillery -- sky blue cloth.
All trousers to be made loose, without plaits, and to spread well over the boot; to be re-enforced for all enlisted mounted men.
General Orders 108
December 16, 1861
I--The Secretary of War directs that the following change be made in the uniform trowsers of regimental officers and enlisted men. The cloth to be sky blue mixture. The welt of officers and the stripes for non-commissioned officers of infantry to be of dark blue.

Wool: Melton

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C&C Sutlery's Melton is 19-21 oz. wool.

Melton cloth is traditionally made of wool and is woven in a twill form. It is thick, due to having been well fulled, which gives it a felt-like smooth surface. It is napped and very closely sheared. Meltons are similar to Mackinaw cloth. It is a very solid cloth in which the twill weave pattern is completely concealed due to the finishing processes. Because of its dense, quasi-felted texture it frays minimally or not at all. It is hard wearing and wind and weather resistant. Its main use is for heavy outer garments and coats and for blankets. In lighter weights melton cloth is traditionally used for lining the underside of jacket collars. 

Fulling is a process done in the finishing of wool fabric by the addition of moisture, heat, friction and pressure.

Melton wool has a minor nylon content to aid machining.