Uniforms and clothing worn by Union and Confederate Soldiers During the Civil War

Union Officer Uniform
Union Officer Uniform

The two sides are often referred to by the color of their official uniforms, blue for the Union, gray for the Confederates.

Uniforms at the beginning of the Civil War, however, showed greater variety than would be true later in the conflict. Many men wore whatever they brought from home. Local militia units that had their own uniforms wore them as they came to join the Union or Confederate armies. Some Union units wore gray, while some Confederates were attired in blue. Some groups, influenced by French Zouaves of North Africa, arrived decked out in baggy trousers—usually bright red or striped—and fez hats or turbans.

Primarily, however, regular U.S. Army troops wore their traditional dark blue trousers, jackets and kepi caps. To distinguish the volunteers who comprised the vast bulk of the Federal armies from the professionals of the regular army,

Confederate Uniform
Confederate Uniform
volunteers were issued dark blue jackets and kepis but with light blue trousers.

Confederate uniforms were gray kepi, jacket and trousers. As these weathered and faded, they took on a light brownish appearance, which gave rise to the nickname "Butternuts" for Southern soldiers. "Butternut" brown clothing may also have been the result of dyes used for simple, homespun uniforms.

On both sides, artillerymen had red kepis, shell jackets with red trim and, depending on rank, a red stripe on their pants legs. Cavalry riders had a yellow stripe on their pants and yellow trim on jackets.

There were other uniforms for special units—perhaps most famous were the green uniforms of Hiram Berdan’s Union sharpshooters—but the blue and the gray predominated.

Cavalry Uniform
Cavalry Uniform

The Southern cotton fields allowed for cotton cloth in Confederate uniforms, while the North’s troops wore wool, which was warm in winter and relatively cool in summer—as long as a breeze was blowing.

The rigors of campaigning wore out clothing and shoes fairly quickly, and although the "rag-tag, barefoot Confederate" remains a prominent Civil War image, in truth, Union soldiers could also be found barefoot in threadbare uniforms at many points during the war.

Civil War Uniforms In Articles From History Net Magazines

A surprise visit from Morgan’s RaidersThomas Lewis had avoided war -- until it invaded his own farm
Surviving a Confederate POW CampSurvival in an Alabama Slammer: Inmates at the Confederacy’s Cahaba Federal Prison had little more food and a lot less space than prisoners at Andersonville, but their mortality rate was considerably lower—thanks to one man’s humanity.
Survivors Remember Shiloh7 Lives Altered by Shiloh: Two Fateful Days Can Make Reputations, Shatter Families, and Shape Destinies
Killers in Green CoatsHiram Berdan's green-coated marksmen of the 1st United States Sharp Shooters made things miserable for the Confederates around Yorktown, Virginia.
Battle of Chickamauga and Gordon Granger’s Reserve CorpsMajor General Gordon Granger's Reserve Corps of the Army of the Cumberland faced hard fighting at Chickamauga.
Battle of Antietam: Two Great American Armies Engage in CombatThe opposing armies at Antietam were two very different forces commanded by two very different men.

By Ted Alexander

The 7th U.S. Infantry Service in the American Civil WarThe 7th U.S. Infantry's most powerful foe was John Barleycorn.
America’s Civil War: Loudoun RangersThe Quaker-dominated Loudoun Rangers openly defied Virginia tradition to serve the Union.
America’s Civil War: Images of Peace at AppomattoxEvery picture tells a different story about Lee's surrender.
J.E.B. Stuart’s RevengeA stolen hat and wounded pride spurred Southern cavalryman J.E.B. Stuart into action. His vengeance would be swift, daring, and--unexpectedly--funny.
Union General Judson KilpatrickUnion General Judson Kilpatrick was flamboyant, reckless, tempestuous, and even licentious. In some respects he made other beaux sabreurs like fellow-cavalrymen George Custer and J. E. B. Stuart seem dull.
Battle of Wilson’s CreekThe Battle of Wilson's Creek helped to keep a critical border state out of the Confederacy.
1st Louisiana Special Battalion at the First Battle of ManassasRecruited from New Orleans' teeming waterfront by soldier of fortune Roberdeau Wheat, the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion more than lived up to its pugnacious nickname--Wheat's Tigers--at the First Battle of Manassas.
John Cabell Early Remembers GettysburgMajor General Jubal Early's nephew recalled the famous meeting on July 1 between his uncle and General Robert E. Lee during the 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania.
Second Battle of Bull Run: Destruction of the 5th New York ZouavesThe Texas Brigade tide bore down on the isolated 5th New York Zouaves at Second Bull Run. A fine regiment was about to be destroyed.
Major General George Stoneman Led the Last American Civil War Cavalry RaidEven as General Robert E. Lee was surrendering at Appomattox, a vengeful Union cavalry horde led by Maj. Gen. George Stoneman made Southern civilians pay dearly for the war. It was a last brutal lesson in the concept of total warfare.
First Battle of Bull Run: The U.S MarinesWith hordes of eager Confederates gathering at Manassas, panicky Union commanders massed whatever forces they could in the nation's capital. Among those answering the call were the U.S. Marines. Manassas, however, would not be one of their shining moments.
Judson Kilpatrick – June 1998 Civil War Times FeatureJudson Kilpatrick BY EDWARD G. LONGACRE Union General Judson Kilpatrick was flamboyant, reckless, tempestuous, and even licentious. In some respects he made other beaux sabreurs like fellow-cavalrymen George Custer and J. E. B. Stuart seem dull. Because he was a passionate man, Kilpatrick won many admirers and made many enemies during his Civil War career–and […]
Rebels in Pennsylvania! – August 1998 Civil War Times FeatureRebels in Pennsylvania! The spearhead of Lee’s army was about to strike a lethal blow at the very heart of the Keystone State when the Battle of Gettysburg interrupted. BY UZAL ENT Gettysburg was a small rural town with no special significance or importance, like the thousands of other small towns that dotted the American […]