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Civil War Militia

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Union_Buff, Nov 13, 2013.

  1. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    A few of my novels have main characters who are a part of the state militia during the conflict; I am just curious about the militia uniforms during the Civil War. Did the militia members wear the standard uniforms of the Union and Confederate forces or did they wear more conspicuous uniforms during the war?

    Cheers,

    James.

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  3. frontrank2

    frontrank2 First Sergeant Forum Host

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  4. Chattahooch33

    Chattahooch33 Sergeant Forum Host

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    I know precious little about militias in other states, but Georgia's militia was very ragtag. I don't think the actual militia that was called into service in Georgia had uniforms. I know they carried everything from fowling pieces, to double barreled shotguns, to Creek War rifles. They were hounded continuously by the regulars and dubbed, "Joe Brown's Pets". They saw some action at Resaca, then again at Mt. Harmony where they delayed a whole Federal divsion from approaching the Chattahoochee River Line. They then took a spot within the Atlanta inner defenses in the north west sector around Fort Hood.
    I believe once Atlanta fell they were released for the harvest. They were reassembled when the March to the Sea started and fought the only full scale engagement of the march at Griswoldville where they lined up and advanced across an open field right into canister and infantry with repeaters. It didn't go well. The federals after the battle were distraught after seeing the men they mowed down were 15-16 year old and old men.
    They withdrew to Savannah and took up position on the defensive line there. Some later fought at the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina where they repulsed handily a Federal expedition to cut the Savannah & Charleston RR which included the 54th Massachusettes.


    If I may suggest: [​IMG]
  5. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    Thanks for the link FrontRank - I will definitely take a look at it :smile:

    Thank you for the suggestion of the book Chattahooch - I will see if I can find an online copy to browse.
  6. major bill

    major bill First Sergeant

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    James this question is difficult to answer. Are you asking about militia units called up for active federal service or militia units that stayed in the states? Most units called up either wore the comply fatigue uniforms or we issued new uniforms. There was a wide variation in the various States. Most, but not all States had some type of militia uniform regulations, however militia companies did not always follow the regulations. Many States formed Home Guard companies at the start of the war and they were usually not obligated to follow any Militia uniform regulation. In the North cloth was plentiful but the South had difficulties uniforming their army and this left little material to use by the militia companies.

    I can cover my home State of Michigan. Here in Michigan most militia companies went to war early in the war. Michiagn issued all militia companies going to war either blue or gray uniforms of a couple of styles. Some militia companies reformed as a reserve company when the original company left for war. In general the new reserve militia companies adopted the pre war militia uniforms worn by the company before the company went to war. The reserve militia companies had a tendency to wear their pre war fatigue uniforms and less often their dress uniforms. In general the State Active Guard wore uniforms based on Michigan pre War militia uniform regulations, there were independent companies that had no obligation to follow the regulations and there were Home Guard companies who wore colorful locally made uniforms while other Home Guard Companies wore civilian clothing with a red scarf

    James I have a reasonable amount of Civil War era uniform reference books. If you could tell me the State you are interested in I would see what information I have on that State's militia companies during the war.
    leftyhunter and theoldman like this.
  7. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    Sorry for not making it clear Bill, I meant militia units that did not get called up for active service and stayed within their home state. And I'm currently looking at the Tennessee militia (specifically Local Defense Troops).
  8. major bill

    major bill First Sergeant

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    The Tennessee militia law in force in 1861 dated back to 1836 but this is it.

    Generals and general staff: of the same grade as in the United States army
    Light Infantry: long blue hunting shirts, blue pantaloons, round black hat and red plumes.
    Riflemen: long black hunting shirts, black pantaloons, hats as infantry, and white plumes.
    Cavalry Each regiment of cavalry may choose the quality of the uniforms for their officers and privates and they are authorized to use domestic manufactures for the same: Provided, nerveless, that the coats and pantaloons of each officer and private, of each regiment, shall be of deep blue color.

    The companies called up at the start of the war and in mid 1861 often wore uniforms based on the above regulation. Most men who joined in 1861 had no uniforms what so ever.
    It does not appear that Tennessee adopted any new militia uniform regulations during the war.

    Early in the war many local ladies societies often supplied the uniforms for the Tennessee troops in service. The Military and Financial Board was established to replace the uniforms for Tennessee troops on duty (gray frock coats). I believe the Confederacy took over this task in 1863. If The Military and Financial Board did supply any uniforms to Local Defense units being called up for local service during an emergency, then they probably would have issued them uniforms in storage at the depot meant for troops in the field. This would possibly be what is some times called the Tennessee pattern frock coat. These came in 9 button patterns and 7 button patterns.

    I have not found any additional information, however I would predict that that The Local Defense companies would have worn civilian clothing with or without added military distinctions. Tennessee was having difficulties supplying her troops in the field and it would be doubtful if the State provided any uniforms to the Local Home Guard units. .Officers who were often a bit wealthier may have purchased some type of uniform.

