1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free! If you aren't ready for that, try posting your question or comment as a guest!

Soldiers' Shoes

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by tmh10, Jun 15, 2012.

  1. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,755
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    If the Union or Confederate soldier was not a horse-mounted cavalryman or officer, he was a foot soldier. Throughout the war, these men marched long and hard, sometimes up to 30 or 40 miles a day. As a result, shoes became sorely needed by both sides.

    The Union, backed by its industrial strength and factories, had the benefit of the sewing machine, a newly perfected invention that enabled thousands of Northern shoemakers to leave their benches and become soldiers. But the Confederacy fared far worse; it was extremely low on shoes. Worse still, corruption existed in some Confederate commissaries, where quartermasters shorted the soldiers and profits were pocketed.

    There are many accounts of Rebels marching for miles barefoot during the winter. Ill-fitting shoes were also a problem, and carefully guarded shoe shops, situated close to brigade headquarters, were established to repair footwear. Often, Rebel foot soldiers with no shoes or poorly fitted ones were organized into separate commands to march apart from the rest of the troops on the soft grassy roadsides.

    The men preferred shoes with broad bottoms and big, flat heels, instead of boots, which were heavy, twisted the ankles, and were difficult to put on and remove especially when wet. Shoes and boots were so valuable that special missions were made to procure them. They were even pulled from the feet of dead men on the bloodstained battlefields and were used by prisoners to barter for supplies such as food or tobacco.

    http://www.wtv-zone.com/civilwar/soldier.html
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Sam Grant

    Sam Grant Private

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2011
    Messages:
    82
    Location:
    displaced Baltimorean
    Good post, tmh10. Is there any truth to the legend of some of Heth's Confederates entering Gettysburg looking for shoes, hence the resulting battle?
     
  4. rhp6033

    rhp6033 Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2011
    Messages:
    1,874
    Location:
    Everett, Washington
    Due to his logistics difficulties, Lee worked hard to make the best use of everything he had. Any soldiers with useful occupations was excudes from guard duty and firewood details to make items usefull for the army when not actively employed in fighting. Rations given to Lee's army as "beef on the hoof" would, shortly after slaughter, be turned into tanned hides which would soon be converted to usable shoes, hanesses, saddles, etc. But this still wasnt enough - soldiers went through more than one pair of shoes every few months as shoes became wet, dry, and wet again, until they eventually just crumbled into pieces.
     
  5. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,755
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    I have read several accounts of that, but most think it was just an excuse for a probe of the area. He was probably looking for anything his army could use and to see what Federal forces were in the feild at that time as well.
     
  6. reading48

    reading48 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2011
    Messages:
    4,129
    Location:
    N.E. Pa. 100 miles N. of gettysburg
    I had read..Gov't issue shoes did not make right or left shoes...the soldier had to break them in to fit the feet....Ouch
     
  7. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,755
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    I could see that blisters were probably a big problem.:smile:
     
  8. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    11,518
    Location:
    South of the North 40
    tmh10 likes this.
  9. Blessmag

    Blessmag 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Messages:
    4,174
    Location:
    Minnesota
    And here is a picture of that sewing machine, the 1st to sew boot tops to soles.

    Sewing Machine #2.jpg
     
  10. Delhi Rangers

    Delhi Rangers First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
    Messages:
    1,113
    Location:
    Alabama
    It is my understanding that the Model 1851 Jefferson Brogan was the first issued by the g'ment that were made right or left. Here is a story that I have read about Jefferson Brogans:
    The Army used the term "Jefferson". The reason goes back to Thomas Jefferson:
    During the French Revolution, large, fancy shoe buckles were considered the mark of the Aristocrats. Shortly, wearing any shoe buckles at all could cause your head to leave your body. Shoe buckles quickly went out of style in France. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson was a strong supporter of the French Revolution so, at his inauguration in 1801 he wore laced-up shoes.. This set a fashion. All laced shoes soon were called "Jefferson Shoes."
     
    reading48 likes this.
  11. JRJ

    JRJ Brigadier General Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2012
    Messages:
    1,370
    Location:
    God's Country.
    I guess I have never seen this question answered anywhere, meaning in my reading or have I really given much thought to it, did soldiers attached to artillery batteries walk?
     
  12. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    11,518
    Location:
    South of the North 40
    Under normal circumstances yes, horse arty rode though which made them more mobile.
     
  13. jessgettysburg1863

    jessgettysburg1863 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    3,447
    Location:
    Living in Kilmore in Victoria Australia
     
  14. reading48

    reading48 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2011
    Messages:
    4,129
    Location:
    N.E. Pa. 100 miles N. of gettysburg
    Delhi Rangers......Not to cause an argument....m1851 brogans were mostly issued to artillery and cavalry..Many manufactures of shoes/brogans made streight laced identical L/R shoes which the Govt. bought.this practice was common until the turn of the century....
     
  15. Delhi Rangers

    Delhi Rangers First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2011
    Messages:
    1,113
    Location:
    Alabama
    Thanks for the clarification:thumbsup: I learn something new here everyday.
     
  16. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    18,206
    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    To All,

    The following web site may be of some interest on the topic.

    Fugawee Brogans.

    http://www.fugawee.com/brogans.htm

    Scroll down the page until you see the following:

    Facts about Original Civil War Shoes.

    Enjoy,
    Unionblue
     
    jessgettysburg1863 and tmh10 like this.
  17. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,755
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    I like those. I don't know if I like them a hundred dollars good, but I could see me in a pair of those.:smile:
     
  18. whitworth

    whitworth 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    2,518
    After wearing Vietnam era boots, the last thing you'd get me into would be civil war era military shoes. Let alone no shoes. Of course, the Union manufactured shoes were too small for me and Mr. Lincoln. My only connection to the great man.

