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"Richmond Depot Style" Shell Jackets

Research performed by Les Jensen and others has shown that there were several different styles of shell jackets issued to Confederate soldiers by the central Quartermaster Department. While hundreds of thousands of uniforms were issued, less than 200 original jackets, frock coats and trousers still survive. In researching the origins of these surviving uniforms, we can now tentatively connect some of the different styles of jackets to their depots of origin.

By using the originals with a known provenance along with documented contemporary photographs, present day living historians and reenactors can research their own units and use the information to formulate a more accurate impression. It should be noted that the key word in this situation is tentative. The research should not be used to justify the 

requirement that only exact copies of the surviving garments should be accepted as "authentic" for living historians and reenactors as there are such a small percentage of originals remaining.

Even though the Confederate Quartermaster Department was a centrally controlled bureaucracy, the output of the various clothing manufactories was mainly regional in nature. Thus soldiers serving in the Army of Tennessee would receive clothing from Depots in Atlanta, Columbus or Athens, Georgia or other depots located in the deep south while those serving in the Army of Northern Virginia would be issued uniforms from the Richmond Depot.

Among the surviving uniforms connected to a specific Army were those issued to soldiers in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Mr. Les Jensen, who was one of the real pioneers in Confederate uniform research called these jackets "Richmond Depot Style" shell jackets.

After connecting the "Richmond Depot Style" jackets to the Army of Northern Virginia, Mr. Jensen further divided the style into three sub-groups according to appearance and time of issue. Mr. Jensen used the terms Type I, Type II and Type III to differentiate them.

Some reenactors and sutlers have the impression that these terms were used by the Depot, but these are in fact, modern terms, which have found a general acceptance and usage among historians and reenactors. We will also use the Les Jensen "Typology" in describing the jackets here.


The Type I Richmond Depot Jacket can be identified by photographic means as being in use by February 1862. It is likely, however, that at least a few may have been issued as early as November 1861 as records show that the clothing manufactory was producing these jackets as early as October. The Richmond Depot Type I jacket is a waist length jacket with a standing collar, shoulder straps and probably belt loops. All Type I jackets featured tape or piping trim on the shoulder straps, collar and cuffs. Branch of service colors were usually used for this trim with black, french blue or dark blue for infantry, red for artillery and yellow for cavalry.

In addition to using modern colors and modern woolen blend materials, one mistake that we see some sutlers and reenactors make all too often is the use of very bright trim colors - especially those which can often be described as "electric blue" and "fire engine red" collar and cuff trim. While there were some dyes that could give cloth a somewhat brilliant appearance, for the most part, the trim colors used for enlisted men's uniforms during the mid 19th century including those put out by the Confederate Depots, were much more subdued.

During the first several months of the war, these jackets were made from a variety of woolen materials. While some jackets were made from a variety of wool kersey or broadcloth, the majority were constructed of cotton/wool mixtures like satinette, jean cloth or cassimere. The cotton wool mixtures were not quite as durable or warm as the all wool cloth but they were cheaper and allowed the limited domestic wool supply to go farther.

The linings of the jackets were usually made of a coarse common weave unbleached cotton osnaburg. These jackets were also likely to have an inside breast pocket sewn into the lining. Most jackets were made with a 9 button front, with cuff size buttons on the shoulder straps. Some were also made with cuff size buttons as trim on the cuffs. The jacket body was made with 6 pieces and the sleeves were 2-piece and cut full in the elbows, then tapering to the cuffs.

Although no originals of this type apparently survive we can infer from the dozens of photographs showing this style of jacket of what they looked like. The primary distinctive feature to discuss is the trim. The Type I was trimmed on collar, shoulder straps and cuffs with either tape or piping. Because these details come from various photographs, there is still room for discussion. Additionally, as these jackets were produced during the official commutation period, they could have had differences created by various unit commanders.

There is also evidence that the same basic pattern was copied by non-government manufacturers. The tendency of private contractors and tailors to copy the Manufactory resulted in jackets that were very similar in pattern to those produced by the Depot.

