Uniforms were obtained from various sources and were often provided through the commutation system. The private soldier was to provide their own clothing, for which they would be reimbursed at the rate of $50.00 per year. This system had been in place since the War of 1812 and was adopted by the Confederate Government at the beginning of hostilities. Ironically, on October 8, 1862 the commutation system was officially ended as depots throughout the south cranked out uniforms.
A “commutation jacket” does not refer to a particular style of jacket, rather to any number of jackets and clothing - ranging from uniforms provided by states as well as clothing made at home and then sent to the soldiers in the army. A basic “Commutation” jacket is a plain “roundabout jacket”- a simple shell jacket with a six-piece body and one-or two-piece sleeves and a short standing collar.
Private George McDill of the 9th TN Infantry, Company C, “The Southern Confederates” was wounded at Perryville in a jacket that was clearly not an “issued” jacket.
McDill’s Coat is described by Les Jenson, Museum of the Confederacy in the following report to the Mud Island Museum in Memphis, Tenn.
“Type: Angle breasted jacket, 4-piece body pattern, material wool jean, warp is unbleached cotton and weft is gray wool. 1-piece sleeve with a 5 3/4-inch cuff. Lining – tabby weave unbleached cotton, 4 CS Eagle buttons with no back marks, constructed with unbleached and brown thread, all hand stitched.”
The jacket is currently on display in the Mud Island Museum in Memphis Tennessee along with his father’s Mexican War coat. It appears that the maker of McDill’s coat used this Mexican War coat as a guide in constructing Private McDill’s jacket.
Civilian clothing would be present within the ranks. There is considerable documentation that the private soldier in the Army of Mississippi was constantly in need of clothing and their letters home often mention specific items of clothing they requested.
McDill’s brother W.J. McDill, who was also at Perryville, wrote home on October 29, 1862 to tell his family what had happened to George at Perryville. Within this letter he requests several articles of clothing from home, “You will please send me the overcoat and gloves that I sent home last spring and a sleeved jacket if is not too much trouble to make one. Tell Aunt Margaret to send John Wilkins his black pants and his vest. Uncle John is not hereto (sic) send for anything but I think he needs a pair of pants. Wm. Campbell wants Aunt Jane Thompson to send his overcoat, 2 colored shirts and his underclothes.”
Thomas Benton Ellis, 3rd Florida Infantry, “Jimmy and I had a knapsack packed with good clothes sent us from home, and with this and a pair of blankets, we began that march (that would end at Perryville), but we had not gone three miles before we discarded the blankets and knapsacks and the campaign with the clothing we had on. In fact, we left everything except our shirt, pants, shoes and hat.”
The Columbus Depot jacket is very popular among Western Theater reenactors, but there is no evidence of these jackets during the Kentucky Campaign. The men who marched north from Chattanooga had little access to these jackets. Although, the Columbus Depot began manufacturing clothing in the summer of 1862 there is no documentation for these jackets during the Kentucky Campaign.
Captured items would have been available after the Federal surrender at Munfordville on September 17, 1862 and it was clear that the soldiers who made the march from Tennessee were in desperate need of clothes and shoes.
Lt. John Inglis, 3rd Florida Infantry described the scene at the surrender of the Munfordville Garrison. The Unionist “looked fat, clean and had new uniforms on while we are dirty, ragged, bare-footed and hungry and our skins are black.”
The capture of the Big Hill Arsenal in Richmond, Kentucky and the removal of those captured items to Camp Breckenridge (Camp Dick Robinson) in Garrard County, Kentucky, made Federal uniforms available to the men of Patrick Cleburne's Brigade and Preston Smith's Brigade. Cleburne’s men, who participated in the Battle of Richmond, were wearing captured Federal sky blue trousers at Perryville. There is an incident of friendly fire recorded:
"As we ascended the hill we were fired into by our own artillery in the rear. Several of our men were killed and wounded, and we had to fall back. I sent an aide to stop this battery. I can only account for this blunder from the fact that most of our men had on blue Federal pants."
Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, C. S. Army
(Report of Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, C. S. Army, commanding brigade.
