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Washington artillery of
new orleans

uniform standards

1861 - 1865

5th Company

General Notes

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 or Jefferson bootees should be clean and polished, and uniforms should be clean and in good condition, especially for an early war impression.

All members are expected to make a reasonable effort to acquire parts of the Washington Artillery uniform within the first six months and complete the uniform within the first twelve months; and to have the Federal uniform within eighteen months of joining us.  All we ask is that you make a reasonable effort to obtain those necessary items of clothing.  If you have difficulty acquiring those pieces, as many will have at the beginning, let our officers know and they will arrange to get articles of the uniform together from extra uniforms some of our members may own.  This is an expensive hobby, and for that reason we are flexible as far as meeting those time frames is concerned.  Simply keep our officers aware of your effort to obtain the uniform components.  We will work with you to help you as much as we can.

By the Fall of 1862, the Confederate Quartermaster Depots were able to supply large numbers of uniforms to the troops.  From that time until near the end of the war, the majority of the men would be wearing central government-issued clothing, although the Washington Artillery of New Orleans supplied most of its own needs of that sort.

In their wartime letters, most soldiers, South and North, asked for and / or mentioned receiving clothing that had been made at home, although usually shirts, socks, and underdrawers comprised the bulk of those clothing items.  The inference we are to make is that at any given time of the war, at least some of the men would be wearing parts of, if not a complete, Confederate commutation uniform, either sent by the state government for distribution to their troops through the Quartermaster Department or directly to the men by relatives, who often simply sent supplemental civilian clothing.  During the same period however, the majority of the men would be wearing uniforms issued by the Quartermaster Depots of the central government.

Many Confederate companies, especially toward the end of the War Between the States, wore a hodgepodge of clothing within the same companies; and many wore little more than rags by war's end.  Even our own 5th Company was reduced to that level to some extent, noting in some correspondence and memoirs that they had to replace some lost brass buttons with hand-cut wooden buttons by war's end. That ragged, tattered look is not the appearance we intend to present as a unit portraying the 5th Company, however.

It should be noted that the problem with obtaining replacement articles of clothing and footwear was virtually never a result of a lack of the ability of the Depots to supply those goods, contrary to popular opinion and the romantic "Lost Cause" mythology.  Almost always, the problem in keeping the men well clothed and shod had to do with the ability of the supply system to keep pace - literal, physical, proximous pace - with the troops.  Throughout the War, the Confederate supply depots on the whole had more than enough finished goods to keep the troops properly attired, but almost always lagged behind in getting supplies to wherever the troops happened to be.

The myth of the generally barefoot "Johnny Reb" arises from some small part of the truth, mixed with accounts of malingerers who attempted to escape their duty by appearing before officers barefoot and in rags.  Such was the case in Virginia before General Robert E. Lee. Noting the barefoot condition of some of the men, and the ragged clothing they wore, he issued an order that, shoes or not and clothes or not, all men would stand their turn at guard duty. Miraculously, shoes and presentable clothes sprang out all over the camp.

An excellent contemporaneous note of the pride that the Washington Artillery took in their appearance comes from the diary of Rice C. Bull, a young Federal soldier whose wounds caused him to be taken captive.  Facing the Washington Artillery in battle, he said that he had seen "the famous Washington Light Artillery of New Orleans....(T)heir officers were mounted and handsomely equipped...(T)heir men were more uniformly clothed than any other Confederate troops we saw...(F)rom what I saw, the discipline of this battery was excellent...."

Our uniform requirement is not intended to exclude men from participating, nor is it intended to make it difficult to enter into re-enacting with us. We are attempting to preserve the distinctive and proud look of the fine men of the 5th Company - Washington Artillery.  Men of the Washington Artillery were gentlemen in fact, recruited from the upper echelons of society and commerce in New Orleans.  They were (or aspired to be) refined men of character who had to make application for membership; pay an application fee; and pass the scrutiny of a Committee of Investigation in order to be accepted, not simply gaining membership by signing 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.  Our presentation of the Washington Artillery is, in the main, that of an early war impression.

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 to be sure that they understand exactly what they must provide to you.

We are not the only unit in the country that portrays the Washington Artillery.  Consequently, 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 it right, whether they've dealt with our members before or not.  Their memory or records may not be entirely 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 Memorial Hall (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 enjoying more accurate, more extensive 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.

We recommend, if at all possible, that you order your uniform or fabric for your uniform all at the same time if you are concerned about the color match between the jacket and trousers (and vest, should you want one that matches the jacket and trousers).  With a lapse of time between ordering the two items, you may find that the dye lots are different for the two articles of clothing, and that the color is different by a shade or two.  Such color differences will be conspicuous in the sunlight.

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.

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1861-1865 Accoutrements - Leather       1861-1865 Binoculars Or Telescope
1861-1865 Blanket                             1861-1865 Boots Or Bootees
1861-1865 Brass                                1861-1865 Canteen
1861-1865 Chevrons                            1861-1865 Flag - Company
1861-1865 Flag - National                    1861-1865 Gloves & Gauntlets
1861-1865 Haversack                          1861-1865 Jacket Or Coat
1861-1865 Knapsack                           1861-1865 Leather Belt & Belt Plate
1861-1865 Musket & Sidearms               1861-1865 Officer's Insignia
1861-1865 Saber                                 1861-1865 Kepi
1861-1865 Shirt                                  1861-1865 Socks, Drawers, & Undershirts
1861-1865 Spurs                                 1861-1865 Stock & Cravat
1861-1865 Trousers                             1861-1865 Waistcoat Or Vest
1861-1865 Whip                                  1861-1865 Eyeglasses