Uniforms Navy "Monkey Jackets" and navy "Round Jackets".

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Aug 25, 2012
My current issue of Military Images arrived today. This issue has an article, Navy Round Jackets, by Ron Field. This made me wonder about somethings.

"Monkey Jackets" were worn for years, possibly starting in 1791 or earlier. By 1844 the US Navy was issuing two styles of short jackets, "Monkey Jackets" and "Round Jackets". In general the "Monkey Jackets" and "Round Jackets" look rather simular with the "Round Jackets" being a bit looser, longer, and the two rows of buttons wider apart then the double rows of buttons on the "Monkey Jackets". So why were two different styles of Jackets issued? Both styles of jackets seem to be worn for the same purpose.

My first thought was that the Navy had a large number of "Monkey Jackets" in storage when the "Round Jackets" were adopted and so issued some men one style of jacket and other men the other. Still there was a long overlap when both styles were being issued. But the government usually issues all the old stock before issuing many of the newer style. This did not appear to be the case because the Navy was still purchasing "Monkey Jackets".

If forum members could answer a couple questions I could better understand this.
1) Were there any difference between function which could separate the two style of jackets?
2) By the start of the Civil War it appears that the "Round Jackets" had almost completely replaced the "Monkey Jackets". Does anyone know if the US Navy purchased "Monkey Jackets" during the Civil War?
3) The US Navy did not purchase many jackets during the Civil War. Was this because the US Navy did not see a need for enlisted sailors to wear the more dressy jackets?

In 1848 until 1853 the Navy was getting 1000 "Monkey Jackets" and 4000 "Round Jackets per year. Starting in 1854 it appeared that "Round Jackets" had superseded the older " Monkey Jackets". Still photographs show the "Monkey Jacket" was worn throughout the Civil War. If a sailor was issued a "Monkey Jacket" in 1854-1856 could the jacket have lasted throughout the Civil War? If so, wearing the "Monkey Jacket" instead of a "Round Jacket" would likely have became a kind of status symbol for old salts.

Lampasas Bill

Sep 24, 2018
Do you have pictures of the two types of jackets? Also, was "Monkey Jacket" an official name or a nickname? When I was in the Navy we called our hat a "Dixie Cup," even though it was officially a "White Hat."

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Aug 25, 2012
I do think the term "Monkey Jacket" was used before the Civil War. The official term appears to have been mustering jacket or jacket. However it appears by 1844 the Navy listed jackets as either blue cloth "Monkey Jackets" or blue cloth "Round Jackets". Perhaps one of out Navy uniform "experts" can pipe in on this. Both styles of jackets were often worn unbuttoned and because some "Monkey Jackets" has less buttons, some times it is difficult to tell the difference. The length of the jacket, the tightness of the sleeves, and the number of buttons in the two rows of buttons and the number of buttons on the sleeve cuffs are the defining factors.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Aug 25, 2012
Part of my interest is that Confederate sailors early in the Civil War wore their old US Navy uniforms or US Navy uniforms captured from Navy warehouses in the South. So did Confederate sailors ever wear blue cloth "Monkey Jackets"? When the Confedercy started issuing gray naval uniforms is it safe to assume all the Confederate issued gray jackets were of the round jacket style?


Dec 16, 2019
The Monkey jacket was no longer a part of official Navy clothing by 1860. Only the Pea and the round jacket were provided to US sailors, or contracted for by the CS Navy with Europe, etc.

The "round jacket" is just the double-breasted seaman's blue cloth jacket, worn with the muster dress of the men (and often when photographed ashore). They were consequently part of the seaman's "uniform" and not a part of the working dress of the seamen.

The 1840s and early 50s US Navy Monkey jacket was made of heavy flushing (or "pilot") cloth, and was worn as cold weather dress, the cloth being largely waterproof, and not for muster like the round-jacket. To make this clear, a contractor advertisement by the US Navy in 1853, mentions “pea-jackets” and “monkey jackets” made of blue pilot cloth, besides the regulation blue cloth round jackets. [March 28, 1853 contract advertisement, in The Washington Union, Washington, DC, 4-20-1853.] The difference between the Monkey and the Pea jacket was that the Monkey jacket in the 1820s-40s was really just a short "Pea Jacket."

By the Civil War, the only pilot cloth garments provided the Navy were the "pea jackets..." and were issued along with the blue cloth "round jackets..." No monkey jackets were provided officially during the war years through contracts, etc. Consequently, the only two jackets provided to Civil War naval seamen, landsmen, and boys were the round jackets and pea jackets. These were purchased in whatever quantity was necessary to outfit each sailor... From Boston alone in the first year of the war, one contractor provided...