OR, Vol. 52, Pt. 1, p. 51 - 53)
Material and Construction:
Common materials in the construction of Confederate uniforms were wool weft, cotton warp jean weave material, wool weft, wool warp jean weave cloth, satinets, cassimere, kersey, and all cotton jean weave material (rarely other then for trousers). Grey to dark grey, grey-brown, blue-grey, and brown were the most common color, but green-grey was also seen. Osnaburg and muslin in white were typical linings, but evidence exists for various types of checked, stripped and polished cotton linings. These same materials were used for shirts and drawers. Woven strips and checks, some prints, and colors were used for shirts. Wool and cotton flannels were also used for shirts and drawers. Construction: Hand sewing was most common. Machine sewing is occasionally seen in lighter garments such as shirts and drawers. However, since sewing machines had been purchased widely even in the South, some uniforms were entirely or largely machine sewn. All button holes were hand stitched. Living History clothing should show hand sewn button holes and ideally be hand stitched where visible.
The following guidelines are a minimum set of standards to participant in the Battle of Perryville. The items that are listed under each heading are acceptable. If it is not listed, then it is not acceptable.
Individual Reenactment organizations are encouraged to tailor their impressions to fit the particular regiment they wish to portray. Abundant research is available upon the various units and we encourage participants to work with park staff to achieve their impression goals.
* Enlisted men’s frock coat with blue collar and cuffs
* Basic enlisted men frock coat with grey collars and cuffs.
* Commutation Jacket
* Civilian Coats
No early-war period C.S. Issue sack coats are documented. Hence, at this time, their use is discouraged. Columbus Depot coats are not documented to the Kentucky Campaign and their use is also discouraged.
Buttons: flat brass disc or “coin”, wooden, block I, and some Union coat buttons. State button use should be limited. CSA buttons are not documented with the Army of Mississippi and should not be worn.
* Military issue with blue stripe constructed from the same material as frock coat
* Military issue style plain
* Federal issue sky blue (very appropriate for Cleburne’s or Smith’s Brigades)
Suspenders of civilian pattern, cotton webbing, canvas, or ticking with either button holes or leather tips with tin or brass buckles (no nickel plated metal).
Documented civilian or military pattern in wool or cotton, flannel, woven checks or strips, prints (very limited), or muslin.
Military issue or civilian style in cotton or wool flannel if worn
* Wide brimmed, generally dark wool felt slouch hat b. cap, jean weave material; infantry trim acceptable (grey to dark blue)
* Forage cap
* Straw/plant fiber, period style
Hats should have as appropriate the proper sweatband, lining, ribbon, and stitching. Trim and insignia should be limited. No dead animal parts.
* Jefferson brogan pattern shoes b. English imported shoes c. other military pattern shoes
* Military or civilian pattern boots
Soldiers who had marched the length of the campaign suffered from severely inadequate shoes:
"We usually kept an extra pair of dry socks and bathed our feet once in every twenty-four hours, if possible, and changed our socks to prevent our feet from becoming sore. Marching on turnpike roads wore the soles of our shoes through and we put bits of rawhide inside them to prevent rocks from wearing holes in our feet. Some were moccasins. Daniel McCook (Company B’s skillet wagon) said he could march with more ease in moccasins in dry weather than in hard shoes, such as we drew. However, mine got wet one night on the march and would roll me into the gutter beside the road. One night George [W.] Echols put his gold watch in one of his shoes, as was his custom, and set them by his and someone in swiping his shoes got the watch. George said he cared less for the watch than the shoes at the time, and afterwards said he wrapped his [feet] in cast off clothing, but was unable to keep along and was captured."
Wool or cotton knit socks in white, a basic color, or natural color; hand knit
Eyewear and Glasses:
Spectacles (what we call glasses today) were not a common item amongst Civil War soldiers or even civilians of that era. Hence, try to get by without glasses if you can while doing Living History or wear contact lenses. If you must wear glasses, visit antique stores and purchase a 19th century pair and have the lenses replaced with one of your prescription, preferably with safety lenses.
No modern glasses may be worn at anytime as part of a Living History program.
Individual items of civilian attire are acceptable as identified above. The presence, though, of a recent recruit in the ranks entirely in civilian attire would certainly be possible in the infantry and very common in the cavalry recruited in Kentucky. Most new men were uniformed in about a month after joining the unit, but in a period of active campaigning, some time could pass before the usual military clothing could be issued.
Not every soldier has to have every possible personal effect. However, having at least a few of these little items helps complete and enrich the impression. In choosing personal effects, remember that you will have to carry them.
combs, toothbrush, pocketknife, housewife, handkerchief (bandannas/railroad scarves are not acceptable; they should particularly not be worn as attire or adornment)
vests, civilian or military pattern wallet, writing paper pen and ink, pencil, mirror, playing cards, various game pieces’ books or newspapers.
