American Civil War, Civil War Clothing -

American Civil War Colors

Civil War Clothing

The two sides of the American Civil War are often known by the color of their uniforms – blue for the Union and gray for the Confederates. But, why use these specific colors? One theory is that old hunters and Native American fighters before the Civil War wore blue or light gray clothes, for strategic reasons. These colors helped to not stand out from a distance. This tradition was carried over to the Civil War. Since the Union’s regulation color was already blue, the Confederates picked gray.

Confederate Jean Wool Jacket

The Union uniform comprised a dark blue wool coat with light blue trousers and a dark cap known as a forage cap. The soldiers typically wore ankle-length shoes called "brogans." The coat featured bright buttons that sometimes indicated the soldier’s rank or the state they represented. But, this standard uniform was only established as the war went on. Early in the war, there was no dress code as such. For instance, many wore uniforms of the country from which they descended. For instance, soldiers of Scottish ancestry wore kilts.

The Confederate uniform was less standard. In fact, when the war began, Confederate soldiers simply wore their private clothes into battle. In 1863, they settled on a uniform that comprised a waist-length gray coat and light blue trousers. (The Confederates chose gray dye as it was cost effective.) Sometimes their coats were trimmed with green or yellow. They did not have any standard shoes.

Civil War uniforms were usually made from wool, which was a problem during the summers.  It was common to see soldiers suffering from heat exhaustion.

Fun Fact

"The Zouaves were a part of the French army in North Africa in the 1930s. Primarily made up of Algerians, they were known for their bravery, skill, toughness, and outlandish uniforms. The Zouaves became so popular that other militia units around the world tried to emulate their colorful (bright red and blue) dress code, the American Civil War being no exception. So, there were several units, both in the North and the South, who dressed up as these warriors."

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