Several photographs show soldiers wearing jackets, which could be attributed to the Richmond Depot. A photograph of Charles H. Powell of the 4th Virginia Cavalry taken on 22 February 1862 is one of the earliest pieces of evidence to show the specific pattern.

Like those jackets produced later by the Richmond Depot, Powell's jacket appears to be rather thick at the edges and shows evidence that it was top stitched. The jacket appears to have been made from a somewhat light colored gray wool. Without examining the original, we cannot say if the material is jean, cassimere or kersey. The photo shows the trim on collar and shoulder straps is tape sewed to the surface of the garment. The cuffs may be piped, but it is not clear in the photo.

There are several other photographs of Confederate soldiers, mainly from Virginia, who were photographed in Richmond wearing the same jacket with either tape or piped trim or a combination of both. A photograph taken in Richmond of a pair of sergeants from Lynchburg, Virginia, Austin S. Morris and Richard A. Williams, also shows a Type I Richmond Depot Jacket. The jacket worn by Morris, with the exception of the button size, appears to be nearly identical to the jacket worn by Powell. An additional photo, of Sergeant Thomas C. Owens of the 9th Virginia Infantry, who was killed at Gettysburg, also shows a Type I pattern jacket.


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Even though no apparent examples of the Type I jacket survive, there is a jacket that may be a tailor's copy. Its construction is more typical of a private tailor instead of those jackets that were later produced by the Depot in Richmond.

The surviving jacket was worn by Sergeant E.C.N. Green of the 47th North Carolina State Troops. Sergeant Green was killed on July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg. While North Carolina did supply many of their own troops with state manufactured uniforms, Green's jacket does not conform to North Carolina issue jackets that still exist.

Sergeant Green's jacket is made from a fine quality cadet gray wool cloth and is lined with light brown Silesia in the body and light blue cotton in the sleeves. There is " dark blue cotton tape trim on the collar, shoulder straps and cuffs. There are eight large script "I" buttons from S. Isaacs and Campbell {England} on the front of the jacket. There are two small buttons of the same type at the shoulder straps and another pair at teach non-functioning cuff. There are no belt loops. The chevrons on each sleeve are made from " wide black velvet. They have been applied separately and the ends are let into the sleeve seams.

The Richmond Depot used many sources for the bulk cloth used for the manufacture of jackets and trousers. This was especially true during the first few months of the war when the Confederate Government bought up as much of the cloth suitable for uniforms that was available.

While smaller quantities of wool kersey and broadcloth were manufactured domestically throughout the war, and large quantities of English kersey and other cloth was imported, the majority of enlisted garments put out by the Richmond Clothing Depot from the fall of 1862 through the summer of 1864 were most likely made from cotton/wool jean cloth and cotton/wool cassimere.

While some records survive showing separate quantities of jean and cassimere, in many references they lumped them together on payment vouchers as they were coming from the same manufacturer. It seems that the two types of cloth were usually interchangeable in their uses and the contemporary records indicate that they were priced the same. It is probable that both types of cloth were made from the same weight of wool yarn and the same size of cotton warps. While no direct evidence has been found to help support this hypothesis, the fact that prices were identical would tend to give weight to the notion.

Contemporary records show that tens of thousands of yards of cotton/wool Jean and cotton/wool Cassimere were delivered each month to the Richmond Depot throughout the war. Payment vouchers from The Scottville Manufacturing Co., Manchester Cotton and Woolen Mfg. Co. and the Danville Manufacturing Co. show that the Richmond Depot throughout the war received both Cassimere and Jean, especially during the period starting in early 1862 up through mid 1864.


type2.gif (26900 bytes) The "Type II" Richmond Depot Style shell jacket was probably issued as early as the Spring of 1862 and continued to be issued at least until the fall of 1864 though there are references to some soldiers in Petersburg, Virginia being issued cotton/wool jean cloth jackets and pants as late as March 1865. The "Type II" was without a doubt the most prevalent government issue uniform jacket in the ANV from the fall of 1862 until the summer of 1864.

