Subject: 'Johnny Rebel' volunteer infantryman
Culture: Southern white American
Setting: American Civil War, Confederate states 1861-1865
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Field 2013 p12
"The first infantry to eventually form part of the Confederate Army consisted of volunteers from the militia and independent volunteer companies of South Carolina, who enlisted for 12 months' state service in response to the call issued by Governor Francis Pickens on December 17, 1860. Similar movements were begun in the lower South states of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, and on February 28, 1861, these troops were accepted into the Confederate Provisional Army, within which they completed that period of service, thus creating an army of 100,000 men. Established by Act of Confederate Congress on March 6, 1861, the Regular Army of the Confederate States of America was intended to consist of 10,600 men, but never achieved that level. Hence, the bulk of the Confederate fighting force was composed of the infantry of the Provisional Army.
"When the Civil War began, Confederate President Jefferson Davis called for about 60,000 volunteers for 12 months' service by mid-April 1861. Following the secession of the Upper South states of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina that year, Congress authorized a 'reserved army corps' of 30,000 men for emergency service as needed. On February 2, 1862, the President called for 500,000 troops 'for the war.' On April 16 of the same year Congress approved the Conscription Act, which authorized Davis to draft all white males aged between 18 and 35 years with substitutes permitted. At the same time the terms of all men already in service were extended to three years. On February 17, 1864, Congress authorized the establishment of reserve forces for state defense. These troops were organized at various times thereafter. Finally, on March 13, 1865, the Confederacy accepted African American slaves as soldiers, who were to be freed if the Southern cause prevailed."
* Field 2013 p18
"As a result of the commutation system established by the Confederate government in February of 1861, volunteers of the Provisional Army were originally to provide their own clothing, for which they would receive $25 every six months. This was supplemented until at least 1862 by uniform supplies from state government and volunteer aid societies. Organized in hundreds of Southern towns and hamlets by local womenfolk, the latter raised funds, bought materials, and made coats, jackets, pants, and shirts for infantry in the front line. Although gray predominated, uniforms of many other colors were worn. With the establishment of the first Quartermaster Clothing Bureau in Richmond, Virginia, during the fall of 1861, some volunteers began to receive quartermaster-issue uniforms consisting of gray 'roundabouts,' or jackets,' and gray or sky-blue pants, with gray caps, or hats of various hues. By the beginning of 1863, most Confederate volunteer infantry within supply range of a C.S. clothing depot were in receipt of this type of uniform."
* Wiley 1943 p108-109
"The Confederate private envisioned by Richmond authorities in 1861 was a nattily dressed person.
"[...] But there was considerable difference between the clothing designated and that actually worn by the soldiers. This discrepancy came first from the inability of the Confederate Government to provide uniforms for the men who were called to arms. Captains who wrote in to Montgomery to inquire about equipment for companies in process of organization were informed that 'the volunteers shall furnish their own clothes.' The reason was obvious: Jeff Davis and company had none in stock, nor were any to be forthcoming until contracts with Southern manufacturers should bear fruit, or purchasing operations in Europe could be completed; and this was to require a long time.
"A procedure widely followed during the early months of the war was for captains to fake funds appropriated by local authorities or donated by philanthropists -- who sometimes were the captains themselves -- or contributed by the recruits, to purchase cloth from whatever source it might be obtained, and to have the uniforms made up by local tailors or seamstresses. In many cases the volunteers arranged individually for the fabrication of their outfits.
"Women of the South responded nobly to the difficulties by organizing sewing clubs and knitting societies. As a general rule the aid rendered by the volunteer seamstresses was both timely and valuable, though there were numerous instances where coats, pants and socks turned out by the ladies indicated considerably more zeal than skill.
"The inevitable result of these devious sources and methods of supply was a miscellany that made mockery of the Richmond regulations. This is not to imply that the regalia worn by early volunteers were of poor quality. On the contrary many of the companies were reslplendently clothed. Captain Alexander Duncan of the Georgia Hussars, a regiment hailing from Savannah, boasted that $25,000 was spent for that organization's initial outfit.