During the fall of 1862 many Confederate soldiers were veterans. Most of them had been with the Army of Mississippi during the battle at Shiloh, Tennessee. They would clearly be seasoned veterans who knew how to deal with the rigors of campaign.
In addition to having the appropriate Living History equipment and material, it must be used and worn correctly. Pants and waist belts were worn at the real waist (i.e. the naval) and not at the hips; clothes were not form fitting; haversack and canteen straps and cartridge box belts were adjusted so that those items did not slap the soldier on the back of the legs or buttocks on the march; haversacks carried food and individual mess equipment (including the tin cup if there was room) and not personal items; personal items were carried in pockets and knapsacks; hats and coats were worn whenever in public; pants were rarely tucked in the socks. By adopting the appropriate 19th century use and appearance, the Living History impression is remarkably improved.
Tentage and Camps
The living history program was developed to allow the visiting public to understand the workings of a fixed military encampment. Tents are encouraged and allowed. However, only A-Frames or Sibley tents are acceptable for enlisted men.
If you are going to construct a she-bang– Federal “rubber blankets” or “gum blankets”
Shelter halves do not appear in the Western Theater until the end of December 1862.
All participants will remain in period attire with no modern items in view of the public (including “after hours.”) It is the responsibility for all military participants who camp in the mixed camp to attend the required drill and be aware of the military schedule. Wall tents will be allowed in this area.
Each soldier should carry a period tin cup, knife, fork, spoon, and tin plate. More extensive cooking items such as period individual frying pans (even improvised ones from old canteens) are not necessary and should be very limited. Cooking was done in messes (four or five to fifteen men) sharing the cooking duties and using large cooking utensils such as kettles, camp kettles, frying pans, coffee pots, dutch ovens, large spoons and forks, butcher knives, mess pans, wooden water buckets, axes, etc. These large items were carried in the regimental baggage wagons which accompanied the troops except in the presence of the enemy. They were often packed in wooden boxes serving as mess chests. When the soldiers were issued rations (normally in three to five day increments), the baggage wagons with the cooking utensils were present except on rare occasions. In some units, the soldiers assigned to the wagon trains did the cooking and the rations were delivered cooked to the troops in the ranks. Tables, chairs, and stools were not provided for soldiers or even company officers. Due to the impression they will be allowed in the fixed encampment scenarios, but they must be period correct and limited for Confederate impressions.
ORDNANCE AND ORDNANCE STORES
* M1853 .577 (.58) Caliber Enfield 3-Band Rifle-Musket.
* M1816 Conversion or M1842 .69 Caliber Smoothbore.
* M1855 or M1861 “Springfield” pattern .58 Caliber Rifle-Musket.
* Austrian, Prussian, or other foreign imported Muskets.
* M1841 Mississippi .54 Caliber (2-band)
* M1855 .58 Caliber (2-band)
* M1858 Enfield .577 Caliber (Repros are .58 Caliber)
Appropriate bayonet for weapon carried.
"Thursday, August 14, 1862 (Chattanooga, TN): We turn in our old guns that we have had ever since we have been in the service. We get in place of them Enfield Rifles that had never been used any. The boys are proud of them." -- Pvt. R.R. Etter, 16th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry
Side arms only for officers and approved cavalry impressions.
Original weapons are only allowed if they are to be used in non-firing demonstrations.
Cartridge box and cartridge box belt
* M1855/61 box and tins
* Documented Confederate manufactured pattern box of
leather or painted canvas and tins
* Enfield box and tins
* Box for .69 caliber weapons and tins
* M1845/50 pattern b. Documented Confederate manufactured pattern of leather or painted canvas
* Enfield style
Waist belt and waist belt plate
Rectangular CSA, clipped corner CS, and frame buckles were most common. Snake buckles, roller buckles, and even oval CS are also acceptable. Some state, militia, and civilian buckles can also be used in limited numbers. All waist belt plates are to have proper period construction. Use of an upside down US should be very limited. Waist belt should be black, russet or buff leather or painted canvas and appropriate to the buckle.
Appropriate for the weapon and bayonet being carried.
