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What color of uniforms did the Michigan Militia wear at the start of the Civil War?

Discussion in 'Civil War Uniforms & Relics' started by major bill, Mar 11, 2018.

  1. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    In 1859 the State Military Board passed the following resolution: “This Board recommends to the Adjutant General the publication of a General Order requiring each of the several Volunteer Corps of the State to adopt the Uniform of their corps to conform to the National Colors to wit: either Blue or Grey” Adjutant General (Schwartz?) indicated he had already done so. The next day the State Military Board went even further and resolved “That the Adjutant General be requested to issue an order requiring all new companies to adopt gray uniform, United States pattern; and that the companies now organized adopt a like uniform as soon as practical.” The Adjutant General apparently issued this General Order.

    Sadly not all Michigan Uniformed Militia companies had purchased grey uniforms before the start of the Civil War.
     
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  3. FiremarshalBill

    FiremarshalBill Private

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    I'm pretty sure the 3rd Michigan Infantry was initially issued gray uniforms, but by the battle of 1st Bull Run it seems they had a mish-mosh of uniforms including blue and/or black trousers, and both blue and/or gray coats.
     
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  4. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    None of the Michigan Militia complies which joined the 3rg Michigan wore thier militia uniforms out of the state of Michigan and they all received grey uniforms from Michigan.

    In the next few post I will show the uniforms of a few of the militia companies that joined the 3rd Michigan infantry. I will post them separately so anyone can reply to an individual militia uniform.
     
  5. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The Williams’ Rifles, a.k.a. Company B, Williams’ Battalion (Lansing, Ingham County) formed in 1859. During the Civil War, the Williams’ Rifles were Company G, 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Although Lansing, the ‘new’ state capitol, was a small town in 1859 enough men could be found to form two militia companies, both of which were named for Colonel Adolphus Wesley Williams who was also call a major in some sources. In 1859, the recently formed William Rifles earned a spot in Class I of the Michigan Uniformed Militia. In 1859, they reportedly carried rifled muskets also referred to as Minnie rifles. In 1860, Captain J.R. Price took 22 men to the Michigan Uniformed Militia encampment being held at Jackson. They had a small three-piece band in addition to the riflemen.

    In 1861, they had 60 State owned rifle muskets, 4 revolvers and 8 noncommissioned officer swords. Their rifles were said to be Minnie rifles with spring bayonets that could be detached and used as sidearms. The Lansing State Republican printed letters from newly assigned members of the Williams Rifles about how the 3rd Regiment confiscated their rifles and give them to another unit. Because of this they sarcastically referred to themselves as the Williams’ Muskets. The men were livid about this injustice. The company members had purchased these rifles in 1859. The rifles were described as Minnie rifles with the new “patent spring saber bayonet where the bayonet can be detached and worn as a sidearm. Unhappy with their replacement muskets, and still considering themselves as a rifle company, the men made an effort to replace their confiscated rifles with Minnie rifles, which they scoured Virginia battlefields to find.

    The Michigan Adjutant General’s Report of 1860 lists them as wearing gray uniforms. A September 1 1860 Detroit Free Press article gives their uniform as grey coats and pants trimmed with green. The report also indicates that the Williams’ Rifles wore regulation caps. The color of their caps is not given.

    Their first offer of service was to escort the newly elected President through Baltimore on his way to Washington, but this offer was not accepted. When sworn in to federal service with the 3rd Michigan Infantry the state issued them gray uniforms with ten-button jackets.
     
  6. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The Valley City Light Guards. a. k. a. Valley City Guards a. k. a. Grand Rapids Light Guards, a.k.a. Grand Rapids Guards, a.k.a. The Rifle Corps (Grand Rapids, Kent County) were originally formed in 1855 as the Grand Rapids Light Guards. They appear to have formed from the fireman of Alert Fire Company No. 1. Soon after forming they were renamed the Valley City Guards and later the Valley City Light Guards. In 1855-1856 they were part of 51st Regiment of Uniformed Militia. Their first commander was Captain Wright L Coffinberry, later of the 1st Michigan Engineer Regiment. On January 7 1858 they became the Valley City Light Guards. They maintained an armory in the Taylor and Barns’ block. In 1860 they ranked 8th in Class I of Michigan Uniformed Militia order of merit. By 1860 John H. Earle was the company commander

    Their first uniforms were blue swallow coatees and blue trousers with 1 ½ inch wide white stripes. It is possible that they also wore gray fatigue uniforms, but this is unclear. One order printed in one of the local papers tells them to report to the armory in blue pants, so it would appear that they had pants of two colors. The Adjutant General’s Report of 1860 has them wearing blue uniforms. In 1858, the Valley City Guard carried rifled muskets. In the Grand Rapids Daily Enquirer and Herald on January 10 1861 the commander complained that the company lacked overcoats, shakos and knapsacks. [ii]From this it would appear that cloth caps may have been worn.


