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"Longstreet Moccassins" - D H Hill's Invention?

Discussion in 'Civil War Uniforms & Relics' started by lelliott19, Dec 2, 2017.

  1. lelliott19

    lelliott19 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    upload_2017-12-2_22-34-5.png

    You may have read about Longstreet's men making "shoes" from the untanned hide of "beeves" when they were in East Tennessee? In his memoirs, Edward Porter Alexander (Longstreet's Chief of Artillery) gives us a glimpse of this improvised footwear when detailing events in East TN during the winter of Nov 1863-Mar 1864:

    It was quite an amusing sight (to us) to see a ragged rebel with his feet tied up in a sort of raw beef-hide mocassin, which the men learned to make.... https://ehistory.osu.edu/books/battles/vol3/750

    Pvt. Joseph B. Polley of the 4th Texas (Robertsons Brigade, Hood’s Division, Longstreet's Corps) references the "Longstreet Moccasins" as he describes a typical infantryman of Longstreet’s Department of East Tennessee in March 1864:

    This representative soldier carried an Enfield rifle with forty rounds of ammunition. He had, rolled up in a threadbare blanket that was looped over one shoulder and tied at the ends, a scrap of tent cloth and a leaky poncho. His "uniform'' was well worn with one trouser leg torn off at the knee, and he had on a pair of homemade shoes [Longstreet Moccasins] that were worn out at the toes exposing his sockless feet. On his head was perched a ragged, greasy hat of nondescript appearance. This was the man who was carrying on his shoulders the hopes and prayers of the Confederacy for ultimate victory. He was hungry, he was dirty, he was in rags and often times he was barefooted but in spite of all these handicaps he was one of the best fighting men to charge through the pages of American history. http://4thtexascob.com/History.html#mar64
    But, low and behold! It looks like our old friend D H Hill may have actually been the MacGyver designer of the footwear - over a year earlier! (Somehow, it doesn't surprise me. :D)

    In his reminiscences of the march from Maryland to Fredericksburg, Lt Hugh W Barclay of the 23rd Georgia (Colquitt's Brigade, D H Hill's Division, Stonewall Jackson's Corps) sheds light on perhaps the earliest appearance of the failed footwear:
    The weather was cold, the ground frozen, the men not too well clothed, and many of them barefoot. It was awful. One night on the march, Gen. Hill issued an order that the sergeants of the various companies should go wether the beeves were being slaughtered, and get their compliment of the hides, that the barefoot men should make their shoes and if any soldier was found out of his place next day and not in line, the commanding officer would be put under arrest. It was late at night when we went into camp, and the men without eating, fell upon the ground and were soon asleep. I managed, however, to arouse the sergeant who went for the hides and after his return, proceeded to awake the boys which I found a difficult matter. I told the consequences as it affected myself but they would turn over, grunt and say, "Lt. we will keep up", and again fall asleep. One or two got up and worked all night at the job. Strips for strings were cut from the hide, when enough of the hides was cut out to cover the foot, the hairy side inside, and then sewed up. Next morning standing by the fire, the hide would commence to draw up, and there was more fun. The new kind of shoe was a signal failure, when in contact with water or fire. The next day when one of these wet would fall from the foot, the soldiers bowing their heads, would pass it around and bawl like you have seen cattle when one of their number was slain. It was lots of fun and while the shoes were of no account, it was really a benefit.
    Gen. Hill had his aids at different points along the road, and when a man was found not in his place, his name, company and regiment was demanded. That night I was ordered to report to Gen. Hills headquarters, going there I found about 60 officers, Captains and Lts., who were told to march in rear of their companies until further orders. In a few days we were at Fredericksburg, the Yankees about the same time, but who went into camps among the hills across the river from the city. Our division went into camp near Hamiltons Crossing and there was a general order releasing us from arrest before the battle of the 13th of December.... http://196thovi.tripod.com/23rdgeorgiainfantry/id34.html

    Can you imagine? Every time you had to ford a stream, the hide would stretch until the "shoe" would no longer stay on your foot. And the men. laughing and mooooing at each other? :bounce::rofl:

    Paging all the other members of the DH Hill Fan Club to join me in celebrating the discovery of Hill's valuable invention. @OldReliable1862 @Nathanb1 @BillO and @RochesterBill (Yes there's only five of us. We are small but mighty! And, hey, at least we didn't make a Braxton Bragg Fan Club.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017

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  3. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Interesting. It would seem like different soldiers would have different views of the best design.
     
