General Custer's "Ranger Green" corduroy uniform, April 1865

James N.

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I would guess many people think of Roger's Rangers when the hear "Ranger green". However, the French and Indian War occurred over 100 years before the Civil War and uniforms had changed so much in that 100 years that I am not sure if many Civil War era people even understood the uniforms worn by Roger's Rangers.
We don't like to think about "our" hero Robert Rogers - after all he WAS portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the movie version of Northwest Passage! - as anything but commander of his eponymous Rangers in the F&I War - HOWEVER...

Sad to relate, he offered his services and received a commission from the BRITISH ca. 1775 to raise a *NEW* regiment of Rangers to fight as Tories against US in the Revolution! For some reason that didn't work out - probably best for his subsequent reputation as an American Hero instead of a second Benedict Arnold! - and either it never came to pass; or else was taken over as Butler's Rangers. Of course not only Butler's but other Tory units were uniformed in green, including Tarleton's, despite the inaccuracies of that wretched other film The Patriot that shows them in RED coats with green trim. (THAT should be in reverse, but would no doubt "confuse the audience!")
 
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James N.

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... I have also seen pre-war mounted militia units wearing green coats and jackets. I have never been sure where these green mounted jackets and coats came from. Some Napoleonic era mounted troops wore green coats as did some Mexican mounted units during the Mexican American War. There wear some German states during the Civil War era who wore green jackets or coats.
Of course European green was the uniform of choice for what were variously called, depending on nationality, Jagers/Yagers, Voltiguers, Chasseurs (both a' pied and a' cheval) or infantrie legere/light infantry. Sometimes the jackets/pelisses/dolmans were themselves green; sometimes only trimmed in green; sometimes, not green at all. Of course the entire concept was a proto-camouflage inspired by the garb of huntsmen and foresters on large estates of the nobility, hence their various designations, most of which translate as hunter or huntsman. (Chasseur a' cheval = mounted hunter.) All these were originally intended for purposes of scouting, screening, or acting as skirmishers though in practice they often wound up as ordinary infantry or cavalry. Add into the mix that Russia adopted green as its National color for infantry and artillery uniforms.
 

major bill

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We don't like to think about "our" hero Robert Rogers - after all he WAS portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the movie version of Northwest Passage! - as anything but commander of his eponymous Rangers in the F&I War - HOWEVER...

Sad to relate, he offered his services and received a commission from the BRITISH ca. 1775 to raise a *NEW* regiment of Rangers to fight as Tories against US in the Revolution! For some reason that didn't work out - probably best for his subsequent reputation as an American Hero instead of a second Benedict Arnold! - and either it never came to pass; or else was taken over as Butler's Rangers. Of course not only Butler's but other Tory units were uniformed in green, including Tarleton's, despite the inaccuracies of that wretched other film The Patriot that shows them in RED coats with green trim. (THAT should be in reverse, but would no doubt "confuse the audience!")

Did not The Patriot also put British artillery in red jackets? Well they didn't want people seeing the movie to get confused about who were the good guy and who were the bad guys.
 

major bill

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The Swiss Legion of the French Foreign Legion ca. 1855-1857 wore green coats and some officers wore green jackets. I do not believe I have ever read why green was adopted for the Swiss Legion. Was the choice of green related to Swiss army uniforms? I am far from being an expert on French Foreign Legion uniforms or Swiss uniforms but we must have a forum member who is knowledgeable about French Foreign legion or Swiss uniforms.
 

James N.

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Did not The Patriot also put British artillery in red jackets? Well they didn't want people seeing the movie to get confused about who were the good guy and who were the bad guys.
This is the EXACT reason I've heard on set about various farbisms seen throughout "Hollywood" productions, mainly Last of The Mohicans in which director Michael Mann indulged himself in many inaccuracies supposedly for that very reason.
 

Leigh Cole

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I think you might be right on this one. Most of the Civil War era green uniforms I have seen were "German" style green short frock coats with gray or light blue trousers. These "German" Jager inspired uniforms were some what popular with pre-war militia companies made of of "German" immigrants. In many cites in the North and South people would have seen this style of uniform being worn in parades and so many people would have been familiar with this type of green uniform.

So I would believe that during the Civil War era we would have four possibilities for green inspired uniforms: 1) "German" Yagers, 2) British rifles, 3) U.S. rifle regiments of the 1820s-1830s, 4) Units showing their Irish heritage by wearing green jackets.

I have also seen pre-war mounted militia units wearing green coats and jackets. I have never been sure where these green mounted jackets and coats came from. Some Napoleonic era mounted troops wore green coats as did some Mexican mounted units during the Mexican American War. There wear some German states during the Civil War era who wore green jackets or coats.
I was talking to Steve about this today. He ventured the black velveteen uniform was probably made by his half sister. At that time, he was petitioning Governer Blair for a Colonecy to lead a Michigan unit. Blair, a Republican, was not enthused about Custer as he was known as being a strong Democrat. It was probably then he asked Lydia Ann to make him a Colonels uniform. Knowing the prankster streak in all the Custer's, most likely she based it on the childhood uniform mom made for the young Custer when he used to accompoany his father to his militia drills. The "green cordroy" came from his sister again. She had it available as she made a dress from it. Probably as a joke again, she made hime a seond uniform. Now, next time I see Steve, I shall verify all this, but that was the gist I got from todays conversation. The corduroy, at any rate, would have been more durably. I think Steve mentioned later photos of the General in his black velvet top, but blue trousers. Apparently, the velvet trousers did not last so long...no shock there! So if his sister made it, we can just assume she had whatever green she had....
 