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    In 1861, they received 40 1st class muskets from the state. In 1858, they were issued black cartridge boxes and cap-pouches. At the same time bayonet-sheaths and belt plates were issued. New noncommissioned officer swords were probably issued as well.[iii] They had 40 rifle muskets destroyed by a fire in 1860 or 1861; these were replaced by 40 musket rifles and eight noncommissioned officer swords.

    The Valley City Light Guard became Company A, 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment and they were issued gray ten-button jacket and gray trousers and gray caps by the state.


    Valley City Guard, Grand Rapids Daily Enquirer and Herald, September 28 1860, p. 3, col. 1.

    [ii] “Our Militia”, Grand Rapids Enquired and Herald, January 10 1861, p. 3, col. 2, signed A.C. S.. “Our Militia”, Grand Rapids Weekly Enquirer January 16 1861, p. 3, col. 1, signed A.C.S..

    [iii] “More Arms”, Grand Rapids Daily Enquirer and Herald, October 27 1858, p. 3, col. 1.
     
  7. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The German Rifles a.k.a. Grand Rapids Rifles a.k.a. the German Military Company (Grand Rapids, Kent County) were formed in 1859 and ranked in Class II of the Michigan Uniformed Militia and were 2nd in merit in that class. As their name indicated they were known as a German company. They were part of the 2nd Battalion, 51st Regiment. They had maintained an armory above the J. W. Peirce store on Canal Street. In 1859, they had rifled muskets and 1 six-pound brass cannon.

    The German Rifles originally carried musketoons. In 1858, they were issued black cartridge boxes and cap-pouches. At the same time bayonet-sheaths and belt plates were issued. New noncommissioned officer swords were likely issued as well. In 1861 they had replaced the musketoons with muskets. The state provided them not only with 40 rifle muskets, but also gave then a six-pound brass cannon.

    Their uniforms were they were said to be ‘splendid’ and reportedly very neat, had green trim. The Grand Rapids Daily Eagle provides additional details Their dress exhibits much taste and neatness” and gives the uniforms as blue cloth coat and cadet gray pants with green trimming. They wore regulation cap with a green band and pompom. Officers wore green fountain plumes.[ii] “The Michigan Adjutant General’s Report of 1860 confirms that they wore blue uniforms but does not indicate they wore gray trousers.

    Many of men joined the Michigan Union Guards (formed by Captain Lucius Patterson in Grand Rapids after the start of the Civil War) who became Company F, 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry and were issued the same gray uniforms as the Valley City Guards.

    “Grand Rapids Rifles”, Grand Rapids Daily Eagle, October 9 1859, p. 3, col. 2.

    [ii] “The Annual Inspection of the 1st Battalion 51st M.M. at Grand Rapids”, Grand Rapids Daily Eagle, October 12 1859, p.1, col.1-2. Military Inspection, Grand Rapids Daily Eagle, October 10 1859, p. 1, col. 1.
     
  8. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The German Band, a.k.a. The Grand Rapids German Brass Band (Grand Rapids, Kent County) was often with the German Rifles during parades and such but; it is not clear how closely the band was associated with the German Rifles. The Grand Rapids German Band reportedly wore neat uniforms, but these uniforms are never described.


    “The Fourth”, Grand Rapids Enquirer and Herald, July 6 1860, p. 3, col. 2.
     
  9. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The Grand Rapids Artillery a.k.a. The Artillery Corps (Grand Rapids, Kent County) was formed on July 12 1855. With other Grand Rapids companies they were part of 51st Regiment of Uniformed Militia. Their first commander was Lucius Patterson. In 1860, they were part of the 2nd Battalion, 51st Regiment being listed as a heavy artillery company, and Captain Baker Borden was now the company commander. In 1860, they were armed with 1 six-pound brass cannon, and carried rifled muskets. The cannon came with carriage and limber complete, 1 caisson complete and 2 artillery harness with lead and wheel sets. Four horses pulled the cannon. The first mention of this cannon was in August of 1855 when the Grand Rapids Enquire reported that they had received a portion of their uniforms and a new brass six-pound cannon. Likely, this same company was on the 1861 Michigan Quartermaster General’s Report misidentified as the Grand River Artillery which had 32 musketoons, 5 revolvers, 35 sabers and 1 six-pound brass cannon. Note this is the only known use of the name Grand River Artillery and was probably a printing mistake.

    In 1858 they reportedly wore full uniforms and glazed fatigue caps. The 1860 Michigan Adjutant General’s Report has the Grand Rapids Artillery wearing blue uniforms and armed with musketoons. In 1860 they ranked in Class III of the Michigan Uniformed Militia. They reportedly wore splendid uniforms. At a parade in 1858, they wore their white pants. The white pants were probably a summer addition to their normal uniforms.[ii]

    In 1858, they were issued black cartridge boxes and cap-pouches. At the same time bayonet-sheaths and belt plates were issued. New noncommissioned officer swords were likely issued at this time as well.

