Photographic Compilation of Federal Enlisted Men Wearing Dark Blue Trousers in 1862 and Beyond

By Paul A. Boccadoro

 

In an attempt to add some interest to an otherwise "standard" Federal 1862 impression, I have compiled the below examples of dark blue trousers being worn in the field by Federal enlisted men during mid to late 1862 – and even later into the war. It was the Secretary of War's General Order No. 108, dated December 16, 1861, that changed the standard trouser color from dark blue to light blue, with a dark blue welt for officers and dark blue stripe for NCO's (source). The change was made due to the higher cost of dark blue dyed material as compared to lower cost of light blue dyed material. In other words, the lighter the color, the less expensive it was to dye.

Despite the General Order being put out in very late 1861, there were still stockpiles of unissued dark blue trousers which were distributed throughout the following years, as evident in the below photographs and documents. Please examine these photographs to study the existence of dark blue trousers mixed within the Federal ranks through 1862 – and even beyond – and considering wearing a pair to some of your upcoming events.

February 26, 1862.
A well known photograph of the 96th Pa. at Camp Northumberland. Notice their full dress uniforms: frocks, dark blues, dress hats, and some companies with gaiters. (NA#: 111-B-487)

February, 1862.
While some units were still completely outfitted with dark blues, others like the 50th Pa. already began seeing some light blues in the ranks by early 1862. (LOC#: LC-B811-156A)

Early Winter, 1862.
2nd Vermont at Camp Griffin, Va. Most of these men are in dark blue pants, with some even in dark blue overcoats. Use the light blue overcoats on two of the men for shade comparisons. (LOC#: LC-USZ62-135917)

March, 1862.
Confederate fortifications now held by Federal soldiers. It appears as though all six men have dark blue pants. (LOC#: LC-B817-7171)

March, 1862.
The man in the foreground is wearing dark blue trousers, while others in the background wear light blue. (LOC#: LC-B811-320)

March, 1862.
This sentry is wearing dark blue trousers shortened by cutting off the cuffs, and the other five men also appear to be wearing dark blues. (LOC#: LC-B811-302)

March, 1862.
In this photo of the provost guard of the 9th New York, there is a huge mix of pant colors among all the enlisted men. (LOC#: LC-B817-7095)

March, 1862.
Here is a view of three men wearing dark blue pants and one man seated at the top is wearing light blue pants. (LOC#: LC-USZ62-83480)

May, 1862.
At a Watery Battery at Yorktown, Va., the different shades of dark blue can be seen between his sack coat and pants. (LOC#: LC-B811-2362)

May, 1862. In Battery No. 1 at Yorktown, Va., the man in the foreground wears dark blue pants while a man in the background has light blue. (LOC#: LC-DIG-cwpbh-03378)

May, 1862.
In Battery No. 1 at Yorktown, Va., the man in the foreground wears dark blue pants while a man in the background has light blue. (LOC#: LC-DIG-cwpbh-03378)

May, 1862.
It appears that at least some or all of these men at Battery No. 4 near Yorktown, Va. are in dark blue pants. (LOC#: LC-B815-374)

May, 1862.
HQ of Gen. George B. McClellan, Camp Winfield Scott, near Yorktown, Va. Five men are seen wearing dark blues - including the man sitting by the rifle stacks at the left edge of the photo. (LOC#: LC-B811-367A)

May, 1862.
All the men in the foreground here at Cumberland Landing, Va. are wearing dark blue pants. (LOC#: LC-B811-1214B)

May 27-28, 1862.
Nine memebers of the 5th NH can be seen here in dark blues as they built this bridge across the Chickahominy River, Va. (LOC#: LC-B817-7383)

June, 1862.
A Federal battery near Fair Oaks, Va. A great photo showing a mix of dark and light blue pants on artillerymen, but still marginally dark blues. (LOC#: LC-B811-2510)

June, 1862.
Two jovial soldiers at Camp Lincoln outside Richmond, Va. each wear a different pant color in this photo. (LOC#: LC-B815-430)

