Uniforms Which color of uniforms were better camouflage, gray or blue?

Scott1967

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
Blue , Grey and Reds in that order were the cheapest dyes available considering everything would have gone on cost this would explain the choice of colours , Nowadays we take all colours for granted but in 1860 buying an Orange or Purple dress would have been very expensive.

If you look at European armies most wore Blue or a shade of blue , Grey was considered drab and that's why it was not popular with monarchs who liked to dress their soldiers up like play things , The British adopted Red because it was cheap not because it didnt show the blood as the myth would suggest.

Good post OP.
 

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Location
England
Blue , Grey and Reds in that order were the cheapest dyes available considering everything would have gone on cost this would explain the choice of colours , Nowadays we take all colours for granted but in 1860 buying an Orange or Purple dress would have been very expensive.

If you look at European armies most wore Blue or a shade of blue , Grey was considered drab and that's why it was not popular with monarchs who liked to dress their soldiers up like play things , The British adopted Red because it was cheap not because it didnt show the blood as the myth would suggest.

Good post OP.
It seems logical to me that over time the change in tactics and the way in which wars were fought had some influence on the colour of uniforms, camouflage seems a bit pointless given that early wars were fought with huge ranks of men advancing slowly towards each other, the CW wasn’t fought like the Napoleonic Wars but there were still occasions where massive ranks of men still faced each other across the field of battle. If you consider that WW1 was initially planned as a mobile war then the drab colour uniforms begin to make sense, move onto WW2 and the tactics had changed significantly enough that we start to see various types of camouflage being brought into use. It seems to me that throughout military history, it was the specialist soldiers that developed a need and gave real consideration to camouflage e.g. sharpshooters, skirmishers and those involved in reconnaissance. I just don’t see any real need for camouflaged uniforms during the CW.
 

Scott1967

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
It seems logical to me that over time the change in tactics and the way in which wars were fought had some influence on the colour of uniforms, camouflage seems a bit pointless given that early wars were fought with huge ranks of men advancing slowly towards each other, the CW wasn’t fought like the Napoleonic Wars but there were still occasions where massive ranks of men still faced each other across the field of battle. If you consider that WW1 was initially planned as a mobile war then the drab colour uniforms begin to make sense, move onto WW2 and the tactics had changed significantly enough that we start to see various types of camouflage being brought into use. It seems to me that throughout military history, it was the specialist soldiers that developed a need and gave real consideration to camouflage e.g. sharpshooters, skirmishers and those involved in reconnaissance. I just don’t see any real need for camouflaged uniforms during the CW.

Absolutely spot on mate , Specialist units like the Jaegers , Light infantry , Sharpshooters tended to wear uniforms where they could blend in mainly wooded or open ground so green would be advantageous considering this is the terrain they would be operating in.

Many countries changed their uniforms at the turn of the century as tactics changed and mass formations were dying out so you are spot on with your assessment.

The Germans actually adopted a steel blue grey , The French went for a lighter shade of blue , and the British and Americans adopted the olive green , Its interesting because I think the Austro Hungarians still had a quite remarkable selection of colours in their army mixing red with blue or green , Red hats with white pants and blue jackets this would show how diverse their army was.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This is an interesting thread. The vessels of the flotilla of timber clads that raided up the Tennessee River in January 1862 were painted black. The intention was not camouflage, quite the opposite, it was intended to intimidate. It worked, people fled in panic on sight. There is no hiding a tall ship, however, blockade runners were painted gray to blend with the hazy Carolina coastal conditions. In any case, a ship belching great plumes of coal smoke could be seen & smelled at great distances.

At the start of WWI, the same applied. There really is no way to hide a ship, long white wake, etc. That was where dazzle camouflage came in. The intention was not to hide the ship, it was to confuse a submarine commander during the brief time they had to aim through a periscope. After the he war, the British did tests with veteran officers aiming at dazzle painted targets. Errors of up to 59 degrees were registered. During WWII, the intention was to confuse a pilot during the few seconds they had to aim a bomb. Radar, of course, changed the equation.

