Uniforms Were there any contemporary comments on the better camouflage of Confederate grey/brown vs. Union blue uniforms?

privateflemming

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Obviously people were aware of and concerned with camouflage to some extent which is why a few Union sharpshooter regiments wore green, yet Zouave regiments on the other hand with their red trousers would have been especially conspicuous (related to this I think I've heard that some Zouave regiments stopped wearing red because it was too conspicuous, but I've also heard Zouave uniforms were very popular with men even late in the war, so what is the truth?). I'm not asking for speculation on why armies in general weren't too concerned with camouflage at the time. I'm just looking for any comments from those who were concerned or did take note of it.

I'd just be interested in seeing any and all contemporary quotes and comments about this. I'm sure there were a variety of opinions at the time by people involved but I'm having a hard time tracking anything down.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Coffeeville, TX
There's an account from a Union soldier during the Battle of Prairie Grove in the late fall/early winter tree colors mentioning how the Confederate's brown and gray coats in the woods made them harder to see while they in they're blue stood out. If I remember right, I'll see about dragging the book out later and finding it.

The book:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/fields-of-blood-the-prairie-grove-campaign.160805/
As for sharpshooter uniforms, I'm sure the dark green gave them some camouflage, but the reason for that color uniforms was because it was tradition for Rifle regiments, which provided skirmishers, to wear green, even the US Army during the War of 1812 era. The whole sharpshooter title was just to sound more distinctive when so many volunteer units were calling themselves "Rifle" even though they were regular infantry.
 

privateflemming

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There's an account from a Union soldier during the Battle of Prairie Grove in the late fall/early winter tree colors mentioning how the Confederate's brown and gray coats in the woods made them harder to see while they in they're blue stood out. If I remember right, I'll see about dragging the book out later and finding it.

The book:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/fields-of-blood-the-prairie-grove-campaign.160805/
As for sharpshooter uniforms, I'm sure the dark green gave them some camouflage, but the reason for that color uniforms was because it was tradition for Rifle regiments, which provided skirmishers, to wear green, even the US Army during the War of 1812 era. The whole sharpshooter title was just to sound more distinctive when so many volunteer units were calling themselves "Rifle" even though they were regular infantry.

Thanks, I will check that book out.

I know green was a traditional color for rifle regiments but going back to Roger's Rangers in the 18th century the origin does seem to have been camouflage. Its commander John Graves Simcoe wrote this in 1784:

"Green is without comparison the best colour for light troops with dark accouterments; and if put on in the spring, by autumn it nearly fades with the leaves, preserving its characteristic of being scarcely discernible at a distance."
 

7thWisconsin

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I don´t have a copy in front of me, so I can´t quote page numbers, but in Francis Lord´s 1961 book ¨Uniforms of the Civil War¨ there´s a quote remarking that the uniforms of dead Confederates on the field at South Mountain blended in with the grass better than the blue uniforms of the Federal troops. It´s two or three sentences in length.
 

major bill

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Supposedly the Native Americans in the First Michigan sharpshooter rolled in dirt to help camouflage themselves. To understand how the color of uniforms help camouflage good place to look is World War One studies and more modern studies. A great deal of the best color for uniforms as far as camouflage depends on backgrounds, distance, and movement.
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

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I've also heard Zouave uniforms were very popular with men even late in the war, so what is the truth?).
I've often thought that considering their impracticality, the appeal of Zouave uniforms was purely psychological and social. They're certainly distinctive and exotic, suggesting the units that wore them were somehow elite. And I suppose women considered soldiers in Zouave uniforms quite dashing.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Coffeeville, TX
Well I found the account I mentioned, (had to re-read two chapters and now suppressing urge to re-read the whole book), but it comes from a soldier of 26th Indiana, it reads:

The Rebels "could hardly be distinguished from the leaves; their butternut clothes being exactly the same color."

Just for reference, here's a butternut kepi that was worn during that, and I can attest it is near the exact same color as leaves in that region around that time of year.

https://collections.oldstatehouse.c...e;jsessionid=5F1EC46DD0D5ED3E824F067B1370B24A
 

privateflemming

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There was no need to with all the smoke musket, and cannon gave off. Especially on a relatively windless day.

Well didn't officers sometimes take off their rank insignia in battle to make it harder for the enemy to target them? That suggests there could be quite a bit of visibility in battle. I think the smoke of battle while a factor seems a little exaggerated. It wasn't like everyone was just blind because there was shooting in the vicinity.
 

thomas aagaard

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Denmark
Hiding in the smoke was way more important than hiding behind trees.

The Danish army traditionally used red uniforms with white leather.
But by mid 1840ties there where a real interest in making the infantry less of a perfect target.

So the army decided to test different colors.
This was done by having targets in different colors. (targets the size of a infantry line)

A company from a line battalion was used. And they fired several volleys and did some "fire by file" against the different targets at about 150yards.

The color that was hit the most was red, followed only a bit better by green.
A good deal lower (so better) was dark blue and then only slightly better than blue came gray.

The first volley was generally the same effectiveness regardless of color. But the with the following the smoke started to make the target harder to see. (how they judges this I do not know, the publication I got this from just mention it)

The army decided to change to dark blue uniforms (and black leather)
One reason for not going with gray was the fact that you still need to be able to see your own troops. And it was only marginally better. This is also the reason why the army styed with its skyblue trousers.
Also the fact that blue looks better was very likely also a reason*

Unfortunatly I don't own the book I have this from, so can't share the numbers.

