Impression guidelines for New York living history units inevitably feature a ‘New York State Jacket’ option. Such jackets are usually correctly specified to have: 8 buttons (1861 New York State issue variety), standing collar, one outer pocket (placement variable: either side, opening at 4th or 6th button from the top) functional epaulettes, belt loops, chevron cuffs with two cuff buttons, and piping.
Piping colour seems to vary both in recommendations and in surviving uniforms with light yellow, light blue, blue-green and white all documented for infantry, as well as red for some militia units. It is not clear whether or not colour variation is due to the vagaries of central state production or to the existence of special ‘regimental’ uniforms. There is also considerable variability in the placement of piping. Sometimes it is entirely absent. Other times it occurs on the epaulettes only. Sometimes, especially on militia uniforms, it is present everywhere including the front and bottom margins of the jacket.
The ‘New York Jacket’ was defined in April 1861 state regulations and was eventually issued to more than one-hundred New York regiments (Smith 1996:104). The timing of its issue to various units seems to have varied. There are several photographs of New York units in the Army of the Potomac’s winter 1861/1862 camps attired in this jacket (see Langellier 2000: 43), and it is also documented in individual CdVs from this period (Figure 3). It has also been identified in photographs of New York regiments from 1863 and 1864 (see Table 1).The 1863 nine-button variant (see Figure 3), notionally inspired by limited imports of French Chasseur jackets early in the war, seems only to have been issued to National Guard/Militia units (Troiani 1999). Quartermaster’s records and images all seem to indicate that individual New York regiments went through various stages of issue of frock coats, New York jackets, and standard fatigue blouses (cf. McAfee & Langellier 1996). There is thus, as yet, no
reason to believe that the issue of 1861 New York jackets was restricted to any particular period of the war.
The Schuylkill Arsenal Federal Infantry Jacket
The eleven button jacket … is an enigma. I think it might have been manufactured by Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia, for I owned just such a jacket in the 1960s, complete with the “SA” depot stamp in the sleeve lining. I have no idea why they were made this way or how they were distributed, but my original jacket supposedly had been worn by a member of the 7th New Hampshire infantry. McAfee (1982: 14-15)
It is beginning to appear that Schuylkill products were probably the most widespread of Federal infantry shell jackets, issued to all Federal states and probably often mistaken for ‘state issue’ jackets. At present, however, specific information from surviving jackets is scarce. The best-described example belonged to Private D.M. Byam of the Federal Signal Corps and resides today in the Gettysburg NPS museum. Because of this fact, as C.J. Daley notes on his website, this type is often incorrectly referred to as the ‘Signal Corps Jacket’. In point of fact, however, it was often issued to the infantry branch.
The Byam jacket is completely hand-sewn with dark blue thread and features: a low, square-cut collar, fastened with hook&eye; no epaulettes or piping; plain functional two button cuff; eleven button front (all cuff-sized general issue) with corded keyhole buttonholes; one interior pocket, and a quilted lining made out of checked cotton cloth. Other extant examples, according to Charlie Childs, feature domet flannel linings.
In Figure 4, there is a good photographic example of exactly this type of jacket being worn by a 99th Illinois infantryman. Likewise the jackets worn by the 2nd Michigan infantrymen in Figure 1 appear to be of the Schuylkill type.
Illinois and Ohio State Jackets
The more one searches through provenanced Civil War images, the clearer it becomes that New York, Illinois, and Ohio infantry more commonly wore shell jackets than troops from other Union states. Troops from Illinois tend to mix obvious Schuylkill’s (Figure 4, left) with more enigmatic jackets. These include two main variants: a nine button jacket with epaulettes and a nine button jacket without epaulettes. On both the buttons seem to be of the same US general issue type featured on fatigue blouses. Both also seem to feature a higher collar than the Schuylkill arsenal variety. Some, may feature external pockets (like Private Bain’s, see Figure 5).