VaGent

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Confederate style Austrian knots on the sleeves as well as Union officer Shoulder Straps?
 

James N.

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G. A. Custer, Sept., 1863.jpg

Confederate style Austrian knots on the sleeves as well as Union officer Shoulder Straps?
Old Curley LIKED gold braid - Welcome to the forums!
 

Leigh Cole

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Thank you. I was over at the General's house this weekend...aka Steve Alexander... and he copied off a few sources for me on Custer's "olive green" uniform he wore at Sailor's Creek. Whitaker's "The Complete Life of Gen. George A. Custer", Kinsley's "Favor the Bold", Ralph Kirshner's "The Class of 1861" and Burke Davis'"To Appomattox; Nine Days in April, 1865" all mention this unique uniforn Custer wore in the war's final days.
 

Kurt G

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Thank you. I was over at the General's house this weekend...aka Steve Alexander... and he copied off a few sources for me on Custer's "olive green" uniform he wore at Sailor's Creek. Whitaker's "The Complete Life of Gen. George A. Custer", Kinsley's "Favor the Bold", Ralph Kirshner's "The Class of 1861" and Burke Davis'"To Appomattox; Nine Days in April, 1865" all mention this unique uniforn Custer wore in the war's final days.
Leigh , thanks for the information . I would have never guessed Autie wore a green uniform . Is there any information on what other officers or his own men thought of this ?
 

Leigh Cole

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Leigh , thanks for the information . I would have never guessed Autie wore a green uniform . Is there any information on what other officers or his own men thought of this ?
Not that I am aware of, as the books don't mention that. Interesting question, tho! My guess is with all the adoration his men had for him, it was most likely positive. His main goal was alwas to be seen by his men and to know where the point is. Amazing he did not get killed wearing these uniforms.
 

Kurt G

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Not that I am aware of, as the books don't mention that. Interesting question, tho! My guess is with all the adoration his men had for him, it was most likely positive. His main goal was alwas to be seen by his men and to know where the point is. Amazing he did not get killed wearing these uniforms.
I know Union generals had their uniforms custom made , but do you know if there was a regulation regarding color ?
 

Leigh Cole

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The 1858 regulations is what the army was supposed to look like...however, State militias had their own designs, and of course special units like Berdan's and the Zouaves had their own game happening. Here is a pretty good link on the basics. Custer never had a problem designing his own, obviously. With his battle success, I guess nobody argued with him. Winning gives you a lot of latitude!
https://civilwar.wikia.org/wiki/Uniform_of_the_Union_Army
 

7thWisconsin

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We don't like to think about "our" hero Robert Rogers - after all he WAS portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the movie version of Northwest Passage! - as anything but commander of his eponymous Rangers in the F&I War - HOWEVER...

Sad to relate, he offered his services and received a commission from the BRITISH ca. 1775 to raise a *NEW* regiment of Rangers to fight as Tories against US in the Revolution! For some reason that didn't work out - probably best for his subsequent reputation as an American Hero instead of a second Benedict Arnold! - and either it never came to pass; or else was taken over as Butler's Rangers. Of course not only Butler's but other Tory units were uniformed in green, including Tarleton's, despite the inaccuracies of that wretched other film The Patriot that shows them in RED coats with green trim. (THAT should be in reverse, but would no doubt "confuse the audience!")
I think, sadly, that the only ranging ol´ Bob Rogers was doing by 1775 was over the tops of wine bottles! (He was known to drink heavily - in an age when almost everyone drank more than moderately.) I suspect that had a good bit to do with his general unfitness for command by that time.
 

BTWhite

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I have a feeling that Custer's "olive-green ranger jacket" might have originally been black corduroy. The quote shared by @Henry G. could lend some credence to this thought.

Unstable black dyes of the period had a tendency to fade to various hues within the olive green to tan-brown range depending upon a number of a factors such as dyestuff, mordant, water temperature, washing agent or sunlight exposure, etc.. The most common examples of black faded to olive can be seen in surviving enlisted frock coat chest linings. Regulations stipulated the lining material be "black alpaca" but the vast majority of surviving originals show faded and color-changed material. Ditto some US blankets. An original owned by my business partner, and others I've studied at the Gettysburg NMP and private collections, show the stitched US and end stripes faded from dark gray or black to greenish-tan. In my friend's original we determined that the yarns in those areas matched that of the blanket but had been overdyed with logwood and copperas to nearly black. See attached a few photos of frock linings that exhibit an olive-green hue. These were originally dyed black.

EarlyWarFrock3.jpg


Size5Frock3.jpg
 
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