Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Virginia Life Guard – Uniforms

As it turns out, John Stewart Walker and the members of his company, the Virginia Life Guard, didn’t wear butternut or even gray. In fact, they wore blue.  Louis H. Manarin’s 15th Virginia Infantry says this on the subject:
‘[The Virginian Life Guard's] uniform consisted of blue flannel cloth hunting shirts with blue fringe and Virginia buttons, black pants, blue cloth caps, and white gloves’.
Unfortunately, that description raises as many questions as it answers. What is a ‘blue hunting shirt with blue fringe’? What exactly is meant by ‘cloth caps’?  Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.
We know from his letters that John Stewart Walker at least added a pair of gaiters to his uniforms, and he probably wasn’t the only one to do so. Undoubtedly this uniform was replaced with the more standard gray at some point, but I have no idea when. So far in his letters Walker hasn’t mentioned a new uniform, so we can feel pretty safe that the company wore these uniforms at Big Bethel. My guess is that they were still wearing them during the Seven Days.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! Great stuff. Well from other Civil War documents we know that jackets generally lasted six months and trouser three. That being said the Confederates soon realized blue probably wasn't the best color for uniforms. I'm guessing they soon received standard gray replacements sometime in 61' - Commutation clothing probably locally made on the Peninsula somewhere. The Courtney Jenkins jacket in the M.O.C. will give you a good idea what these uniforms would have been like.

    Cloth caps usually refers to either forage caps or kepis of some sort. You can see a lot of blue Federal style forage caps (like the US ones) on Virginia soldiers in the early days of the war, so that would be a good guess. Hunting frocks would be the same as in the Revolutionary period. There is a picture in one of the old color plate type books (Blandford Press? Maybe Mollo?) of a soldier in just such aa uniform, but I can't remember what regiment it was supposed to be.