    I really am not an expert on Tennessee uniforms and can not help you very much. If you are interested in more information on the Tennessee pattern frock coat let me know.
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  9. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    Thank you kindly for your help Bill; it has helped me a lot :smile:

    So when you said uniforms might have been issued to Local Defense units who were called up for emergency service, I am guessing they'd be spares, meant to be used as replacements for the uniforms worn by the soldiers in the field?
  10. major bill

    major bill First Sergeant

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    James you would have to research to see if any uniforms were issued to these types of units in Tennessee. I know that many Pennsylvania and some New York militia companies called up for the emergence at Gettysburg were issued blue uniforms. Some of the units called up wore their gray militia uniforms. When Confederate cavalry made raids into Ohio the militia were sent out without issuing them uniforms. But usually emergencies call ups of home Guard companies did not allow time to provide them uniforms. If the called up men might have been lucky to receive arms and some equipment. I know up until 1863 Tennessee was trying to provide uniforms to their troops in the field. The depot in Nashville and those in Memphis and Knoxville operated until being over run by the Union in the summer of 1862. Tennessee supplied uniforms to any new regiments being raised , but appears Tennessee had difficulties replacing uniforms to those units already in the field. Tennessee troops in the field were at least some what reliant on their home towns for uniform replacements. Ron Fields book "The Confederate Army 1861-65 (5) Tennessee & North Carolina" covers this subject some what. Also you could see if you can locate a copy of Frederick P. Todd's book (American Military Equipage 1851 - 1872". Todd's book has been published as a 2 volume set and you need volume II. Todd's book was first published in 4 volumes.
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  11. major bill

    major bill First Sergeant

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    Oh, James you could contact Ron Field, he lives in England. Unless you know some one who knows him he may not answer you. Sadly you can not contact Mr. Todd as he has died.
  12. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    Thank you again for your help Bill - I will try my best to contact Ron Field :smile:
  13. 7th Mississippi Infantry

    7th Mississippi Infantry 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Major Bill provided some excellent information. I believe there would be a strong resemblance between a Tennessee militia (specifically Local Defense Troops) and the photo of the Hempstead County, Arkansas militia as seen in this image :
    Hempstead_Rifles-1.jpg
    "The Militia Law of Arkansas as published in 1860 provided for a two-tiered militia system.[117] Section one of the law made all able-bodied free white male inhabitants between the ages of 18 and 45 liable for service. The militiamen were required to provide their own weapons and equipment and were to muster four times annually, including two company drills, one battalion muster, and one regimental muster. No provision was made for uniforms for the private militiamen, while officers were required to acquire and wear the uniform of the United States Army.[118] Additionally, section 57 of the act allowed each county to raise up to four Volunteer Companies. These Volunteer Companies were to be either infantry, riflemen, cavalry, or artillery. While the Volunteer Companies were to be separate from the regular militia units, they remained under the supervision and authority of the local militia regimental commander, who was required to set the time and place of the election of officers for volunteer companies and certify their election to the governor.[119] Volunteer Companies were required to drill at least once per month (although the Pulaski Artillery, a Volunteer Artillery Company organized in Little Rock in December 1860, scheduled drill three times a week).[120] Volunteer Companies were allowed to select and acquire their own uniforms and their officers were authorized to wear the uniform of the company.[121] While the standard militia units were organized into lettered companies organized roughly along township boundaries, Volunteer Companies usually adopted colorful names to set them apart. Membership in the Volunteer Companies was encouraged by the provision that once a militiaman had completed five years service in a Volunteer Company, he was exempted from further militia service.[122]"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkansas_Militia_in_the_Civil_War

    A better photo at:

    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/co-b-hemstead-rifles-of-the-3rd-ark.78701/#post-564354
  14. JCSettle

    JCSettle Private

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    The Virginia militia at he beginning of the war wore blue frock coats and trousers. Most also wore Hardee hats, with some wearing kepis. As the war progressed, the uniforms consisted of what their home towns could make.
  15. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    Thanks for that information JC :smile:
  16. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    Thank you very much for your help 7MI :smile:
  17. major bill

    major bill First Sergeant

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    I can not skip adding my favorite Michigan Home Guard company. The Hudson Zouaves age 12 to 16, wore "full uniform" , probably just blue shirts, red pants and red kepis. They were armed with lances topped with small American flags.I have to wonder what Confederate raiders would have thought if they made it to southern Michigan and faced Home Guard teens dressed up as Zouaves and armed with lances. The Hudson Zouaves also used hunting knives at times. Could the Confederates find it in themselves to shoot them?
  18. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain Forum Host

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    If I was a Rebel facing those boys Bill, I could not find it in my heart to shoot them; personally, I'd tell them to go home to their families and stay there.

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