Uniforms Were Civil War shoe sizes the same as modern sizes?

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
I reread Confederate Clothing of the Houston Quartermaster Depot by Frederick R. Adolphus tonight. One of the things the article tells about are the shoe contracts made by Captain Wharton. Some of these shoes would have went to Texas units, but probably also to Louisiana, Arkansas and the Indian Territory. One of the things that interested me was the proportion of shoe sizes per 100 pairs of shoes: six pairs in size No. 6, twenty pairs in size No. 7, thirty-five pairs in size No. 8, twenty-five pairs in size No. 9, twelve pairs in size No. 10, and two pairs in size No. 11. This got me wondering how the sizes of Civil War era shoes compared to the sizes used in modern men's shoes. At least to me it appears that Civil War era men seemed to have smaller feet than modern men. However, I was not sure a Civil War size No. 8 is the exact same as a modern size 8.

I know some men today have very large feet. For example growing up my dad wore a size 9 medium width while my best friend's father wore a size 17 AAA. Let us say a Civil War private wore a size 17 AAA, what would that private do for shoes? There were two size No. 11 per every 100 shoes ordered by the Houston Quartermaster. There is no way a private with a size 17 AAA foot could have put on a pair of size No. 11 shoes. The poor private would have had to cut the toes of his shoes off and had several inches of his foot sticking out the end. I have to wonder what sizes of shoes 100 modern men would need?

I know I had a private during the Gulf War who wore a size 13 EEE and the best I could do was get him a pair of size 12 E boots. These were so tight he had problems wearing them. In the end he had to use duct tape to keep his soles attached to his old boots which had worn out. He only wore the tight size 12 boots when he had to and most of the time wore his old worn out boots. He looked a bit funny wearing boots held together with tape. I do wish I could have found some black duct tape to match his black boots, but all I had was OD green tape.
 

Si Klegg

Corporal
Joined
Jul 13, 2018
Location
Bedford UK
I used to work in Ravel's shoe shop in the Kings Road in Chelsea way back in the 70's. British size 9 and 10 was the biggest seller, closely followed by 8's.

My lad's a size 12, I'm an 8. How did that happen? One of my Mum's sayings was 'You can't get rats out of mice' ... well she was wrong there 🤔
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
Even today there is no consistent sizing . Nikes tend to run small . At one time the exact same Nike shoe was sized differently depending on the factory it was made at . This hasn't been a problem for a long time . I wear size 15EEEE and wear New Balance . However , depending on the style , the fit is not consistent . Some are too small or too narrow . I would bet that sizing was not consistent during the Civil War either .
 

Lincoln56

Private
Joined
Jul 24, 2016
Location
Texas
Another characteristic of shoes at the time was not having a right or left foot as we know them today. They shaped themselves to the wearer's feet through use. At least this was the style of my reenacting brogans. The initial marches when they were getting broken in are not a pleasant memory.
 

KianGaf

Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
Another characteristic of shoes at the time was not having a right or left foot as we know them today. They shaped themselves to the wearer's feet through use. At least this was the style of my reenacting brogans. The initial marches when they were getting broken in are not a pleasant memory.

Id say it hurt like hell until they lost all sensation in the soles of their feet. Did soldiers wear socks 🧦
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
Socks, bracers (suspenders) and underclothes were the responsability of the soldier. As to shoe sizes according to a source at the Red Wing Shoe factory there was no official sizing chart in the 1860's. Contract cobblers made shoes in a variety of sizes and delivered them to the Govt. The QM would drop a large bale of shoes and it was the soldiers problem to find a set that fit. Many regiments would find a cobbler in the ranks and in exchange for a little extra pay or a set of Corporal stripes he would get to work helping soldiers with feet that required some help with footwear.