    In July 1856 they received a blue silk flag. On one side were the arms of Michigan in gilt letters and surroundings. On the reverse side were the stars and stripes with an unlimbered brass field piece with cannon balls and other artillery appendages. The title ‘Grand Rapids Artillery” in heavy gilt letters was on the same side.

    They became Company C, 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment and received the same State issued gray uniforms.


    “Military” Grand Rapids Enquirer, August 29 1855, p. 3, col. 2.

    [ii] “Grand Rapids Artillery Company”, Grand Rapids Daily Eagle, July 3 1858, p.2, col. 1.
     
  10. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The Boston Light Guard a.k.a. Boston Guard (Boston also known as Saranac,

    Ionia County) was formed in1858 or earlier. Ambrose A Stephens was the captain in 1858. In 1858 they were in 2nd Battalion, 51st Regiment. In 1860, they were inspected at the Michigan Uniformed Militia encampment near Grand Rapids with the rest of the 51st Regiment.

    In 1858, they were issued black cartridge boxes and cap-pouches. At the same time bayonet-sheaths and belt plates were issued. New noncommissioned officer’s swords were likely issued as well. In 1859, they had 40 rifled muskets and 1 six-pound brass cannon and were ranked in Class II of the Michigan Uniformed Militia. In 1861, they had 40 musket rifles, 5 musketoons, 5 revolvers, 11 sabers, 5 noncommissioned officer swords and 1 six-pound brass cannon with carriage and limber complete, 1 caisson complete and 2 artillery harness with lead and wheel sets.

    They wore blue full dress uniforms, but no details have been found to further describe their dress, and it is possible that they had undressed or fatigue uniforms. The only information about their dress can be found in two sources. The first reference to their uniforms comes from 1858 and indicates that they wore full dress uniforms, but their full dress uniforms are not further described. In the1860 Michigan Adjutant General’s Report their uniforms are described as being blue but does this report does not specify what type of blue uniform they wore.

    They joined the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infinity Regiment as Company D under the command of Captain Houghton and received state issued gray uniforms.


    “Grand Rapids Military”, Grand Rapids Enquirer and Herald, August 4 1858, p. 3, col. 3. “Military Convention”, Grand Rapids Enquirer and Herald, August 4 1858, p. 3, col. 3.
     
  11. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The Hastings Rifles a.k.a. Hastings Rifle Company a.k.a. True Blues a.k.a. Hastings (Hastings, Barry County) formed in June 1861. They wore cadet-gray uniforms and caps. G. W, Mills had manufactured these caps. The commander was Captain George A. Smith. They traveled to Grand Rapids to join the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. They were never able to obtain enough men to become a company in the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the company was dissolved. Many of the men joined other companies in the 3rd Regiment. The remainders of the men returned home and were sarcastically referred to as them as the ‘True Blows’.

    A new company again called the Hastings Rifles was formed in Hastings after the original company was disbanded. The new commander was G. W. Mills (this is same man who had made the original company’s caps). No information exists on what type of uniforms the new company wore. The reformed company did not remain active for long.


    Barry County Pioneer, June 6 1861. ??
     
  12. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    The Independent Zouaves a.k.a. Elder Independent Zouaves a.k.a. Elder Zouaves (Lansing, Ingham County) drilled in Lansing for a short time in early 1861. During this time they may or may have obtained some type of uniforms. The local newspaper called them a ‘crack company of young men’. The Independent Zouaves selected Captain Mathew Elder as commander and changed their name to the Elder Zouaves. It is unclear if the Elder Zouaves wore Zouave uniforms or any uniforms what so ever. They were active in Lansing for several weeks. By this time, it was widely known that Michigan would issue the men uniforms once they were on active duty and many companies were reluctant to expend the effort and money for their own uniforms. Captain Elder obtained some a uniform at this time. Captain Elder would have known that once on active duty he would need the standard state officer’s frock coat and trousers so may have purchased such.

    The Elder Zouaves went into the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment and were issued gray jackets, pants and caps by the state.
     
  13. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Women in Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids, Kent County) wore a type of semi uniform. In 1861 when the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment was presented with a regimental flag 20 young ladies were attired in red Zouave jackets and brown jockey caps trimmed in red, white and blue. The rest of the ladies, 6 in number, wore blue dresses with white and red sashes pinned at the shoulder with a metal star. These 6 ladies also carried blue parasols with 13 gold stars.


    Silon, Gordon L., A Grand Rapids Sampler, GHistory .R. Hist. Commission, 1992.
     
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