Yankee's in Butternut?

grey uniforms

I was recently at the Veteran's Museum in Madison, Wisconsin and I noticed a butternut colored uniform on display. At first I thought it was Confederate, but I was surprised that description stated it was an 1861 Wisconsin Gray uniform that had faded to this butternut color. In the distant past, I have also seen a Confederate officers coat that appeared to be khaki colored. Also at the US park service visitors center at Gettysburg is a Confederate butternut uniform or two. The description states that they faded to this color from the original gray. Several questions are now raised.

1) I think it unlikely a Confederate officer would have outfitted himself in butternut, so it seems that many originally gray uniforms ended up as butternut, and that apparently includes officers uniforms, as well.

2) Did Northern gray uniforms in 1861 actually fade to butternut, before being replaced by blue ones in the fall of 1861? Note that the 2nd Wisconsin acquired the nickname "the ragged 2nd" while dressed in gray. Though they fought only one battle, the 1st Bull Run, in gray and obtained blue uniforms in the fall of 1861, is it possible the uniforms faded before they were discarded, or even before the 1st Bull Run? This is probably unlikely given the statements made about being fired on by friendly troops due the the color of their uniform, but who knows for sure?

Follow this link to the Wisconsin's Veteran's Museum for another picture of the Wisconsin's "grey" uniforms. Look into the Civil War and 19th Century Gallery.

3) Philip Haythornthwaite states in "Uniforms of the Civil War" that Confederate uniforms towards the end of the war were purposely dyed a butternut color. Is this really the case or were just the majority of Confederate uniforms toward the end of the war just old and faded gray uniforms?

The bottom line for wargaming purposes is that Confederate troops should probably be outfitted with a mix of varying shades of gray and butternut, perhaps with some captured sky blue pants thrown in. It would be rare for an entire unit to replace it's uniforms at one time, regimental supply officers requisitioned new clothing and supplies depending upon individual need. Since individual soldiers had to pay out of their own pockets for clothing issued that was in excess of a predetermined allotment, there was incentive to wear what they had for as long as possible. Of course, the existence of replacement clothing and equipment in the South would affect timing of these replacements. Also, as the war went on, the mix should shift from predominately gray to mostly butternut as the North slowly reduced the Southern ability to supply her armies. Some officers uniforms may also be in butternut, since it appears that many of the gray dyes used at the time faded to butternut.

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