Saturday, 8 January 2011


"Butternut first appeared extensively at South Mountain (14 September 1862), when it was noticed that hundreds of the Confederate dead were wearing the new, coarse uniform. Production was simple and ideally suited to the home economy then being forced by necessity on the South. Wool and cotton were carded together and spun into yarn. This was then dyed with walnut or butternut oil and woven into cloth on homemade loms. The cloth was then dyed again until it became a reddish brown, after which it was cut and sewn into uniforms."

Combat Uniforms of the Civil War by Mark Lloyd, Mallard Press, 1990.


  1. Sources? Sounds pretty dodgy to me. Walnut (husks)was a very common dye for browns.

    However Logwood imported from South America, and Sumac or Sumac and oak bark were the gray dyes employed by shops that made Government cloth. These recipes come from an original Confederate dye book dated 1864 I think. Both Logwwod and Sumac yield a nice medium lead gray which fades to a tan or dirty khaki after a week or two of exposure to sunlight.

  2. Scott,

    I probably should have added some context to this quote. I agree it doesn't sound right. I've never heard anyone previously refer to 'butternut' as including red. I just put up the quote as an example of how much confusion remains over what is really meant by butternut.

  3. I have seen that quote about the Confederate dead at South Mountain describing them as wearing every shade of brown from coffee to dust; I'm just not sure what to make of it though. I think it was describing NC troops?

    There is a guy in NC that dye cloth for reproduction reenactment uniforms and he uses an original dye recipe book and period natural dyes; he has a lot of cool stuff. I think he did his thesis on the subject (?). He also owns a lot of original CS uniforms. He dyes stuff with walnut...but it comes out gray! Eventually it turns a sort of drab color with exposure.

    This is also really good on CS uniforms! Good stuff on Virginia uniforms as well.

    Best Regards,