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History for the Making


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Buttons, etc.


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In the interests of "historical particularism" and clarity, I include here a glossary of some of the peculiar terms and phrases used
throughout this site. The dynamic nature of language makes it essential that we define our vocabulary with reference to historic
periods. Terms so familiar and meaningful to people in a particular place and time can appear confusing and misleading to
those of another era. Though I have paraphrased or quoted earlier compilers, consider the following descriptions and
explanations a guide to my use of the vocabulary.
The type of jackets believed to have been issued by the Confederate quartermaster facility in Columbus, Georgia. The
Confederate jacket typology we generally follow was established by Leslie D. Jensen in his "A Survey of Confederate Central
Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets" published in the Journal of the Company of Military Historians, Vol. XLI, No. 3,
Fall 1989
Incorporated in 1951, it is an educational, scientific, and literary institution devoted to the study and
dissemination of "information on the material culture, history, and traditions of members of the Armed
Forces of the United States worldwide and other nations serving in the Western Hemisphere." The
Company issues a quarterly publication, Military Collector and Historian, familiarly known as the
Company Journal.
The 1865 U.S. Quartermasters manual states in part "Flannel shirts - of white, grey or mixed domet
cotton and wool flannel..." Originally, domett (named for Josiah Domett, a cotton manufacturer in England) was introduced in the
late 1820s (I believe). It is plain woven on a cotton warp with woolen filling and finished with a nap slightly raised. For thorough
treatment of the U.S. issue shirt in the Civil War, see "The Union Army Standard Size and Make Shirt" by Dean Nelson, Journal
of the Company of Military Historians, Vol. XLVII, No. 3, Fall 1995.
Also jean and janes... Old weaving books generally show jean drafts as a 2/1 twill. There are other variations that also use jeans
as part of their description. Jeans is an unbalanced twill that presents a different face and back (similar to modern blue jeans).
Originally an all cotton fabric, jeans was being woven with a woolen filling in America by the 18th century.
From an 1880's "encyclopedia" we find: "A stout, round-twilled cloth, woven properly with cotton warp and woolen weft but,
often composed entirely of cotton...Much of the homespun woven throughout the Middle and Southern States in the early days
was jean, the woolen weft of which was commonly dyed in shades blue, brown and slate. The local woolen mills of Kentucky
have long enjoyed a reputation for the quality and quantity of the jeans which they produced, hence the name Kentucky jeans
has come to be generally applied to the cloth, whether made in Kentucky or elsewhere."
Similar to jeans, the fabric we now call denim existed in the mid-19th Century. I have seen one Confederate uniform (blue) and
a flap (also blue) in a Confederate knapsack of the same. The Huntsville Penitentiary in Texas produced cotton jeans (not blue)
throughout the era. A writer describing Confederate dead at Gettysburg stated that some even wore blue cotton jean
roundabouts. Civil War era writings abound with references to jeans when describing Confederate uniforms.
Said to be named for a village in England where from the 11th to 15th century a large woolen trade thrived. Originally it was a
coarse, narrow, twill woven woolen cloth. A heavy, compact goods fulled to conceal the threads and finished with a short nap.
Kersey was used for military clothing throughout Europe and North America. By the time of the American Civil War it had been
standard fabric for army trousers and greatcoats since early in the century. Both 54 and 27 inch wide kerseys were listed by
the Quartermaster for army use. Kerseys I have examined in 19th century military contexts have all been 2/2 twills.
An extract from the wood of the Haematoxylon campechianum tree, principally used for dyeing woolens. Historically, it was used
to obtain blue, black and purple dyes. Logwood was introduced into Europe in the 16th Century but was outlawed in England
because of the inferior dyes first produced from it.
John T. Martin of New York City was among the most prominent contractors to the Quarter Master Department during the War.
He had at least 72 contracts for a wide variety of goods under his own name, beginning in August of 1862 and going through
January of 1865. (As Martin & Bro., he may have had contracts as early as July of 1861 for uniform coats. The exact
composition of that partnership is unknown, but their contracts coincidentally cease when J.T. Martin's begin.) In any case, his
72 contracts cover a prodigious amount of goods, successfully delivered, and include over 800,000 trowsers for foot soldiers
and an additional 230,000 trowsers for mounted soldiers; 1,200,000 white and grey flannel shirts; 320,000 great coats for foot
soldiers, plus another 125,000 great coats for mounted soldiers; and over 1,060,000 sack coats. This information, courtesy
E.J.Coates and F.C.Gaede, is an excerpt of their compilation from Entry 236, QMD Contracts, Record Group 217, Treasury
Department Records, housed at the National Archives II in Beltsville, MD.