Many men on both sides went without shoes from about March to December anyway and some were issued their first pair of shoes in the army.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Because I docent in a Victorian house, I know that people's feet and hands are much larger but I don't know about the sizes. Teenage visitors--with size 10+ shoes are always amazed to see the ones on display. Makes me shudder to think of Chinese ladies binding their feet but since I've never heard of ACW soldiers mincing about on battlefields, I assume that their feet were naturally smaller.
 

Lincoln56

Private
Joined
Jul 24, 2016
Location
Texas
Its safe to assume that if they were such a commodity that a man was never buried wearing a pair.
In some of the well known photographs of federal dead at Gettysburg such as “Harvest of Death” I don’t recall seeing any shoes. Imagine this held true wherever confederates had possession of ground with federal dead on it. As to whether federals were buried with their shoes on, perhaps someone more knowledgeable than myself has the answer.
 

KianGaf

Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
In some of the well known photographs of federal dead at Gettysburg such as “Harvest of Death” I don’t recall seeing any shoes. Imagine this held true wherever confederates had possession of ground with federal dead on it. As to whether federals were buried with their shoes on, perhaps someone more knowledgeable than myself has the answer.

I'm remember reading about the aftermath of the battle of Franklin in reference to Cleburne. It was noted that his remains were found without his boots and other personal affects, good footwear was obviously a spoil of war. Id say it was also the case that people became desensitized to death and it was a practical matter that the shoes were no use to a dead man when they were in such short supply.
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 8, 2011
Location
Gettysburg area
Because I docent in a Victorian house, I know that people's feet and hands are much larger but I don't know about the sizes. Teenage visitors--with size 10+ shoes are always amazed to see the ones on display. Makes me shudder to think of Chinese ladies binding their feet but since I've never heard of ACW soldiers mincing about on battlefields, I assume that their feet were naturally smaller.
I've wondered about this ever since visiting an 18th Century house when I was a young teen. My most vivid memory is that the stairs seemed to be built to a smaller scale. The risers were not quite as high as modern steps, but the thing that especially got my attention was that the treads were not as deep as modern steps. I had a fairly small foot, and even I had to be careful using the stairs because my foot was too large to fit comfortably on the steps.
 

Garandguy

Private
Joined
Jun 23, 2019
I've been through the museums at several famous CW battlegrounds. One thing the strikes you right away is how tiny the uniforms are. Most would fit on a modern twelve year old. The shoes as well. The average man back then must have been 5ft 3. Just my personal observance.
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
I've been through the museums at several famous CW battlegrounds. One thing the strikes you right away is how tiny the uniforms are. Most would fit on a modern twelve year old. The shoes as well. The average man back then must have been 5ft 3. Just my personal observance.

I don't know what the average size was back in the day, but I do know we keep getting larger. Statistics be danged, when I was a young man at 5'10", it was uncommon for a young woman to be taller than me. Nowadays, I feel like a shrimp.

Clothing "size" is a fun fact of the War. It really didn't exist beforehand, everything was 'made to order.' Our grandmothers measured us and produced clothing/shoes as appropriate.

Only when a million or more men were required to wear uniforms, did the concept of "size" come up.

The War brought that on for the first time.
 

Package4

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Another characteristic of shoes at the time was not having a right or left foot as we know them today. They shaped themselves to the wearer's feet through use. At least this was the style of my reenacting brogans. The initial marches when they were getting broken in are not a pleasant memory.
This is actually not true, by the time of the ACW straight lasts were largely a thing of the past. Federal issue brogans were all made from left and right lasts. There of course were exceptions possibly with some Southern state contracts, but doubtful that many existed, that said examples of I’D shoes do come up that are straight last shoes. Rural cobblers were the last to accept change.
 
Joined
Aug 9, 2011
Location
Lockhart, Texas
There was a story on a modern reenactor sutler website (Fall Creek perhaps) of a shoe manufacturer (Fugawee comes to mind) with an army contract receiving a special order for a huge pair of brogans for a very tall and large soldier. They made the shoes and by the time they reached his regiment he had died in battle. Only point being efforts were made at least in this one case to shoe a man too large for the standard issue shoes.
 
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