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Uniforms During the American Civil War

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The American Civil War forced the coming about of a free society, government, and industry in the South. Reliant on their enslaved people for labor, the south was ill-prepared to fight a war against the industrious north. The south excelled in agriculture, but they relied on their slave labor. Their rural lifestyles could not compare, at least in textile production, to the north. This is best shown in the comparisons between the Union and Confederate armies, with special consideration to their uniforms. Confederate soldiers marched through hot southern climates, sweating in their woolen uniforms, but needed the extra padding offered by the thick wool to prevent them from getting thermal-shock during the nights. The Union soldiers, facing the cooler, temperate climates of the north had no such issues. Facing an agriculture-based society, the Confederate soldiers did not have ways to mass produce their uniforms when the War first began; many were sewn by hand. As a result, many wore civilian hats, or kepis, which fell apart after a few months. Conversely, Union soldiers had mass-produced uniforms that could withstand months of use. When faced with needing to reduce costs, they simplified the embellishments on their buttons instead of greatly altering the uniforms they needed for protection. This exhibit details the differences between Union and Confederate Army uniforms during the American Civil War, and reveals the sociopolitical environments of each side.

Confederate Battle Flag

National Museum of American History

Shako

National Museum of American History

Shell jacket

National Museum of American History

Confederate Army Frock Coat, Model 1861

National Museum of American History

Confederate Woman’s Cloak

National Museum of American History

Rose and Rose O'Neal Greenhow

National Portrait Gallery

Sword Voted to Winfield S. Hancock

National Museum of American History

Burnside hat

National Museum of American History

William Healey Dall Wearing his Expedition Uniform

Smithsonian Archives - History Div

Union Soldier, (sculpture)

Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

Pauline Cushman

National Portrait Gallery