As the Type II Richmond Depot jacket was issued for the longest period of time it is reasonable to say that it would be the most versatile jacket for the great majority of reenactors portraying ANV soldiers. Although it was superseded by the Type III jacket by the summer of 1864, it was used until the end of the war. Thus a jean cloth Type II shell jacket would be an acceptable uniform jacket for most persons portraying an ANV soldier from the summer of 1862 until the end of the war.
The Type II jacket shared the same basic features as the Type I including a six-piece body, a standing collar and two-piece sleeves. They also had shoulder straps and belt-loops. The type II jackets were also lined with cotton osnaburg and had an inside breast pocket. These jackets were also made with a 9-button front although a few were made with 6, 7 or 8, with 8 being the most common number after 9.

At first the Richmond Depot issued mainly trimmed jackets (i.e. Type I) but as time went by, the untrimmed or partially trimmed jackets (i.e. Type II) became a larger and larger percentage of the output of the Depot. The most notable difference between the "Type I" and the "Type II" is the lack of trim. Although some Type II jackets had partial trim, the majority were made with no trim. It is very likely that by the fall of 1862, the vast majority of the jackets being put out by the Richmond Depot were of the untrimmed Type II style.

One surviving example of a typical Richmond Depot Type II shell jacket, which now resides at the Museum of the Confederacy, is that which belonged to Private John Blair Royal of the 1st Company, Richmond Howitzers. Royal was wearing the jacket when he was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. The left sleeve of Royal's jacket shows the mark of an incoming Federal shell, which grazed his arm and then killed another man on his gun crew.

He apparently preserved the jacket as a souvenir of his close call. He also did not use it after the action as the hole shows no signs of repair or further wear. This jacket is one of the few surviving examples of mid-war uniforms and helps to establish the date for this pattern.

Private Royal's jacket is made from a rough woolen jeans with a lining of plain unbleached cotton osnaburg. There is red piping on the shoulder straps and it features a six-piece body, two-piece sleeves, nine-button front and belt loops typical of the type II pattern produced by the Richmond Depot system.

Another surviving Type II jacket belonged to Private George N. Bernard of the 12th Virginia and is made of rough, dark greenish gray woolen material. The lining is of the cotton osnaburg and the jacket has a nine-button front and belt loops. The jacket was made with shoulder straps but these were cut off, probably during service. The ends of the straps are still visible in the shoulder seams.

Another jacket that has been identified as coming from the Richmond Depot is that worn by George H. T. Greer, who was Military Secretary to General Jubal A. Early. Greer was apparently wearing this jacket when he was wounded on September 17, 1863 at Summerville Ford, Virginia.

The jacket is made from thin cadet gray wool with an unusual weave. It has a six-piece body with two-piece sleeves and is lined with the usual cotton osnaburg. It does have belt loops and was made with shoulder straps, which were apparently cut off by the owner. In a departure from the average Richmond Depot Type II jacket is this jacket's six-button front.


The surviving examples as well as photographic evidence shows that Richmond Depot Style Shell Jackets were made at three variations in the finish details of the front bottoms. Some were cut and finished nearly straight, with a 90-degree angle. Others were rounded, with various measurements for the radius, with about 1 inches seeming to be the average. Photographs and surviving jackets show these variations with the rounded front being the most prevalent. Others were finished with a small angle at the bottom, as seen in the Type II jacket, which belonged to John Blair Royal of the Richmond Howitzers.

A photo of Sergeant John French White of Company K. 32nd Virginia Infantry shows a jacket that can probably be attributed to the Richmond Clothing Manufactory that survives as well. This jacket shows the nine-button front and shoulder straps that were typical of the type. White's photo was taken on May 15, 1863, which helps us in dating this jacket, which he apparently drew in February when he returned from furlough. His regiment had also drawn 75 jackets on April 4 and 60 on May 26th. Whether the jacket White is wearing is from February or the April issue, it most likely came through the main supply source of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Richmond Depot.

