At the time of the Civil War, resources and materials were limited. The uniforms remained simple and at the beginning of the war and many regiments did not even have uniforms. Different military branches and regiments were distinguished from one another through different symbols and colors. The North traditionally wore blue uniforms and the South wore gray. There were variations to both uniforms. The variations depended on the materials available at the time and also what regiment the soldier belonged to.
Union Soldier Colors
The standard uniform of the Union soldier was basic blue. They had government issued pants that were light blue and a jacket in navy blue. Some common features of their uniforms were as follows:
- The jacket had brass buttons
- Trousers were done in dark blue and held up by suspenders
- A belt was used to hold supplies such as a canteen and rations. It also held a blanket roll.
- Shoes were done in leather and laced up over the ankles
The Union Sharpshooters wore uniforms that were forest green. The green color served as a camouflage to help hide them from sight. Different regiments had distinctive colors to help them stand out from the others. The Iron Brigade was known as the "Black Hats" and wore hardee hats with a black feather.
Confederate Soldier Colors
Confederate/South uniforms were usually done in gray. Sometimes they were dyed a variation of this color and were done in brownish gray. This was due to the fact that this color dye was easy to obtain at the time. When they uniforms were brownish in color, the soldiers were nicknamed "Butternuts" by the Union soldiers. The standard features of a uniform in the South were:
- Uniforms were made from cotton
- Short jackets and vests
- Trousers were often done in blue and held up by a pair of suspenders
- Shoes were poor quality and not plentiful
During the Civil War, the various sides and regiments were often identified through color and symbols. This was not always the case, though. At the beginning of the war, many soldiers wore their own clothes, making it hard to identify which side they belonged to. At the end of the war, it was not uncommon for the Confederate soldiers to take uniforms from Union soldiers. They did this to simply have a new pair of trousers or a new jacket to wear. This also made it difficult to identify who belonged on what side. There was confusion during battle, obviously, due to this fact. The garments worn by soldiers fighting the Civil War and uniform colors did not always indicate who belonged to which side.
The Civil War saw many changes. From social to racial, the war was fought and resulted in a changing United States. It shaped who the country is today. There are many civil war museums and battlefields that have both authentic and replica items from the war on display. Check one out to see what an authentic Civil War uniform looked like up close and personal.