    I'll keep my modern hiking boots, as the old dogs of mine, are averaging some five hundred miles a year.

    And how the Confederates ever thought they could fight a war with few shoes, I'll never know. But then I'm too much into logistics.
     
  19. 23rdYahoos

    23rdYahoos Corporal Civil War Photo Contest
    Annual Winner

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    271
    Location:
    Chester County, PA
    One of the most persistent legends surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg (1863), which took place during the American Civil War (1861–1865), is that it was fought over shoes. Ten weeks after the battle, Confederate general Henry Heth, a Virginian whose troops were the first to engage on July 1, filed a now-famous report in which he explained why he had sent a portion of his division into the small Pennsylvania town. "On the morning of June 30," Heth wrote, "I ordered Brigadier General [Johnston] Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day." That parenthetical phrase "shoes especially" has taken on a life of its own over the years. A 1997 newsletter of the American Podiatric Medical Association is typical—it claimed, perhaps due to its interest in foot health, that footwear was the battle's causa belli, adding, "There was a warehouse full of boots and shoes in the town."

    So what are the real reasons for the battle? There is no question that the Union and Confederate armies collided unexpectedly at Gettysburg (in what, in military terms, is called a "meeting engagement"). It is also true that Heth's men—indeed, much of the Army of Northern Virginia—were short on shoes. A rumor had even been circulating that shoes were to be found in Gettysburg, despite the fact that Jubal A. Early's men had been through the town a few days earlier, demanded a ransom that included 1,500 pairs of shoes, and come away empty-handed. It is not true, however, that there was a shoe warehouse or shoe factory in Gettysburg—only a carriage factory, a college, and a finishing school for girls. Finally, shoes were only part of the reason that Heth's men, in his own words, "stumbled into this fight" on July 1.

    True, the army was footsore; but, more importantly—figuratively speaking—it was also blind. Confederate cavalry under J. E. B. Stuart had been missing for almost a week on a long ride around the Union army. As a result, Heth and his boss, A. P. Hill, had no idea what was in front of them. (Cavalry, not infantry, were the eyes and ears of an army. They were used both to gather intelligence about the enemy and to shield one's own movements.) After Pettigrew encountered Union troopers on June 30, Hill sent Heth back to Gettysburg the next day to reconnoiter. His mission: to find out whether the soldiers in town were harmless home guard troops or the more fearsome Army of the Potomac. Heth was not supposed to start a battle; in fact, he was under specific orders from Robert E. Lee not to do so. The Virginian—new to his command and an old favorite of Lee's—started one anyway, a "reckless act," according to historian Stephen W. Sears, and perhaps even an insubordinate one.

    Nothing about war is simple, of course, and in the same way that Heth stumbled into battle, one can also stumble into a fierce historical argument. Heth's decisions were angrily debated by so-called Lost Cause historians after the war, part of a larger, often very personal battle over who was to blame for Gettysburg—Lee, Stuart, or James Longstreet. (That these battles were largely fought by Virginians over the actions of other Virginians made them all the more personal.) In a defense of Stuart, fellow cavalryman John S. Mosby wrote in 1908 that Heth and Hill were not interested in shoes at all, but in battle, glory, and prisoners. Lee's army was never blind, he claimed, and only selfishness and perfidy led to battle. "If Hill and Heth had stood still," Mosby wrote, "they would not have stumbled."

    Why, then, the focus on shoes? For some early historians, it may have been a sleight of hand, a way of distracting readers from more prickly questions surrounding the Confederate defeat. Besides that, the largely accurate, if sometimes exaggerated, image of shoeless soldiers conveniently underscored the Lost Cause notion of nobility achieved through suffering. By calling attention to the ragged state of Johnny Reb, these writers also called attention to how the Confederate army, time and again, had managed to triumph in battle without nearly the numbers or materiel of its adversary. Such a state of affairs could not last forever, of course; Gettysburg was proof of that. And while no one argued that Lee lost the battle because his men did not have enough shoes, the image speaks for itself.

    Finally, from a literary standpoint, "shoes especially" represents the perfect detail, quickly translating abstract historical forces into blisters on aching feet and the smell of new shoe leather. The Battle of Gettysburg readily lends itself to being read as a three-act tragedy, dominated, as many have argued, by Lee's hubris. ("The fundamental fault that disfigured his conduct of the campaign," historian Brian Holden Reid has written, "was that Lee was overly confident and expected too much of his marvelous troops.") That it started by accident, over something so "pedestrian" as shoes, is too perfect for writers to ignore. Shelby Foote certainly did not, crafting a scene in The Civil War: A Narrative (1963) in which A. P. Hill airily dismissed the possibility that the Army of the Potomac was in Gettysburg:

    In Foote's dialogue, Heth was quick to take him up on that. "If there is no objection," he said, "I will take my division tomorrow and go to Gettysburg and get those shoes." "None in the world," Hill responded.

    Source - Brendan Wolfe, Managing Editor of Encyclopedia Virginia.
     
  20. whitworth

    whitworth 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    2,518
    Good post 23rdYahoos.
    Of course, tens of thousands of Americans have studied Gettysburg, visited the battlefield, mentioned the importance of shoes, but never asked or visited the historical marker telling where the shoe factory had been located. Americans I guess, can start an idea, but never complete it.
    As if one Gettysburg tour guide ever said, "There is no historical marker for a shoe factory. There was no shoe factory."

    As if in defeat, the Confederacy ever made mistakes. As if an army could enter a town from one direction, with no egress, and no screen, without knowing that the enemy had already entered the town. What American could admit to that?
     

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page