But there where sufficient difference in the hit rate to use a lot of money on chancing the color of the uniforms and leathergear.

Since the army lacked money this change was not done before the 1st Sleswig war broke out in 1848.
So in 1848 the infantry used red uniforms and white leather. With some officers in blue... until it was banned, since they where being targets by the rebels.
At the battle at Fredericia in july 1849 both red and blue (and green for jägers) was used.
landsoldater.jpg

(The years are for the models, not when they are in general use)
By 1850 all line and light infantry had blue uniforms.. and most had simply colored their leather with bootpolish.




* By 1900 the army was experimenting with what would have been very modern uniforms in khaki... but it meet so much resistance from the officers that the army went back to gray... not going to a modern khaki until 1923...
 
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Rusk County Avengers

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Well didn't officers sometimes take off their rank insignia in battle to make it harder for the enemy to target them? That suggests there could be quite a bit of visibility in battle. I think the smoke of battle while a factor seems a little exaggerated. It wasn't like everyone was just blind because there was shooting in the vicinity.

Not really...

The insignia was sewn on, so it wasn't exactly a easy to simply take off and put them back on in the field.

Now what did happen, was the insignia got smaller, and sometimes more subdued. Pre/Early war US insignia were large shoulder straps/boards and those tended to get smaller in size so they were less obvious from long distances. Another trick was to trim of the gold outline of the insignia, and with enlisted greatcoats officers had been authorized to wear "circlets" which were the same as the the shoulder boards, but small, round and worn on the collar. Some Federals even devised simple subdued collar insignia as well, but at the end of the day the shoulder board/strap reigned supreme and was worn in battle and out of it.

Confederates also started out with they're collar insignia being overly large, and it being shrunk in size not to long afterwards. Also wearing insignia made out cloth of many colors instead of gold stuff was common.

Neither side were big on removing insignia. The enemy was still gonna know you were officer because you were leading them or had a sword and pistol, and without it some officer on your side might not know you or that you outrank him and cause problems. There were exceptions to this, but it was rare.
 

privateflemming

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Not really...

The insignia was sewn on, so it wasn't exactly a easy to simply take off and put them back on in the field.

Now what did happen, was the insignia got smaller, and sometimes more subdued. Pre/Early war US insignia were large shoulder straps/boards and those tended to get smaller in size so they were less obvious from long distances. Another trick was to trim of the gold outline of the insignia, and with enlisted greatcoats officers had been authorized to wear "circlets" which were the same as the the shoulder boards, but small, round and worn on the collar. Some Federals even devised simple subdued collar insignia as well, but at the end of the day the shoulder board/strap reigned supreme and was worn in battle and out of it.

Confederates also started out with they're collar insignia being overly large, and it being shrunk in size not to long afterwards. Also wearing insignia made out cloth of many colors instead of gold stuff was common.

Neither side were big on removing insignia. The enemy was still gonna know you were officer because you were leading them or had a sword and pistol, and without it some officer on your side might not know you or that you outrank him and cause problems. There were exceptions to this, but it was rare.

Anyway I think the fact that the enemy could see such personal details at all shows a good amount of visibility was common. I've read Union sharpshooters with green uniforms were even singled out and targeted by Confederates because they were considered higher priority, so colors must have been distinguishable even from a long distance.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Anyway I think the fact that the enemy could see such personal details at all shows a good amount of visibility was common. I've read Union sharpshooters with green uniforms were even singled out and targeted by Confederates because they were considered higher priority, so colors must have been distinguishable even from a long distance.

There might be something that.

Just remember the ONLY US Sharpshooter units to wear green uniforms were the 1st and 2nd USSS regiments, and they didn't always have green uniforms. Most the time they wore blue.

The only to distinguish them would be their rifles and accoutrements most the time, not they're uniforms.

Here's a good video, (these guys have several great ones, and put a LOT of research into it) to get an idea:

 

thomas aagaard

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Denmark
The latewar 203rd Pennsylvania regiment also had green uniforms.

One production run of green uniforms was made early in the war and issued to the 1st and 2nd USSS... When it ran out, the sharpshooters ended up wearing blue istead.

Then shortly before their 3 year contracts ran our a new batch of green uniforms was made and issued. And the surplus was then issued to the 203rd Pennsylvania.
 
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mo
Would think grey/brown might have made some difference behind earth/breastworks.

But for the most part, large massed formations maneuvering to relativity short range doesn't lend itself to camo.
 

7thWisconsin

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The latewar 203rd Pennsylvania regiment also had green uniforms.

One production run of green uniforms was made early in the war and issued to the 1st and 2nd USSS... When it ran out, the sharpshooters ended up wearing blue istead.

Then shortly before their 3 year contracts ran our a new batch of green uniforms was made and issued. And the surplus was then issued to the 203rd Pennsylvania.
Wow - now there´s an obscure uniform detail! Actually, by the end of the war, the only distinctive uniform item many USSS soldiers were wearing was the green forage cap on an otherwise regulation Federal uniform.
Here is Lewis Leader, a veteran soldier who served in the 135th PA before enlisting in the 203rd. That´s obviously a new uniform by the way it hangs (and look at how poorly that jacket fits!) His cap has 203rd infantry brass.
203 pa soldier.jpg
 
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