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jackets or coats

1854 - 1861

Enlisted Man's Brass Shoulder Scales


Noncommissioned Officer's
Shoulder Scales


The greatcoat is an optional item, although you may not regard it as such when the weather turns cold.  

The greatcoat was a regular issue item for every soldier in both armies during the Civil War, although it is not a given that every soldier received one.  Shortages resulting from the supply of men exceeding the ability of supply depots to supply in the earliest days of the war, and the occasional shortages of supply resulting from the Federal blockade of Southern ports (which effectively intercepted or blocked one in nineteen shipments, a negligible impact on imports) caused numbers of Confederate soldiers had to do without the blessings of a greatcoat.  Federal soldiers likewise had to sometimes do without greatcoats, pointing up the inadequacies and inefficiencies of the peacetime quartermaster system. 

A greatcoat differs significantly from the frock coat and uniform jacket.  The wool weight of a greatcoat was much heavier than that used in frock coats and jackets.  Like the frock coat, the greatcoat had a long skirt; but its skirt extended further down than did that of the frock coat, ending somewhere around the knees rather than on the thigh.  Not all jackets and frock coats were lined, but the greatcoat was designed to be lined with wool flannel or cotton.  The frock would seem to match the greatcoat most closely, and yet for inclement weather the greatcoat had yet another advantage over the frock coat, for it had a cape, lined or not, which gave the wearer the option of buttoning it up so that the wearer had even greater protection from cold and wind.  The collar, depending on the style of the greatcoat, was either a standup or a roll collar. 

Appropriate for cool to extremely cold weather, the greatcoat was far too heavy for campaign wear.  In the earliest days of the war, before cold weather was a consideration and when men jettisoned all but the most necessary equipment when they marched long distances or went into battle, many soldiers abandoned the heavy greatcoats along their way.  Soldiers were expected to retain their greatcoats, unless ordered to re turn their coats to the Quartermaster when warmer weather came so that their greatcoats could be reissued them in the fall when the armies went into winter quarters.  When cooler weather swooped in before the fall issue of the coats, soldiers who had returned their greatcoats to the Quartermaster had to do the best they could to stay warm.  

Both sides used sky blue wool for greatcoats, primarily because it was less expensive than other colors that the military would consider using.  Due to a short-lived shortage of wool in the early days of the war, there was even a limited run of canvas greatcoats for the Confederacy.  However, the shortage was very brief in duration, and apparently did not reach Louisiana Confederates. Whether buying a greatcoat or a pattern for a greatcoat, we recommend that you use the Mounted (or Cavalry) pattern greatcoat in order to have the correct look for both our Confederate and Federal impressions.

1859 US Army Regulations

For Commissioned Officers.
1559. A "cloak coat" of dark blue cloth, closing by means of four frog buttons of black silk and loops of black silk cord down the breast, and at the throat by a long loop 'chelle, without tassel or plate, on the left side, and a black silk frog button on the right; cord for the loops fifteen-hundredths of an inch in diameter; back, a single piece, slit up from the bottom, from fifteen to seventeen inches, according to the height of the wearer, and closing at will, by buttons, and button-holes cut in a concealed flap; collar of the same material as the coat, rounded at the edges, and to stand or fall; when standing, to be about five inches high; sleeves loose, of a single piece, and round at the bottom, without cuff or slit; lining, woolen around the front and lower border, the edges of the pockets, the edges of the sleeves, collar, and slit in the back, a flat braid of black silk one-half inch wide; and around each frog button on the breast, a knot two and one-quarter inches in diameter of black silk cord, seven-hundredths of an inch in diameter, arranges according to drawing; cape of the same color and material as the coat, removable at the pleasure of the wearer, and reaching to the cuff of he coat-sleeve when the arm is extended; coat to extend down the leg from six to eight inches below the knee, according to height. To indicate rank, there will be on both sleeves, near the lower edge, a knot of black silk braid not exceeding one-eighth of an inch in width, arranged according to drawing, and composed as follows:
1560. For a General--of five braids, double knot.
1561. For a Colonel--of five braids, single knot.
1562. For a Lieutenant-Colonel--of four braids, single knot.
1563. For a Major--if three braids, single knot.
1564. For a Captain--of two braids, single knot.
1565. For a First Lieutenant--of one braid, single knot.
1566. For a Second Lieutenant and Brevet Second Lieutenant--a plain sleeve, without knot or ornament.

For Enlisted Men.
1567. Of all Mounted Corps--of sky-blue cloth; stand-and-fall collar; double-breasted; cape to reach down to the cuff of the coat when the arm is extended, and to button all the way up; buttons (1467).
1568. All other Enlisted Men--of sky-blue cloth; stand-up collar; single-breasted; cape to reach down to the elbows when the arm is extended, and to button all the way up; buttons (1467).
1569. For Cavalry--a gutta-percha talma, or cloak extending to the knee, with long sleeves.

1576. Knapsack--of painted canvas, according to pattern now issued by Quartermaster's Department; the great-coat, when carried, to be neatly folded, not rolled, and covered by the outer flap of the knapsack.