"In not a few instances, regiments went into Confederate service garbed in the flashy suits which they had worn for parade purposes as militia organizations."
* Jensen 1996 p7
"When the war began, some of the older volunteer companies were already uniformed in resplendent outfits. These uniforms were typical of American volunteer militia in general, and had no particular regional style. In the late 1850s, many units had adopted a version of the U.S. Regular Army dress in response to state laws which prescribed such a uniform. Other organizations had uniforms unique to themselves, but often copied from the 7th New York, then the trend-setter in militia garb. A few units, mainly in the large cities, adopted Zouave dress, but the Zouave movement was never as popular in the South as in the North. None of these uniforms lasted in active service more than a few months.
"The new volunteer companies tended to adopt either gray or blue frock coats or jackets, although a significant number of companies entered the war in variously trimmed overshirts, and without coats. A few states actually issued uniforms to their troops. North Carolina supplied a loose sack coat with a six-button front and sewed-down shoulder straps in the branch color, gray trousers, and a gray felt hat. Georgia supplied gray frock coats, and both states adopted black, rather than sky-blue, as the infantry color. Mississippi developed a modified rank system, prescribed frock coats with herringbone trim on the front, and designated red as the infantry color. However, while it prescribed uniforms, Mississippi actually issued only buttons. Mississippi troops either followed or ignored the state regulations and when they were followed, there was considerable variation in interpretation.
"By summer 1861, reports were coming into Richmond of ragged Confederates in the field. Many volunteers had worn uniforms of substandard goods, which quickly wore out. Now, hundreds of miles from home, they had no easy way to replenish the supply, and in many areas of the South, the Confederate quartermaster's department began to issue clothing to volunteers in need."
Hambucken & Payson 2012 p16-18
"At the start of the war, equipping Confederate troops was the responsibility of individual states. As a result, appearance and equipment quality varied greatly from one regiment or brigade to another. In 1862, as the conflict escalated into an all-out war, Confederate soldiers were fairly well supplied. Most started out in regulation uniforms, including the standard frock coat, trousers, and forage cap.
"Over the course of the 1862 campaigns, the Confederate soldier's dress and equipment quickly changed from the fully equipped, parade-ground soldier who resembled his Northern counterpart in many respects, to the iconic 'grey-jacket rebel,' an image of economy and practicality that lasted to the end of the war. Men threw away anything that might weigh them down on long marches, often carrying only a change of underclothes, a spare shirt, and socks rolled up in a blanket, along with a gun, ammunition, haversack, and canteen. The uniforms changed too, as men replaced their issue caps with slouch hats, and the newly established army depots supplied them with the more economical shell jacket, and plain, untrimmed clothing. Whatever else they might need as the fighting continued, they picked up on the battlefield."
* Field 2013 p18
"In its early stages the Confederacy had great trouble with the endless variety of arms and calibers in use by its forces, with scarcely 10 percent of its long arms being the .58-caliber rife-musket at that time the regulation weapon for U.S. infantry. By mid-1863 the commonest arms in General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia were the .577-caliber and .58-caliber rifle-muskets including the U.S. Model 1861; the Richmond copy of the U.S. Model 1855 musket; and the British Long Enfield (Tower) musket. Next in importance were smoothbore and a few rifle-muskets of .69 caliber. Third in importance were the .54-caliber Mississippi and similar rifles. Later in the war, a limited number of unusual rifles were used by Confederate infantry, including captured Whitworth and Sharps rifles."
* Arms and equipment of the Confederacy 1991 p78
"Many Confederate soldiers carried a large side knife named the bowie after James Bowie, the Alamo hero who is said to have originated the type. The majority of these knives were made by local blacksmiths to sell to men entering the service, although many were forged in Southern factories. The blades of the knives ranged from 6 to more than 18 inches long. Some bowies came equipped with D-shaped knuckle guards.
