English Cloth on Cooke’s Foot Cavalry: English Uniforms and the 27th North Carolina Troops
By Andrew Turner
In October of 1863 the 27th NCT (and the rest of Cooke’s brigade) received one of the only non state issued uniforms they would receive throughout the entire war. The Blue-Gray Kersey cloth for the jackets and Royal Blue Kersey for the trousers was purchased in England from the firm of Alexander Collie & Co. by John White, North Carolina’s purchasing agent in the U.K. This is the same firm that Peter Tait had a contract with, and the color and weave of the jacket material can be seen on surviving Tait jackets, but it is NOT the same jacket. The color and style of the trousers can be seen on the Redwood trousers in Echoes of Glory. However, use and age have turned the trousers a much darker color than their original royal blue color which can be seen on the tears in the waistband.
The material was shipped through the blockade as Capt. John Sloan of Company B states, “Governor Vance’s faithful ship, the “Advance,” had come in heavily laden, and we were proudly and splendidly dressed in some of the gray cloth of its cargo.”
The “Advance” arrived in Wilmington, NC on August 17 and it is interesting to note that she was also carrying 6,404 blankets. Men in the 27th also mention being issued English blankets. Private Thompson wrote his sister about the blankets, “I am sorry that mother sent me a blanket because I have drawn one a great deal better than the one she sent, and English blanket.” The blankets would have been a gray wool cloth blanket without the red “NC” stitched in the center. Private Thompson’s letter also indicates that there were a large number of civilian blankets in the ranks of the 27th.
When the fabric arrived in NC it was quickly made part of the trade with the Richmond Clothing Bureau. When the cloth arrived in Richmond it was made into Richmond Depot Type II Jackets with Confederate wooden buttons and Richmond Depot Trousers.
These new articles of clothing were issued to the 27th on October 8th while encamped near Gordonsville, Va. Writing to his sister on October 9th about the new uniforms Private Charles Watson states, “Our regiment received a uniform yesterday and I sent my old clothes in a box with the other boys…I didn’t send anything but a coat and pair [of] pants.” The new uniform was most likely strange to the members of the 27th considering the fact that it was 100% wool and most members only had experience with NC issue Jean Cloth jackets. The fact that this is the only uniform that members go into detail about illustrates the fact that it was new to the members of Cooke’s brigade.
The new uniform would be worn into the Slaughter Pen at the battle of Bristoe Station on October 14th. One interesting story of the uniforms in the battle was written. One soldier in Co. H who had worn his old NC issue uniform into action and kept his new English jacket and trousers in his knapsack, “finding his knapsack too heavy and fearing he would have to throw it away and lose his new clothes, stopped about halfway up the hill, [and ignoring the fire] threw off his knapsack, opened it, jerked off his old clothes, donned his new ones and then continued his trot up the hill.”
The uniform was worn out and replaced by the Overland Campaign in 1864.
This uniform can be reproduced. Charlie Childs offers the 100% wool Blue-Gray Kersey for the Jackets as well as the Richmond Depot Type II pattern for the jacket. He will have 100% wool Royal Blue Kersey out soon and he offers a Richmond Depot Trousers pattern. Confederate Wooden Buttons can be purchased from Missouri Boot & Shoe Co. The buttons for the trousers would either be Japanned Tin or Bone.
I would like to thank Abe Wiles and Ben Tart for information that I gathered from our conversation and emails. I would also like to thank Craig Schneider for binging new info to light on the trousers.
Bingham, Christopher C. From New Bern to Bennett Place with Cooke’s “Foot Cavalry”: A History of the Twenty - Seventh Regiment of North Carolina Troops 1861-1865. M.A. thesis, East Carolina University, 2007.
Mast, Greg. State Troops and Volunteers Volume I. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Division of Archives and History, 1995.
Mink, Erik. English Supplied Uniforms in the Army of Northern Virginia. An Article Courtesy of the Stonewall Brigade Website: www.stonewallbrigade.com
Tart, Ben. Blockade Running for North Carolina. An Article Taken from the February 1991 Issue of the 27th N.C. Dispatch.
Toalson, Jeff, ed. No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery, & Desertion. Lincoln: iUniverse, 2006.