And a general contractor add by the Navy in 1863 calls for:



The captured US Navy Clothing at Gosport Turned over to the Confederate States for the use of its Navy by the State of Virginia as of June 30, 1861, included:

211 Pea Jackets.
2,022 Blue Cloth Round Jackets.

992 Blue Flannel Jumpers.
1,942 Blue Cloth Trousers.
937 Blue Satinet Trousers.
1,972 Barnsley Sheeting Frocks.
69 Blue Flannel Over Shirts.
1,044 Blue Flannel Under Shirts.
341 Blue Flannel Drawers.
4,822 ¾ yds. Blue Flannel
3,130 ¾ yds. Barnsley Sheeting.
4,620 yds. Canvas Duck.
3,292 yds. Blue Nankeen.
1,501 pairs, Calf Skin Shoes.
1,017 pairs, Kip Skin Shoes.
4,704 pairs, Woolen socks.
178 Mattresses.
1,728 Blankets.
623 Blue Cloth Caps.
350 Seamless Caps.
375 Black Silk Handkerchiefs.
26 pair, Linen Trousers.
46 Extra Mattress Covers.
36 Gutta Percha Jackets.
45 Gutta Percha Trousers.
38 Gutt Percha Caps.
96 yds. Painted Cloth.
935 yds. Burlaps. [Journals and papers of the Virginia State Convention ... v.3. Virginia State Convention of 1861, 117.]

And the CS Navy procured from England in the first year of the war:

For seamen.--Two thousand pairs pants, cloth or cassinette, 2,000 jumpers, 1,000 round jackets, 2,000 pairs duck pants, 2,000 blue flannel overshirts. 2,000 blue flannel undershirts, 2,000 blue flannel drawers, 2,000 pairs of shoes, 3,000 pairs of socks (woolen), 2,000 blankets. 2,000 blue cloth caps, 1,000 pea jackets, 2,000 barnesley shirting frocks, 2,000 black silk handkerchiefs, 1,000 yards of bunting divided into red, white, and blue. (To be similar to the clothing used in the British navy without any designating marks.) [ORN.....]

Here's a Union sailor in a common wartime blue cloth round jacket... Frequently seen in better tailored versions...(the most natty seamen made their own clothing for a superior cut and fit over the contract made purser's stores). I recall reading Seaman Geer of the USS Monitor noting saving money by buying blue seaman's clothing in port before shipping for the Monitor, as it was cheaper and better made than the Navy contract clothing...



and here's a fellow in the pilot cloth pea-jacket... which was fitted with pressed rubber buttons...


Here an image what happens to be a CSN seaman, supposedly from North Carolina). Note too, they found USN pea jacket buttons in the Confederate submarine Hunley...


J. Marshall,
Hernando, FL.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Aug 25, 2012

Looks like a "Monkey Jacket" to me. Even for a "Monkey Jacket" the two rows of button are very close together.


Dec 16, 2019
View attachment 414432
Looks like a "Monkey Jacket" to me. Even for a "Monkey Jacket" the two rows of button are very close together.
I have a feeling Mr. Field is in error. Its just a blue cloth round jacket. They were made during the war by many different contractors, or the seamen could buy or make their own too.

US Sailors wore them for muster dress long before the war, and they featured navy buttons.

From 1836, a description of Boatswain Brown of the USS Concord...

"The jacket of blue, to be sure, is not quite so fine as it might be; nor does it fit with more mathematical nicety than do “Uncle Sam’s” slops generally; but the slashed cuffs and bright eagle of our starry button, throw into the shade such trifling deficiencies."

Another sailor on the Concord in the 1830s noted of his uniform: My jacket is blue, upon which are two rows of National buttons, with six of the same kind upon each cuff.

On December 5, 1839 the Navy Commissioner’s Office advertised for contract proposals for the slop clothing for the year 1840. The sum of the articles wanted by the Navy included:

600 Pea Jackets
1,600 Blue Cloth Jackets

2,000 Blue Cloth Trousers
2,000 White Flannel Shirts
2,000 White Flannel Drawers
2, 000 White Linen Frocks
800 White Duck Trowsers
1,000 White German Linen Trowsers
500 Black Silk Handkerchiefs
2,000 pairs Woolen Stockings
1,000 pairs of thick Sewed Leather Shoes
1,000 pairs of Sewed Leather Pumps
500 Blankets20

From the 1852 uniform regulations, which continued through the war, the blue cloth jacket was part of the Uniform, or "muster dress."


When he joined the Navy in 1845, Charles Nordhoff noted:


From Naval Hygiene, 1870, the round jackets were still only dress garments:


There are no references to the US Navy providing the seamen "monkey jackets" until the late 1840s, and then briefly, and alongside the standard blue cloth jackets and pea jackets.
The monkey jackets were made of thick, heavy waterproof pilot cloth, like the pea jackets. They had wide sleeves like the pea jackets... They were working dress for sea wear.


and the sleeves of period pea jackets were made wide, without cuffs...