Washington artillery of
1838 - 1845
Uniforms are to be maintained according to military standards. Brass articles such as buttons, belt plates, and Artillery / Company insignia should be kept polished. Artillery boots should be clean and polished, and uniforms should be clean and in good condition.
There are several versions of the antebellum uniform of the Washington Artillery, as it evolved. We have elected to present it in stages, as it were, so as to document it as closely as we are able at present. We cannot document each and every minute change. We have, however, been as exacting as the available information has allowed us to be.
For the men reenacting the 5th Company - Washington Artillery of New Orleans, it should be noted that none of the antebellum uniforms are required of them. It seemed good in our eyes to document the uniforms of the Washington Artillery to the best of our ability, both as a tribute to their memory, and to satisfy our own curiosity concerning those men of the antebellum Washington Artillery.
Our Uniform Standards here, then, are not requirements of the men reenacting the 5th Company - Washington Artillery. For those who choose to obtain and wear the antebellum uniforms on occasion, this is information to help guide them in making the best, most historically correct choices they may. Our Uniform Standards are not intended to exclude men from participating, nor is it intended to make it difficult to enter into reenacting with us. We are attempting to preserve the distinctive and proud look of the fine men of the Washington Artillery.
The men of The Washington Artillery were gentlemen recruited from the upper echelons of society and commerce in New Orleans (or those who aspired to be), refined men of character who had to make application, pay an application fee, and pass the scrutiny of a Committee of Investigation to join, not simply sign up. Our aim is to represent them well. It is important that we look as sharp in our dress as we do in our drill. That's why we do not leave the choice of the uniform and its parts to the membership at large to choose as they will, or, in the words of the Old Testament, for "every man to do what was right in his own eyes".
In this guide to the Uniform Standards of our organization, we have attempted to set forth the requirements as clearly as we are able. You should be able to copy the section pertaining to the item or items that you are having made or that you are purchasing, and hand it to your sutler, seamstress, or tailor to be sure that they understand exactly what they must provide to you.
Some sutlers may tell you that they know what is involved by way of detail in our uniform if they have dealt with the Washington Artillery in the past. Don't trust them to get the antebellum uniform right, regardless of their experience with us. Their memory or records may not be entirely accurate, and their research - or even that we may have provided them some time back - may not be accurate.
Our uniform is also better researched than most units portraying companies of The Washington Artillery, and not every sutler is as familiar with the proper distinctives of the uniform as they may believe themselves to be. We have the advantage not only of being close to the Confederate Museum in New Orleans, but also in having several members of 5th Company as Board members there. Additionally, we have done extensive research at the Jackson Barracks Museum at Jackson Barracks, home of the 141st National Guard Field Artillery - Battalion Washington Artillery, and in the archives of the Howard Tilton Library at Tulane University in New Orleans, so the opportunities for our performing more accurate research than other units are great indeed.
To eliminate confusion, sutlers with which most of our members have dealt successfully have been listed as preferred sources for the items required for the uniforms. You are not required to purchase your uniform items from them. They are recommended on the basis of their history with our members to this point and, in some cases, because of their familiarity with our requirements. However, never assume that they know exactly what we require for the uniform. Always cover the details with them, and do so in writing.
Should you choose to sew your own uniform, there may be substantial cost savings. We have tried to include pertinent information to aid you in finding what you need.
General Uniform Information
We may work our way backwards in discovering the antebellum militia uniform, so to speak, by learning from comments placed in 1861 what essential elements comprised the antebellum militia uniform for the Washington Artillery of New Orleans.
The evolution of the Richmond Grey uniform and its predecessor, the antebellum militia uniform, can be seen in the following comments:
August 1861: "We still retain our white gaiters and red kepis, but they are bound eventually to go. The blue cloth dress uniforms have been shipped to Richmond, and will there remain for swell occasions." - Lieutenant William M. Owen. Once in Virginia, reality set in. The white gaiters and even the blue cloth uniforms did go by the wayside, but the distinctive red kepis remained a part of the uniform of the Washington Artillery through the War.
September 1861: Each man of all the companies of the Washington Artillery had new tailor-made uniforms made at his own expense of "Crenshaw Mills stuff, bluish-gray in color, and gave the command a neat and distinctive appearance". The final break had been made with the former style of uniforms which had made them almost indistinguishable from the Federal troops’ 1858 uniforms.
The uniforms of the first four companies were to include the sky blue kersey trousers, vest, and red-crowned kepi of the old uniform, coupled with the "Crenshaw Mills stuff", a bluish-gray color of wool. The new uniforms of the 5th and 6th Companies were to be entirely made from the "Crenshaw Mills stuff".
The basic requisite antebellum Washington Artillery militia uniform consists of a frock coat, trousers, gaiters, kepi, belt with belt plate, a shirt, and footwear.
1838-1845 Binoculars or Telescope
1838-1845 Blanket 1838-1845 Boots
1838-1845 Brass 1838-1845 Canteen
1838-1845 Chevrons 1838-1845 Flag- -Company
1838-1845 Flag - National 1838-1845 Gloves & Gauntlets
1838-1845 Haversack 1838-1845 Jacket
1838-1845 Knapsack 1838-1845 Leather Belt & Belt Plate
1838-1845 Musket & Sidearms 1838-1845 Officers' Insignia
1838-1845 Saber 1838-1845 Shako
1838-1845 Shirt 1838-1845 Socks, Drawers, and Undershirts
1838-1845 Spurs 1838-1845 Stock & Cravat
1838-1845 Trousers 1838-1845 Waistcoat
1838-1845 Whip 1838-1845 Eyeglasses