  4. Bruce Vail

    Bruce Vail 2nd Lieutenant

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    Making the moccasins from beeves is described in the regimental history of the 3rd NC Infantry. In that memoir, the scene is the same as the one described above during the march from Antietam to Fredericksburg in Oct. or Nov. 1862.

    Also described is D.H. Hill ordering the arrest of junior officers for failing to carry out his order that all men without shoes be provided with the moccasins. Seems Hill rather overreacted to what he (mistakenly) thought was deliberate disobedience from his officers.....
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
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  5. Bruce Vail

    Bruce Vail 2nd Lieutenant

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    The beeves affair is also described in the Civil War letters of Lt. E.H. Armstrong (3rd NC) to his father, which are archived at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Lt. Armstrong was among those arrested and at one point he jokes to his Dad that Hill is going to have him shot.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  6. GELongstreet

    GELongstreet 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    If I remember correctly Longstreet didn´t claim it to be his invention but simply remembered those from his old army days in the west.
     
  7. AUG351

    AUG351 Captain Forum Host

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    D. Augustus Dickert, 3rd South Carolina, also mentions them in his History of Kershaw's Brigade:

    The men were badly furnished and equipped — a great number being barefoot and thinly clad. Hundreds would gather at the slaughter pens daily and cut from the warm beef hides strips large enough to make into moccasins, and thus shod, marched miles upon miles in the blinding snow and sleet. All overcoats and heavy clothing had been left in Virginia, and it is a fact too well known to be denied among the soldiers of the South that baggage once left or sent to the rear never came to the front again.


    Confederate troops in the AoT also made use of moccasins while at Nashville in '64. Capt. Samuel T. Foster in Granbury's Texas Brigade says the fallowing in his diary:

    Dec. 12
    We are suffering more for shoes than anything else, and there is no chance to get new ones. At Brigade Head Quarters there has been established a Shoe Shop, not to make shoes, for there is no leather, but they take an old worn out pair of shoes and sew moccasins over them of green cow hide with the hair side in. The shoe is put on and kept there, and as the hide draws it draws closer and closer to the old shoe. I am wearing just such foot coverings now, and they are about as pleasant to the foot and about as comfortable as any I ever had.
     
  8. lelliott19

    lelliott19 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    I'm sure you are correct. Indeed, who would want to claim it as his "invention" since it had such dismal results? :nah disagree:

    I had just always heard them referred to as Longstreet Moccassins, so wanted to be sure that our friend D H Hill received "credit" where "credit" is due. :D
     
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  9. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    Thanks for posting this information.
    I have never heard any claim that one man 'invented' the shoe-substitutes. My understanding is that they were born out of necessity, made by those who would wear them to their own individual 'design', not to any 'official' design. Another example of the individual initiative of the 'ordinary' soldier.
     
  10. Bruce Vail

    Bruce Vail 2nd Lieutenant

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    Ooops. My memory failed again. Although the moccasins are mentioned in the regimental history of the 3rd North Carolina, the affair of the arrests is actually described in the history of the 1st NC Infantry. The two regiments had a more-or-less identical service record and fought together in Hill's Division from time of the Battle of the Seven Days until Hill's transfer out of the Army of Northern Virginia in January 1863.

