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12 / 13

Unit

Date

Place

Sacks

Frocks

Plain Shell

Epaulette Shell

Source

93rd NY, HQ Guard Co.

Sept. 1862

Sharpsburg

12

6

0

9 (NY Type)

TL-Antietam pp. 158-9

20

5

2

0

0

0

15

0

9

3

4

0

TL-Chattanooga pp.26-7

IoW-IV- pg. 48

EoB - Atlanta pg. 205

21st MI, Co.?

Spring 1863

Tennessee

2nd MI, Co.?

1863

?

84th IL, Co.B

April 1864

Blue Springs

Tennessee

,

61st NY, Co.K

Spring 1864

Virginia

2

14

1

1(NY Type)

TL-Petersburg pg. 111

78th PA, Co.?

Spring 1864

Chattanooga

33

1

3

0

TL-Atlanta pg.55

17th IL

Spring 1864

Vicksburg

6

2

11

15 ('Ohio Type'?)

IoW-IV pg.59

7th IL, Co.F

June 1864

Chattanooga

3

0

15

0

EOG pg.124

47th IL, Co.E

August 1864

Oxford, Mississippi

4

21

4

0

IoW-IV pg.129

170th NY, Co.B

1864/65

Virginia

6

2

0

7 (NY Type)

IoW-IV pg.107

Why Wear It?: A Question of ‘Noise’

The ‘generic soldier’ approach to living history began a necessary move away from overly frequent depictions of elite or quirky regiments back to the common soldier. But when we blindly cling to the sackcoat in our efforts to be ‘generic’ we may be missing a big part of Federal Civil War reality. The ratio of different jacket types shown in Table 1 clearly demonstrates that standard mid-to-late-war Federal regiments did not dress like toy soldiers. There was a good deal of ‘noise’ caused by differential timing of jacket issues and soldier preference. True, I hear you saying, but for the ten images listed above I can show you ten more where every soldier is clad in the same type of garment -- either a sackcoat or a frock coat. I will not deny it. But which generic 50% are we portraying? In other words, we need to be both generic (depicting the common soldier), but impression specific. A ‘common’ Federal regiment during its evolution would have spent its first month of service (or more) in no uniform at all, probably followed by frock coats, intermixed eventually with sack coats, and finally peppered with shell jackets. Individual regimental commanders may have chosen to either enforce or abandon uniformity. Those on campaign would have had no choice but to allow it. On the basis of information given above, it seems that especially in the West a mixed uniform was nearer to the rule. It is also worth noting that out of the approximately 1,434 Federal state infantry regiments (depending on how you count them), 550 (26.1%) were from New York, Illinois and Ohio.

Thus, I believe Federal shell jackets are worthy of representation, and belong on our clothes pegs. Their use, like that of an RDII, will of course be governed by the impression/ scenario of a given event. Also, they should not be worn by the entire unit (given the numbers in Table 1 above about one-quarter of the company would seem about right).

Table 1. Frequency of Time Life Series, IoW

determinate jacket types amongst enlisted men and NCOs on company or regimental images (officers, musicians, and indeterminate types not counted). Sources PL: TL = = Image of War Series, EoB= Echoes of Battle, EOG= Echoes of Glory.

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