There are several other photographs of soldiers connected to the ANV showing this same pattern of jacket. While many photos can be shown to have been taken in Richmond, the subjects are yet to be identified. Three photographs in which the subjects are identified are that of Ernest Hudgins of Mathews County Virginia, Alexander Harris of Parker's Artillery Battery and two photographs of Private C. J. Rush of the 21st Georgia.

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The photographs of Harris and Rush are of particular interest. Records show that Harris was discharged from the army1 November 1862 and it is very likely that his photograph was taken during the previous spring when the battery was mustered into service.

The photograph of Rush dates from some time after 17 May 1865 when he was admitted to a hospital in Washington, D.C. Rush had been captured at Fort Steadman on 25 March 1865. It is important to note that this jacket may have already been at the hospital when Rush arrived for the second photo shows him wearing a different jacket. To further this belief that the jacket may not have originally been issued to Rush is the fact that the buttons are Mississippi infantry pattern, while Rush was serving in a Georgia regiment.

collars.gif (13229 bytes) From the photographic evidence, we can safely assume that the Type II jackets were issued perhaps as early as the spring of 1862. As the depot's production focused on supplying the needs of the Army, woolen jean cloth and cassimere was probably used for the vast majority of production. By the fall of 1862 it is safe to assume that a large majority jackets issued by the depot were made of cotton/woolen jeans or cassimere.

Throughout the war, especially after the fall of 1863, wool kersey was imported by the Confederacy for the manufacture of uniforms. One of the more prevalent types of bulk cloth brought into the South - particularly after the winter of 1863 - was dark blue-gray kersey "English Army Cloth". This "English Army Cloth" was also described by contemporary authors as "English wool", "army cloth" and sometimes just "English Goods".

This dark blue-gray kersey was sometimes referred to as "cadet gray" by contemporary observers. This should not be confused with the modern army cadet gray like that used by the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. It is unquestionable that the wool imported by the Confederacy and used at the Richmond Depot was definitely a dark bluish-gray to period observers, especially when viewed at a distance.

Even today, when any of the surviving examples are examined at a distance of more than a few feet, each surviving example exhibits a homogeneous bluish-gray hue. When examined closely, the material is variably toned and when viewed under low magnification the wool is revealed to be a combination of both dark blue and light to medium gray fibers. The ratio of blue to gray fibers is roughly 70:30 to 60:40. The wool was apparently dyed in the two colors and was then carded (mixed) together before spinning into yarn.

There is a possibility that a significant color change may have occurred since the items were manufactured, but this is highly doubtful as the quality of English dyes used was such that they have undergone little fading. The surviving uniforms of this material show very little variation in color, though slight differences do exist when they are closely compared.

The fact that these jackets and trousers show a lack of variation and fading even though they are over 135 years old is a testament to the stability of the English dyes used in manufacture. As synthetic dyes came into wide use at the time of the civil war, it is likely that they were used in the production of this material.

Some Type II style jackets were made of the dark blue-gray kersey, probably in the fall and winter of 1863, these were transitional jackets, and their issue was probably fairly limited.

One of these jackets which was made with type II details still exists. The jacket is connected to Captain Edward S. Marsh of Co. I, 4th North Carolina State Troops. His jacket is typical in style to the Richmond Depot Type II jackets - that is a 6-piece body and 2 piece sleeves and a nine-button front, and is finished with the usual unbleached cotton osnaburg and has an interior breast pocket. The jacket was topstitched along the edges.

It should be noted however, that while the jacket was cut to the same general style as the Richmond Depot style shell jackets made for enlisted men, Marsh was an officer and the jacket pre-dates the use of English kersey by the Richmond Clothing Manufactory who put out enlisted jackets. It seems very possible that this jacket may be a tailor's copy of a Richmond Depot style jacket made from cloth purchased by Captain Marsh.

An interesting example of a Type II jacket made from this dark blue-gray kersey exists in the Smithsonian collection. It was worn by Private William Ramsey of the 17th Virginia Infantry. Ramsey joined the 17th Virginia in November 1863 and served until the end of the war.