    "After resting for several weeks in the lower valley, the army moved by way of New Market Gap, passing Orange Court House in the direction of Fredericksburg. While in bivouac near Gordonsville, General Hill issued an order requiring company commanders to see that the barefoot men made moccasins for themselves from the hides just taken from the beeves. The next morning on the march General Hill observed one of the soldiers, private Vanhorne, of Company H, without shoes or moccasins, and immediately arrested Captain Miller of that company for disobedience of orders. Captain Miller demanded and obtained an investigation, which showed that he had until a late hour, and after marching twenty-one miles, assisted his men in carrying out the General's orders; that at midnight private Parker, of Company B, arrived in camp barefoot, cold, and hungry, and was naturally attracted to the butcher's pen where, learning of the recent order of Hill, he went to work at once to shoe himself. As he wore number twelve shoes, it took so large a portion of the material that there was none left for private Vanhorne. Upon this statement of facts Captain Miller was released. Be it stated, however, to the credit of both Parker and Vanhorne, that their shoeless feet had marked the bloody dust on many a hard fought field."

    by Col. Hamilton Brown, First Regiment NC State Troops
     
  11. Sherm_25

    Sherm_25 Cadet

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    Very interesting thread! Thanks for all of the good info!
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  12. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Thanks for the post
     
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  13. Sbc

    Sbc Sergeant

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    Lol a Bragg fan club--if one existed that would be an odd collection of people.
     
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  14. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    LOL. Classic Hill! And Polley! This is an early Christmas gift, indeed! I guess if you were wearing these and the Texas wool hats, people would moo and baa at you...I suspect those were pretty darned smelly, too...
     
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  15. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    If it's a Bragg fan club, would you write fan letters to yourself?
     
  16. lelliott19

    lelliott19 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Oh absolutely! And argue with yourself over dues and such. :D:rofl::rofl::D
     
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  17. ucvrelics.com

    ucvrelics.com 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host

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    These are the Southerner that wern't fighting for the Cause they won battles cause the needed SHOES and other things. Great post.
     
  18. Mrs. V

    Mrs. V Corporal

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    Ugh, untanned leather, hairy side in? Gotta be desperate, but I guess they were. My husband once tried to tan a deer hide and it, umm failed rther spectacularily..evidently it was a smell you could taste..and taste...*shudder*
     
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  19. Gladys Hodge Sherrer

    Gladys Hodge Sherrer Sergeant

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    Pvt. Joseph B. Polley of the 4th Texas (Robertsons Brigade, Hood’s Division, Longstreet's Corps) references the "Longstreet Moccasins" as he describes a typical infantryman of Longstreet’s Department of East Tennessee in March 1864:

    This representative soldier carried an Enfield rifle with forty rounds of ammunition. He had, rolled up in a threadbare blanket that was looped over one shoulder and tied at the ends, a scrap of tent cloth and a leaky poncho. His "uniform'' was well worn with one trouser leg torn off at the knee, and he had on a pair of homemade shoes [Longstreet Moccasins] that were worn out at the toes exposing his sockless feet. On his head was perched a ragged, greasy hat of nondescript appearance. This was the man who was carrying on his shoulders the hopes and prayers of the Confederacy for ultimate victory. He was hungry, he was dirty, he was in rags and often times he was barefooted but in spite of all these handicaps he was one of the best fighting men to charge through the pages of American history

    And so, this statement, and others like it found in soldiers' journals, should zip the lips of those who claim there were no tattered men in the CSA Army.
     
  20. yulzari

    yulzari Private

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    This practice has an earlier history (and must have been resorted to since long before Pontius was a pilot) a generation or two before.

    In the Peninsula War, in the chase of the French Army out of Spain in 1813/14, the British soldiers had long outrun their supply lines from stores landed in Portugal and were reduced to the same expedient. I have not heard of any specific problems but they were glad enough to swap their 'shoes' for the boots of French prisoners. In the Falklands in 1982 the pathetic British issue 'Boots DMS' were so bad that Argentinian prisoners found themselves exchanging their good boots for poor British ones.

    Just as the infantryman from the days of the Ancient Greeks onwards carried 60lbs of kit, nothing really changes in the life of the infantry.
     
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  21. Banjo Pete

    Banjo Pete Private

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    I think there was another discussion about this here at one point. That the un-tanned hides got slimy and rotted. Eeew!
     

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