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The Federal Issue Shirt

The movie "Andersonville" made me realize that many reenactor's consider the white shirt that is sold by so many sutlers, THE shirt that was issued to the Federal soldier during the Civil War. When in fact it was not a white but an whitish-brown. The plain whitish was almost not even in use by the common infantryman. This statement is backed by a statement by Capt.Billings found in "Hardtack and Coffee" that white shirts "were almost an unknown garment in the army except in hospitals. Flannels were the order of the day. If a man had the courage to face the ridcule of his comrades by wearing a white collar, it was of the paper variety, and white cuffs were unknown in camp."

Unfortunately, many "authentic" sutlers persist on selling these bright white shirts telling us that this is the Federal issue shirt. One sutler that sells a good flannel is Nick Sekela, pattrned after an origional in his collection. His appears to be of a 1864 pattern. This is the best choice for our impression.

What was a common style of shirt during the Civil War ? A small collar, a slited neck linewith standing cuffs. On the origionals, the buttons appear to be of a stamped tin variety. If you have questions you may contact me here.



Billings, John Hardtack and Coffee... Corner House 1980

McKee, Paul The Wartime Use of Civilian ShirtsThe Company Wag August 1993

Note: This article was taken from the page of the 69th New York State Volunteers, Company C. Many thanks go out to them, for giving me permission to print this on my page.

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