Confederate soldiers are often portrayed as wearing rags, and from time to time many of them undoubtedly were. Colonel Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards for instance recorded meeting "General Hood's ragged jacks" on the way to Gettysburg in June 1863. On the whole however the Confederate quartermaster department was actually very successful in "filling all requisitions" for clothing made by the army. This is borne out by informal photographs of dead and recently captured Confederate soldiers who invariably appear to be dressed in workingmens' clothes which are certainly very shabby looking, but are otherwise in reasonably good condition.

By the middle period of the war the Texas Brigade was receiving all of its clothing through the quartermaster department since the distance involved and the presence of federal troops along the Mississippi made it very difficult to obtain additional clothing from home.

Nevertheless although they were clothed from a common source the Texans, as Colonel Fremantle noted, were far from uniformly dressed. The Richmond clothing depot certainly produced trousers and jackets to a standard pattern – the most appropriate jacket for the 4th Texas being the so-called Richmond Depot II - but they were cut from whatever cloth was at hand at any given time.

Instead of the regulation 'cadet gray' - a distinctly bluish shade - most jackets and trousers were an ill-defined colour known as 'butternut'. Sometimes this started off as a perfectly respectable grey before very quickly turning brown on exposure to sunlight, but more often it was a rather light brownish or yellowish dust colour. Because this clothing was normally drawn as and when required it was very uncommon for any two soldiers to be dressed exactly the same. A further complication was that although the depots largely switched from making frock-coats to short jackets or ‘roundabouts’ early in 1862, some frock coats and loosely cut 'sack coats' continued to be made and issued right through the war. An analysis of prisoner of war photographs from 1864 onwards suggests that frock coats and sack coats were still worn by as many as 10% of soldiers.

A gunner named Calton McCarthy famously observed that: "Reduced to the minimum, the private soldier consisted of one man, one hat, one jacket, one shirt, one pair of pants, one pair of drawers, one pair of shoes and one pair of socks. His baggage was one blanket, one rubber blanket, and one haversack."

Added to this of course should be one rifle and something to carry your ammunition in rather than stuffing it in your pockets, and a canteen is also important, but his description does usefully summarise the basic kit needed to represent a soldier of the 4th Texas in mid-1863:

  • The jacket should be a short, waist length one of the style known as a Richmond Depot II with a six piece body, small stand up collar, shoulder straps and belt loops, but no trimming. It was almost always made from a lightweight wool and cotton mix known as jeancloth, with a coarse cotton or linen lining and brass buttons. These should normally have infantry I buttons, but Texas buttons, US eagle buttons and even plain wooden ones are acceptable.

  • Trousers were very plain and high-waisted and again almost always cut from jeancloth. They were always held up with braces or suspenders rather than a belt. If the ground was particularly wet or muddy the bottoms of the trousers were often tucked into the socks, but this was very much at the individual soldier's discretion.

  • Shirts were pullover style and usually with a round neck, normally made from cotton or cotton flannel and could be plain, striped, checked (small) or otherwise patterned.

  • Shoes were actually ankle-boots or brogans. These were normally tanned but sometimes untanned or 'kip' brogans had to be issued. They should be oiled or waxed regularly but not polished.

  • The 4th Texas was issued with Enfield rifles at the outset of its service. Reproductions are widely available, but in practise almost any 3-band rifle will be acceptable. On the other hand 2-band rifles and carbines should be avoided if possible since their barrels are rather too short. There is no need to remove bluing from the barrels, surviving examples with polished ‘white’ barrels were refurbished after the war.

  • Bayonets are unnecessary. Soldiers of the original 4th Texas are known to have thrown theirs away, and as safety considerations prevent them from being used in battle re-enactments they are simply an encumbrance. If you really must have one, do not buy through mail-order. Go to the shop and make sure that it will fit your particular rifle. Enfield bayonets were carried with the sharp end hanging down vertically from the belt by means of a frog. Springfield bayonets on the other hand were carried from a quite different belt attachment and stuck out to the rear at an angle of about 45 degrees.

  • Confederate soldiers carried three basic styles of leatherwork. The most commonly available to re-enactors is the US Army one comprising a waist-belt, cartridge box with tin inserts which could be worn on the belt or slung from its own shoulder strap, and a small pouch for percussion caps. All of the items were black leather; Confederate-made copies were basically the same but made from russet leather. A quite distinctive British style cartridge box was also used quite extensively. Frame buckles are most appropriate – the popular CS and CSA plates were worn by soldiers in the western armies.

  • Canteens are essential. The standard US Army issue one was probably the most popular, but tin or wooden Confederate style canteens are widely available and more distinctive.

  • Haversacks are also essential. The best are the black painted US Army ones (don’t waste money on buying a dyed one) but almost any material will do. Straps come in one size – too long – and are non-adjustable. They need to be carried high up on the hip so the strap needs to be shortened to individual taste. Cut it and re-sew it, DON’T just tie it off.

  • Blankets can be carried either in a ‘horse-collar’ roll over the left shoulder, in a ‘hobo-roll’ slung on the back, or stuffed in a knapsack. For both of the first options it is advisable to roll it within a ‘gum blanket’. These are available from most sutlers and can be used as a ground-sheet or a poncho – get one.

  • Knapsacks are optional. Evidence suggests that they were actually carried by a fair number of Confederate soldiers and were certainly more common than blanket rolls in the western armies. US Army ‘double-bag’ knapsacks are the easiest to get, but there are also some distinctively Confederate styles available. There are no surviving 4th Texas knapsacks, but some other Confederate examples follow US practise in having the soldier’s company and regiment painted in white on the flap. Many captured ones were re-issued with the old regimental designations still painted on. This is a nice touch but it’s probably not a good idea to pick one of the ACWS Federal units.

John Bell Hood