Woolen jeans with a six piece body, seven button front, exterior pocket on the left front, one piece sleeves, no interior pocket;
see page 141 "Echoes of Glory" Confederate volume for a photo of one from which I made my pattern. Three of these jackets
are in public holdings and I am told there is a fourth in private hands (Time/Life may have derived their Mobile connection from
that one). I have seen the three former. There is no provenance with any of them hence their origin is a "mystery". So I'm not a
creative namer, actually Ross Kimmel named it.
One photograph of a soldier wearing what appears to be a four button version of this jacket was published in the "Sons of
Confederate Veterans Ancestor Album" in 1986. The image of Joseph Parker of Co. D, 57th Alabama appears on page 157,
curiously he was stationed at Mobile for part of his service. One last tidbit, this from the unpublished memoir of J.W. Preston,
33rd Alabama, in October 1862 Preston states his company drew "...a new suit of clothes each, woolen gray jeans, jacket lined
with white cotton sheeting, with four C.S.A. brass buttons, a pair of unlined gray jeans pants..."
A coarse linen fabric that originated in Prussia. By the early 19th century cotton had supplanted linen in the production of many
American fabrics. Osnaburg was applied to plain, coarse cottons made in imitation of the original osnaburg. In 18th and 19th
century documents osnaburg appears as osnaburgh, ozenbrig, oznabrig.
In the collection of the National Park Service at Gettysburg National Military Park, the trousers are part of a two piece
Confederate uniform which, unfortunately, is not identified to a particular soldier. Both the jacket and trousers are made of drab
colored woolen jeans, stitched with light grey (cotton?) thread, lined with the same coarse cotton and perhaps assembled by the
same two hands. My parenthetical reference to "Mystery" is that the jacket with these trousers is nearly the same as another
jacket in the Park Service collection from which I drafted my Mystery Jacket Pattern. Since that jacket had no known
provenance, my friend Ross Kimmel, pronounced it the "Mystery" jacket. I figured that was better than no name, but back to the
trousers. These trousers exhibit a couple interesting details such as the side seam pockets and the back belt which is joined with
a button and buttonhole instead of one of those little two prong buckles. The buttons on the trousers are the two-hole wooden
variety that match exactly in style, but are turned smaller, than the jacket buttons.
Officially the Richmond Clothing Bureau, it was established in September 1861. It consisted of two divisions; the Clothing
Manufactory and the Shoe Manufactory. Our Richmond Depot jacket and trouser patterns are taken from garments we believe
originated there. The Confederate jacket typology we generally follow was established by Leslie D. Jensen in his "A Survey of
Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Issue Jackets" published in the Journal of the Company of Military Historians,
Vol. XLI, No. 3, Fall 1989.
A cotton warped, woolen filled fabric, woven and finished to resemble an all wool fabric on the face. 18th and 19th century
weaving books show satinets in four, five, six and eight shaft twills. Numerous references to satinet uniforms worn by both
Southrons and Northerners appear in early war documents.
Located on the river of the same name in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the War of 1812 its Office of Clothing & Equipage was
the Quartermaster Department's primary source of clothing, tentage and some accoutrements for the US Army. Clothing was
produced by two means. For most of the clothing Schuylkill relied on a piecework system, utilizing several thousand
seamstresses in the local area, which was viewed as a form of disability or pension system for widows of soldiers, since the
Government generally provided neither (except after a major war). Some clothing items (headgear, buttons, insignia and
blankets, for example) were obtained solely by contract, both before and during the Civil War. Tentage and footwear were
procured by contract until the Mexican-American War, when their production was brought in-house with the creation of the
Bootee Establishment. Knapsacks, haversacks and canteens were the responsibility of the QMD; all other accoutrements were
the responsibility of the Ordnance Department. The first two were produced by the OC&E prior to the Civil War, whereas
canteens were always obtained by contract. The demands of the large numbers of volunteers at the beginning of the Civil War
forced QM General Montgomery Meigs to expand Schuylkill's contracting force and open several depots of contract, the largest
being the New York Depot on Governor's Island. In addition, several new depots with dual roles (manufacturing and contracting)
were established or expanded, with Cincinnati and St. Louis being the most prominent. Further, several smaller 'clothing halls'
were established, such as Louisville, which simply made clothing from material supplied by Schuylkill. At the beginning Schuylkill
also supplied a number of contractors with material for the items they were to produce, as a number of early-War contracts
(and payment) were only for "making and trimming." This information, courtesy E.J.Coates and F.C.Gaede, is an excerpt of
their compilation from Entry 236, QMD Contracts, Record Group 217, Treasury Department Records, housed at the National
Archives II in Beltsville, MD.