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30e. Uniforms

The US Civil War is often referred to as the war between the Blue & Grey. But it was by no means so simple. Indeed, the prominent color of the basic Union uniform was blue, but many variations existed. Primary among these were those known as the Zouhaves (aka Zouaves). These were Union troops primarily from New York and Pennsylvania who wore brightly colored and elaborate uniforms based on a French-North African style – complete with a Fez hat in some cases.

“There were ten Union Zouave regiments that participated in the Battle of Gettysburg: the 10th New York Infantry Regiment, the 41st New York Infantry Regiment, the 44th New York Infantry Regiment, the 73rd New York Infantry Regiment, the 146th New York Infantry Regiment, the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, the 95th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, and the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment (which did not become a Zouave regiment until 1864).

As the war wore on, many of the regiments had discarded all or most of their colorful Zouave uniforms as impractical and by the summer of 1863 for the standard Union uniform, but generally speaking, three regiments did appear in full Zouave or Zouave-inspired uniforms at the Battle of Gettysburg: the 84th New York Infantry Regiment (14th Brooklyn Infantry Regiment), the 146th New York Infantry Regiment, and the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, while a few others wore a “mix” (like the 95th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, which had retained only the Zouave jacket).

As opposed to a simple grey, the CSA enlisted men’s uniforms were often referred to as Butternut. The CSA was often unable to actually issue a uniform to its men. Often times, they simply wore they own clothing. But more neutral or drab colors (butternut) prevailed.

Civil war re-enactors

CSA Officers, however, almost universally wore a light grey uniform. On both sides, however, the officers had a great leeway in the design and tailoring of their uniform. Some went to extreme lengths to be distinctive. CSA officers often wore a brightly colored waist sash.

Colors to identify the various functions were also widely used. Blue for Infantry, Red for Artillery, and Yellow for Cavalry were the most common.

Hats were also a way units were identified and not just by the colors. The infamous Union Iron Brigade wore a distinctive black ‘Hardie hat’ with its up-turned brim and large black feather.

Almost all Union infantry were issued a knapsack in which they carried their personal belongings and some basic gear. CSA soldiers usually had to roll such items into their blanket and carry it slung across their back. Shoes were quite a different matter. The Union soldiers were almost universally issued a fairly sturdy shoe – not exactly a ‘combat boot’ – but a high-topped shoe. As often as not CSA infantrymen marched barefoot for lack of factories in the South to produce enough footwear.

typical Union kit

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