Simon Kolz

A weblog by Simon Kolz

Discover the Secrets of Your Shell Jacket

Your shell jacket is one of the finest articles of your Civil War Uniform Impression. Your jacket and hat are what is noticed first about your uniform. Check your shell jacket against these amazing shell jackets right out of thehistory books and know that your jacket will be “right out of yesterday” authentic and you will have preserved a celebrated piece of our illustrious American Civil Warhistory!

Confederate regulations did call for a double-breasted frock coat with sky blue pants with a kepi with trim forbranch of service, but these regulations never seemed toreally make it to the forefront. For example, colored trimwas used to indicate branch of service: buff for staff; redfor artillery, yellow for cavalry, light blue for infantry,black for medical. This trim was on the cuffs and collar and anywhere else where it might show up.

Regulations also called for light blue trousers forenlisted men and a darker blue for higher-ranking officersSpecial buttons were prescribed such as “E” for engineers;”I” for infantry; “A” for artillery; “C” for Calvary, and “R” for riflemen.

By mid-July of 1861, the Confederate government in Richmondtook on most of the responsibility for providing uniforms for the ragged volunteers. A clothing factory was set up inRichmond and other cities throughout the South around September. The major depots were Atlanta, Athens and Columbus.

The depots maintained groups of tailors, who cut out theuniforms in pieces and provided buttons, trim and so on in a kit form. These kits were given out to seamstresseswho numbered in the thousands. These seamstresses put theuniforms together. This system proved amazingly successful, and they were producing thousands of uniforms ayear.

Army regulations were rarely if ever adhered to instead producing short-waisted shell jackets that did not eat upalot of cloth. Some depots turned out sky blue, but the vast majority of the jackets and pants were cut out of thesame cloth. The same depot might turn out uniforms made out of wool, jean cloth or whatever was on hand.

One cannot really say that one depot turned out a particular uniform unless you can find a uniform that isdocumented to be worn by a certain soldier and was producedby that depot. It’s very difficult to trace a particular uniform down. Basically, pants and shirts were made from the civilian patterns of the day. If you want to do a civilian impression, feel free to use a military patternwith civilian cloth. Some of the civilian outfits were rather amusing in appearance with checks and large prints.

By about October 1862, the depot system took on the responsibility of supplying practically all clothing. Everyone knew the Confederate government had shortagesof all kinds. To put out good woolens was difficult. Cotton products such as shirts and underwear were not that difficult to turn out.

Cotton was used to stretch the wool; hence, fairly largequantities of jean cloth were used instead of pure wool. Blankets and overcoats were difficult to turn out and foreign supplies were contracted to help. As early as 1862large quantities of British army wool started to arrive in Confederate depot areas. Along with the British wool came shoes, knapsacks, and accoutrements, as well as many other items. Georgia and North Carolina did particularly well in supplying their troops, but some states could do little. Please feel free to supplement civilian items because this situation was common throughout.

There was actually very little difference in the jacketsthat came out of the various depots. There was also a sackcoat that was a looser fitting type of coat. Even the Armyof the Northern Virginal could get jackets out of otherdepots. They moved the jackets to wherever they needed them, and it’s hard to say from which depot jackets were originated.

For more information on Early, Midwar and Late war Jackets,and to see amazing jackets reproduced from originalphotographs, send an email to

For more information, contact

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