* Mexican War pattern b. British pattern--Issac & Campbell/A. Ross
* Double bag pattern
* Federal double bag pattern
* Other common period pattern
Numerous primary resources site that knapsacks were dropped before entering battle. It would be reasonable to see several soldiers without knapsacks, but a good number should retain their knapsacks.
* Tin drum
* Wooden drum (Gardner pattern), usually of cedar
* Federal pattern--smooth side
* Other common period pattern
Straps should be cotton, cotton webbing, or leather sewn together or with a buckle or button. As few as two-thirds or one-half of the men need to carry canteens
* White cotton duck unpainted
* Black painted
* Cotton jean weave unpainted
* Federal pattern
As few as two-thirds or one-half of the men need to carry haversacks.
* Civilian style, 100% wool, woven blankets in natural or earth tone colors
* Union issue blanket
* Blanket made from period pattern wool carpeting
Gum blankets/ground cloth:
Oil cloth, painted canvas, or captured Federal issue gum blanket
Use of Federal items:
Only Federal-style canteens, blankets, knapsacks, haversacks, gum blankets, accouterments and weapons should be used. Federal sky-blue enlisted man's foot trousers would have been evident among Cleburne’s and Preston Smith’s men who were able to draw upon the stores of captured Federal goods that were stored at Camp Breckenridge. Other Federal Issue items (mostly accouterments) would have been available after the Confederate capture of Munfordville, Kentucky. Jefferson brogan pattern shoes would be acceptable.
One flag per battalion. The park owns flags for most C.S. Regiments that fought at Perryville and will issue the appropriate flag to be carried on the field.
Noncommissioned officers were important to the functioning of the line of battle in combat. The ratio of sergeants to privates was about one to seven or eight and the ratio for corporals was about one to nine. Living History companies should manifest about the same ratio. Noncommissioned officers should be equipped the same as privates. Chevrons are not necessary and their use should be limited. The stripes should be hand sewn directly to the jacket with no backing. Noncommissioned officers should know the drill and duties expected of them.
The general ratio of commissioned officers to noncommissioned officers and enlisted men in the campaign averaged one to ten. Companies typically had three, sometimes two, of their four authorized officers. Therefore, if there are ten or more soldiers, it would be appropriate to have an officer represented, probably a second lieutenant. With twenty or more soldiers, there should be one or two officers, a first or second lieutenant. Thirty to forty soldiers should have a captain and two lieutenants
By 1863, an officer's promotion was only confirmed after passage of an extensive examination. A Living Historian portraying an officer should not only look the part but should also know the part (i.e., duties, tactics, and drill) Officers had to purchase their own uniforms and equipment. Not until 1864 did the Confederate government allow officers to purchase uniform items from the quartermaster. An officer's uniform should be built around a grey jean or kersey frock coat, civilian or tailored military trousers, probably a vest, and better civilian or military pattern shoes or boots. An appropriate sword and possibly a side arm should be carried as well as a canteen and haversack. Officers' baggage was to be carried in the regimental baggage wagons, but a knapsack-or blanket roll would be appropriate.
Command Structure and Company
Park staff will designate an overall command structure who will portray field grade officers. Other field grade officers will be acceptable if the minimum amount of participants is reached to constitute a battalion.
In order to adequately represent the Confederate Army in the field – battalions must consist of at least 3 companies.
Individuals and unattached messes are welcome and invited to participate. We will work with you to find you an appropriate regiment/battalion.
Minimum Age to Participate – To carry a weapon at the Battle of Perryville you must be at least 16 years old. No exceptions!
If these standards for participation are acceptable then you are welcome to register for the Battle of Perryville.
Jensen, Leslie D. "A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets, Parts 1 and 2 and 3" Military Collector and Historian: Journal of The Company of Military Historians Volume 41, Nos. 3 and 4, Fall and Winter, 1989.
MacDonald, K.C. & Turner, Gordan. “Uniforms, Equipment, and Arms of the Army of Tennessee with particular reference to the 1st TN Infantry.”
OR, Vol. 52, Pt. 1, p. 51 – 53
OR. Vol. 16, Pt. 2, p. 746-747
Primary Resources provided by Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, Manuscript Collection.
Time-Life Books Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of The Union, Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy, 2 volumes (1991).
Walden, Geoff. “The Columbus Depot Jacket.”
Special thanks to the staff at Chickamauga National Battlefield for their assistance in developing these impression guidelines.