July 1, 1862.
A document showing the issue of two pairs of dark blue pants during the summer of 1862. One can safely assume these pants were used by this man throughout the rest of the year. (source)

Summer, 1862. A company of the 35th New York Infantry shows an even mix of pant colors. Notice the rear rank is comprised solely of men in dark blues, perhaps arranged like this for the photograph. (LOC#: LC-B811-2422)

Summer, 1862.
A company of the 35th New York Infantry shows an even mix of pant colors. Notice the rear rank is comprised solely of men in dark blues, perhaps arranged like this for the photograph. (LOC#: LC-B811-2422)

July, 1862.
Men of Co. C, 41st New York Infantry near Manassas, Va. This entire company on campaign is still wearing dark blue pants during the late summer of 1862. (LOC#: LC-B817-7517)

August, 1862.
Soldiers beside damaged rolling stock of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, near Manassas Junction, Va. One of my personal favorite photos, it shows a mix of the man on the right wearing dark blues, with the other two wearing sky blues. (LOC#: LC-B815-593)

August, 1862.
Robert Borland, Co. F, 96th Pa. Just before going into the Maryland campaign, Borland had this image made - still wearing the full dress uniform. The 96th Pa. of the 6th Corps went into the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam while wearing dark blues and frocks with scales.

August, 1862.
At Fauquier Sulphur Springs, Va., these troops building a bridge across the Rappahannock show almost an even split between pant colors. (LOC#: LC-B815-513)

Summer/Fall, 1862.
Coosaw Ferry, Port Royal Island, SC. Still transitioning to sky blues, two of these three men are wearing dark blues while on guard duty. (LOC#: LC-B811-201)

October, 1862.
A cavalryman at Antietam, Md. Even following the Maryland campaign going into mid fall, men still wear the dark blue pants issued to them. (LOC#: LC-B811-619)

April, 1863
Men and wagons of the Engineer Corps ambulance train near Falmouth, Va. Two pairs of dark blues are still worn among these men. (LOC#: LC-B815-516)

July or August, 1863
These men building fortifications on Morris Island, SC are wearing an assortment of sky blues, dark blues, and even what appear to be work pants made of white cotton drill. (LOC#: LC-B8156-17)

July or August, 1863
This is on Morris Island, SC at the headquarters of the officer of the trenches, and shows an enlisted man wearing dark blues. Note the unique jacket on the man beside him and the Corporal's poor quality chevrons. (LOC#: LC-B8156-14)

July or August, 1863
The entire crew of Battery B (Henry's battery) wears dark blue trousers, including the mounted Sergeant. They were the last artillery active during siege operations of Ft. Wagner and Battery Gregg at Morris Island, SC. (LOC#: LC-B8156-41)

August, 1864
"Essayons Dramatic Club," a group of the U.S. Engineer Battalion, near Petersburg, Va. Two men in this photo are wearing dark blues. (LOC#: LC-B817-7336)

August, 1864
Petersburg, Va. The two Sergeants within this group of men from Co. B of the Engineer Battalion are wearing dark blues. (LOC#: LC-B817-7219)

September, 1864
Atlanta, Ga. Shown are Sherman's men destroying railroad. A man in the foreground is seen wearing dark blue pants. (LOC#: LC-B811-3630)

1865
An enlisted man in a mortar crew at Morris Island, SC opposing Ft. Sumter wears dark blue trousers. (LOC#: LC-B811-3513)

April, 1865
Federal troops at Appomattox Court House. One man is seen here wearing a pair of dark blues even as late as Lee's surrender. (LOC#: LC-B817-7193)

April, 1865
In the same scene at Appomattox Court House, a second man wearing dark blues is sitting on the fence. (LOC#: LC-B817-7193)

September, 1865
Even later in 1865, an enlisted man in the Massachusetts Heavy Artillery at Ft. Stevens is seen in dark blue trousers. The Ordnance Sgt. might also have dark blue pants, but it is difficult to tell. (LOC#: LC-B817-7897)

September, 1865
In the same series of photographs of the 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery at Ft. Stevens, a second enlisted man is also seen wearing dark blue trousers. (LOC#: LC-B817-7746)