At Stones River, a factor that made camouflage superfluous was obvious. When Confederate infantry massed in the dark cedars on the edge of fields 6-800 yards in front of Army of the Cumberland artillery. Every man who fired his musket created a bloom of white smoke that clearly marked his position. I have seen it many times, the effect is not subtle. The return fire from the artillery that brought tree limbs slamming down was deadly. Officers had to order their men to cease fire. Whether or not the color of their uniforms blended in or not was irrelevant. As soon as they pulled the trigger, poof!. Everybody within half a mile knew where they were.
Quaker cannon at Yorktown, Rosecrans’ use of camp fires & rows of empty tents in June1863, on & on, deception was an important tool used by the best Civil War generals.

This is a thought provoking line of thinking.
 

Virginia Dave

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
It would seem that butternut color uniforms might be fair camouflage in some areas but not in other areas. What about gray uniforms or blue uniforms? Again this would depend on the area they were being worn. As far as I know no major nation's army had conducted any studies to determine on the subject of if the using the color of uniforms made soldiers more difficult to see in a combat environment.
I would vote for grey if we only consider two colors.
 
Joined
May 12, 2018
My understanding is that in the Civil War, the consideration was more that of being able to identify your foe in the dense black powder clouds of battle. But of course, as people have pointed out, camouflage was a consideration for special units. Really the situation is somewhat similar to modern aircraft schemes, with there generally being a distinct difference in paint schemes depending on their roles and the situations they are being used in. Also, a distinct trend towards subdued insignia.

Given the dirt, dust and mud men had to march through, combined with the tendency of both sides noncolorfast dyes to fade, I think you’d see a lot mostly brownish guys from a distance. If I were designing a new uniform in the period I’d probably do a dark green top with butternut trousers, I figure that gives countershading and decent camouflage colors.

I wonder, did any enterprising sharpshooters try to put together a rudimentary ghuille suit? I imagine it would not be hard to tie some foliage to yourself to break up your shillouete...

I know there were some good attempts at camouflaging whole positions of men... so camouflage was thought of just not usually on the uniforms and personal equipment level.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Confederate Captain's Jaguar pants.jpeg


Confederate Captain. Samuel Richardson.
Do jaguar pants count as a camouflage uniform?
Arguably, a jaguar skin suit would have had a camouflage patten with 100,000 years of evolution behind it.​
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
My understanding is that in the Civil War, the consideration was more that of being able to identify your foe in the dense black powder clouds of battle. But of course, as people have pointed out, camouflage was a consideration for special units. Really the situation is somewhat similar to modern aircraft schemes, with there generally being a distinct difference in paint schemes depending on their roles and the situations they are being used in. Also, a distinct trend towards subdued insignia.

Given the dirt, dust and mud men had to march through, combined with the tendency of both sides noncolorfast dyes to fade, I think you’d see a lot mostly brownish guys from a distance. If I were designing a new uniform in the period I’d probably do a dark green top with butternut trousers, I figure that gives countershading and decent camouflage colors.

I wonder, did any enterprising sharpshooters try to put together a rudimentary ghuille suit? I imagine it would not be hard to tie some foliage to yourself to break up your shillouete...

I know there were some good attempts at camouflaging whole positions of men... so camouflage was thought of just not usually on the uniforms and personal equipment level.
Columns of men, or even battle lines at any distance do tend to look pretty much the same: a body of men in some indistinct color in the distance. The flashes of light off barrels and bayonets are surprisingly noticeable. That's why regiments were still carrying colors at this time. You can pick out the bright colors of a flag for quite a ways.
Sharpshooting was such an underdeveloped art at this time. I have never seen any documentation of a sharpshooter deliberately camouflaging his clothing to blend in. They were still in the climb a tree and let the branches hide you stage of concealment. The craft was so underthought that they weren't even giving consideration to a route of retreat out of a firing position. After you've fired a big puff of white smoke from a tree branch, you really need to move along to your next predetermined fighting position, but they didn't think like that yet. So you read about sharpshooters eliminated by other sharpshooters, or blasted out of a position by a gun firing canister (which is the period equivalent of turning a machine gun on his position and hosing it down).
 
Top