Union Officer's Trousers Question:

Joined
Jul 5, 2016
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71
#1
Hi all,

Just a quick, yet unique, question to run by y'all if I may please:

Basically, I've been familiarizing myself more with the late war era of 1864/1865 and have been interested in reading how the Union officers tended to 'dress down,' in other words, by having worn more basic / private uniform gear in order to not stand out as much as obvious targets (having learned the hard way) in contrast to the early war years. For instance, there are accounts of Generals Griffin, Grant, etc. choosing to don private enlisted gear during the final campaigns of the war.

I suppose what I am getting at here is this - if these officers tended to wear basic sack coats, artillery short boots to serve as their 'cavalry boots' and so on, did they tend to wear either the sky blue the most or prefer the dark navy blue trousers in 1865 just out of curiosity? In other words, what was typically the most common for these type of Union officers who tended to dress down (sky blue or navy blue trousers)? I realize that there may not be any right or wrong answer here as I realize that perhaps both colors are just as historically accurate. But, I was just curious if one color was more prevalent over the other, by chance. This always piqued my curiosity simply because if one was to exhibit an 1865 Union officer with this particular impression, which color trousers would *you* feel is the most accurate?

Thank you for your time, as well as any and all replies...
 

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Michael W.

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#2
My thoughts on your subject are.......I don't know. Are you asking about Eastern Theatre troops or Western? Because there was a huge difference in styles and clothing types between the two, even from the war's beginning. Western officers did not adhere as much to uniform regulations as did the East, as well as enlisted men, as they would taunt the AoP members as "band box soldiers", making fun of their spit and polish ways. But by the end of the overland campaign in 1864, I believe a lot of that had gone by the wayside. So to answer your question, I would tend to think the AoP officers by this late stage may have begin to alter what they were wearing, but I don't have a definite answer for you. The person who probably could assist you with this is @Package4. Hopefully he can give you a better answer.
 

captaindrew

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#3
That's a good question I never thought about, never had to do a Union officer impression. James N. would be a good one to ask. I think you probably answered your own question with some of both. Being officers supplied their own uniforms probably some of both but would have to go back and look in the period photograph threads and take a close look at officers in the field to see what they were wearing. I'll take a quick look in my Echoes of Glory too, there's lots of examples in there but didn't pay a lot of attention to Union trousers.
 
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#4
Michael W, you are correct, as the war went on and desire for survival became paramount, line officers tended to dress more comfortably and much like their command. Shoulder straps on sack coats became more diminutive and trousers tended to lean towards a sky blue. Even overcoats went from officer dark to enlisted sky.

Just some examples from my collection:

John Cromwell Col. 47th Illinois infantry was killed during the Vicksburg campaign, he was wearing an officer's privately purchased sack coat. His trunk was discovered with a beautiful dress frock coat, two pair of dark blue officer's trousers, vest, socks, bible, insignia and extra belt. Based on what was left behind, it can be surmised that he was wearing more comfortable field wear.

William Atwood enlisted in Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery F on August 8th 1862, he was promoted to 2nd Lt and apparently was a frugal individual and elected to take a pair of standard enlisted trousers and turned them into officer's wear by having a blue cord inserted into the seam.

Overcoat of Dr. Weed, 27th NY Infantry, is an enlisted overcoat in sky blue. (recently de-accessed)

By blowing up LOC pictures of late war scenes you can get a great idea of what the various armies and soldiers were wearing.
IMG_1597 (2).jpg
IMG_1599 (2).jpg
IMG_0926 (2).JPG
IMG_0945 (2).JPG
 

WJC

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#5
Michael W, you are correct, as the war went on and desire for survival became paramount, line officers tended to dress more comfortably and much like their command. Shoulder straps on sack coats became more diminutive and trousers tended to lean towards a sky blue. Even overcoats went from officer dark to enlisted sky.

Just some examples from my collection:

John Cromwell Col. 47th Illinois infantry was killed during the Vicksburg campaign, he was wearing an officer's privately purchased sack coat. His trunk was discovered with a beautiful dress frock coat, two pair of dark blue officer's trousers, vest, socks, bible, insignia and extra belt. Based on what was left behind, it can be surmised that he was wearing more comfortable field wear.

William Atwood enlisted in Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery F on August 8th 1862, he was promoted to 2nd Lt and apparently was a frugal individual and elected to take a pair of standard enlisted trousers and turned them into officer's wear by having a blue cord inserted into the seam.

Overcoat of Dr. Weed, 27th NY Infantry, is an enlisted overcoat in sky blue. (recently de-accessed)

By blowing up LOC pictures of late war scenes you can get a great idea of what the various armies and soldiers were wearing.
View attachment 173171 View attachment 173170 View attachment 173168 View attachment 173167
Thanks for sharing! That is impressive!
As others have mentioned, I knew that officers 'dressed down' and that the uniforms of officers in the Western Theater were more 'casual', but beyond that, this is new to me and very appreciated.
 

Frederick14Va

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#8
In many late war camp and group images one can frequently find a intermitting mix of both Sky Blue and Dark Blue trousers being worn by officers... as time went on, can notice more use of the sky blues... just plain... void of trouser piping.. same as regular soldiers wore. It varied from unit to unit... so a bit difficult to proclaim which was the overall favorite of choice.. Both certainly remained in service... sky blue use numbers seemed to increase a greater ratio later in the war.
 
Joined
Jul 5, 2016
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#9
'Thank you' so much gents for your replies and insightful information, as well as images! Your time and material is much appreciated indeed. I realize that my question was a rather off-question, but one in which I was simply curious about - if anything, it was yet another topic to discuss as it pertains to the Civil War. Oh, and yes, it was in reference to the Eastern theater of war - I apologize for not clarifying. Take care and my very best to all with highest regards!
Sincerely,
 



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