Why did staff officers wear double breasted coats?

major bill

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#1
During the Civil War both Union and Confederate officers wore double breast frock coats, but was there a reason this was done?

I understand that this set them apart and showed that they could afford the extra expense. But what was the advantage from a practical side?

Well I would think double breasted coats would be a little warmer in the wind and that this might be an advantage riding a horse in cooler weather. Still the double breast frock coat would be warmer in the hot weather. If one got wet in the rain, a double breasted coat would take longer to dry.
 

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#4
Before zippers, a good bit of overlap in front helped keep out the wind, when it was coming in from the worst possible direction. If you've ever worn a button-up shirt without a t-shirt on a day that turned significantly colder than you expect, then you've felt a wind gust that made you feel like you weren't wearing a shirt at all. Not acceptable when you live outdoors.
 
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#10
So the only reasoning behind staff officers wearing double breasted frock coats was so people knew they were staff officers?
No, a captain of staff would have had a single breasted frock, it had nothing to do with a staff position. Staff were designated by the background color of the rank straps (federal army). Staff may also have included couriers and they certainly would not have had a double breasted frock.
 
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#12
Regulations were made by high ranking officers who had to live in these uniforms.
In actuality in the field it would have been more common for the Field and staff to be in a more comfortable sack coat, in fact the General of the Army accepted Lee's surrender at Appomattox wearing one. Many field photographs show evidence of the staff in comfortable wear. The reason so many beautiful frock coats exist, is because they were kept in a trunk. I am lucky enough to have the effects of John Cromwell, Col of the 47th IL, complete with a beautiful frock, he was killed at Champion Hill wearing his field dress (sack coat). Cromwell's effects came in his trunk from the family.

Warmth had absolutely nothing to do with the double breasted wear, in fact it should be noted that prior to 1850 all officers were to wear a double breasted coatee, which was particularly inconvenient for those performing service in the West. The officer corps voiced their complaint and Secretary of War Crawford on Feb 13, 1850 approved General Order No 2. "A large number of Officers of the Army, probably more than half, have applied since the war with Mexico, to have a uniform less expensive, less difficult to procure and better adapted to campaign and other service. Their opinions, reasons and wishes are entitled to attention and respect; and it is important that the garments and equipments shall protect the persons of the wearers, preserve their health and make them efficient....." Quartermaster Support of the Army: A History of the Corps 1775-1939 (Washington DC: Office of the Quartermaster General).
 

major bill

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#14
Now I wish the Army had let me wear a double breasted coat so I could be a field officer (I am major Bill after all).
 
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#17
Not really a myth, in essence the coat was a sack coat that a private might wear and thus the eye witness accounts recorded it as such. The coat is a 4 button sack, unremarkable with the exception of a velvet collar and general rank straps, in fact not the rank that Grant was entitled to at the surrender. The contrast to Lee, who wore his best dress, is what brought so much commentary. There was no regulation for officer fatigue wear and they spanned the spectrum of utility and comfort.

I also suspect that wearing a sack was also a way of camouflaging their status, as an officer, from enemy marksmen.

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#18
Not really a myth, in essence the coat was a sack coat that a private might wear and thus the eye witness accounts recorded it as such. The coat is a 4 button sack, unremarkable with the exception of a velvet collar and general rank straps, in fact not the rank that Grant was entitled to at the surrender. The contrast to Lee, who wore his best dress, is what brought so much commentary. There was no regulation for officer fatigue wear and they spanned the spectrum of utility and comfort.

I also suspect that wearing a sack was also a way of camouflaging their status, as an officer, from enemy marksmen.

View attachment 305322
There is a specific officers fatigue blouse. 5 button front and a 3 button false cuff
 
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#19
There is a specific officers fatigue blouse. 5 button front and a 3 button false cuff
Unfortunately the Uniform Regulations of 1861, which governed the period of the war do not specify an undress uniform, other than section 184. under Miscellaneous: " Officers are permitted to wear a plain dark blue body coat with the buttons designating their respective corps, regiments, or departments, without any other mark or ornament upon it. Such a coat, however, is not to be considered as a dress for any military purpose." Uniform and Dress of the Army of the United States, 1861 General Orders No. 6 War Department, Adjutant Generals Office Washington, DC March 13. 1861.

The coat you refer to is listed as an undress coat in the 1872 regulations, albeit with black braid.

The majority of surviving officer's fatigue jackets from the ACW are either 4 button sack or a short waisted shell jacket, though there are 5 button specimens extant as well. A great example of officer's fatigue uniforms is on page 119 of the Union Army copy of Echoes of Glory.
 
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