"Bowie knives served a variety of utilitarian purposes, from skinning rabbits to scaling fish. Although they were rarely used as weapons, the knives were primarily regarded as such by Confederate soldiers: A single chop with a heavy bowie could easily sever a man's arm."
* Thorp 1969 p64-65
"When the backwoodsmen of the South went to fight for what they believed in, they took the Bowie Knife.
"In June, 1861, a regiment was mobilized in Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. It was composed of hunters and farmers, men used to life in the outdoors; as they marched through Winchester on the way to Harper's Ferry, it was noted by the correspondent for Harper's Weekly that their arms consisted of tomahawks, revolvers, and Bowie-knives.
"During the summer of 1861, several companies of Arkansas volunteers were moved eastward to Virginia, where they joined Beauregard's army. These men carried in their belts Bowie-Knives to make the Tennessee variety seem tiny; more Bowies were fixed to their muskets and rifles for use as bayonets. And Mississippi, which divided the honors very evenly with Arkansas as the Bowie-Knife State, made equal display. The Mississippians were especially adept at throwing the knife, and long hours of camp practice were devoted to targets which they had nailed to convenient trees. In Northern papers meanwhile, the Mississippian was regularly caricatured as a 'Colonel' -- usually sitting cross-legged, by a table with decanter and glasses, and picking his teeth with his Bowie."
* Wiley 1943 p295
"[A] weapon which the volunteer of 1861 frequently displayed when he visited the photographer -- the usual term of the sixties was 'daguerrian artist' -- was a 'Bowie' knife. A favorite pose showed this ferocious-looking implement jabbed beneath the belt on one side and a pistol on the other. A variation depicted the soldier grasping the knife's handle. Whatever the position, the expression on the face was generally one of grimness if not of vengeance. If Northern appeasers had been given access to Southern photograph galleries of early 1861, they might have obtained convincing support of their argument to let erring Southerners secede in peace.
"These pictures are not misleading. Long daggerlike knives were a prevailing fad among the Confederacy's first soldiers. A close observer of doings in Richmond said of the regiments who came to the capital from all parts of the Confederacy in the summer of 1861: 'Every man you met, mounted or footman, carried in his belt the broad, straight, double-edged bowie knife.' And the Richmond Enquirer of September 27, 1861, noted that each man of an Alabama company was equipped with a two-and-one-half-pound knife having a blade nineteen inches long. Some of the models had serrated edges designed for tearing Yankee flesh. Others had curved blades and were made on such a generous scale as to suggest scythes to awe-stricken observers. These outlandish weapons may have proved of some benefit in culinary operations, but they seem to have had little use in battle. As the volunteer became a veteran he sloughed off the Bowie knife along with other excess baggage."
* Peterson 1958 p49
"The Civil War made the bowie as popular on the East Coast as it had been west of the Appalachians. Almost every volunteer on both sides wore one. The town of Ashby, Massachusetts, for instance, presented every one of its residents with a bowie knife when he enlisted, as did Shelburne Fallas and many other Massachusetts towns, while Company C of the 1st Georgia Infantry from Cass County were known as 'The Bowie Knife Boys.' Veterans recalled, however, that the knives were soon abandoned, especially by Union soldiers who found that their issued weapons were sufficient and that they had enough to carry without them. Confederate soldiers were not so well armed, and therefore the big knives remained more popular with them.
"Northern soldiers generally carried English-made knives while Confederates relied more on homemade products. Some of these were well made from the best English cast steel, occasionally by former file manufacturers such as Lan & Sherman of Richmond. Other fine knives were made by armories such as that of W. J. McElroy of Macon, Georgia, which was turning out twenty bowie knives a week in 1862. Other Confederate knives were crudely forged by local blacksmiths or cut down from swords. An interesting feature on many Confederate bowie knives is the presence of a knuckle-bow bending in an even curve from the pommel to the base of the grips. This is a unique feature which is almost never found before or after the war."
* Albaugh 1960 p