There are no surviving clothing issue roles which could date when Ramsey may have received this particular jacket, but since he was wearing it when he surrendered at Appomattox and wore the jacket home, it is safe to say that the jacket was most likely issued in the last 6 to 8 months of the war.

This jacket is apparently another transition piece as it was made with shoulder straps but without belt loops. This blue gray kersey wool was used almost exclusively in the last class of jackets produced by the Clothing Manufactory in Richmond.

While they were made from the same patterns as the other Type II jackets, with the same over all cut of the body, collar and sleeves with epaulets, it does seem that these transitional kersey Type II jackets often lacked the belt loops which were "standard" on the jean cloth versions. It had been discovered that the practice of many soldiers in the field was to cut off their shoulder straps and belt loops. This was probably part of the reason for their deletion from the final style of the jacket issued by the Richmond Depot designated by Mr. Jensen as the Type III.


type3.gif (22772 bytes) The Type III Richmond Depot Style shell jacket was most likely first issued late winter of 1863 or early spring of 1864. These jackets were all made from the fine quality dark blue-gray wool kersey brought from England through the blockade. While small quantities of this cloth were likely received sometime in the fall of 1863, large quantities were not available until the following spring. By June 1864, truly huge quantities were being received by the Richmond Depot each week.

By the late summer, the Richmond Depot was nearly completely dependent upon the imported dark blue-gray kersey for the production of most jackets and trousers. Regular deliveries of domestically produced jeans and cassimere as well as some kersey did continue throughout 1864 and into the early months of 1865, but the largest percentage of the cloth used for enlisted uniforms put out by the Richmond Clothing Bureau was the imported English cloth.

Some of these kersey jackets are located in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy. Because for many soldiers this was their last uniform, these are the largest type that survives today. One of these jackets was a jacket identified as belonging to E. F. Barnes of the 1st Company Richmond Howitzers. This jacket is made from the dark blue-gray kersey brought through the blockade and is lined with the typical cotton osnaburg used by the Richmond Clothing Manufactory. The jacket has a nine-button front and shows no evidence of having been made with shoulder straps or belt loops.

A pair of Type III jackets, which are connected to Virginia brothers, also survive. The first is that of Sergeant Major Allen C. Redwood, who was a noted artist and served in the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the war. His dark blue-gray English kersey jacket is typical of the type, with a six-piece body, two-piece sleeves and has no shoulder straps or belt loops. The jacket is lined with the regular cotton osnaburg used by the depot. It was made with an 8-button front.

Allen Redwood's brother Henry Redwood, who was a corporal in a local militia unit at the close of the war, also wore a jacket made from the dark blue-gray English kersey. His jacket is finished with a 9-button front but he apparently added red trim to the collar and there are red wool corporal chevrons on each sleeve.

Yet another Type III jacket that survived is identified to Private John K. Coleman of the 6th South Carolina Infantry. Coleman was wearing the jacket when he surrendered at Appomattox. He had been wounded on October 1, 1864 and had received the jacket sometime after that date. The jacket is made with the typical 9-button front and has no shoulder straps or belt loops and is devoid of trim.

In addition, two Type III jackets and a pair of dark blue-gray kersey pants are held in the collections of the Maryland Historical Society. While most of the Type III jackets were made with the 9-button front typical of the pattern, one of the jackets in the Maryland collection was made with 8.

In early 1864, a general order was issued in the ANV which permitted officers to purchase enlisted men's clothing after all the needs of the troops had been fulfilled. By the fall of 1864, many officers in the ANV, particularly those at or below the rank of captain, were wearing dark blue-gray Type III shell jackets. At least two of these survive. One of these jackets, belonging to 2nd Lt. T. Tolson of the 2nd Maryland Infantry, and a jacket connected to Brigadier General William F. Payne, which has a Colonel's insignia on the collar. General Payne's jacket has infantry buttons despite the fact that he was a cavalry officer.

By the late fall of 1864, with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia under siege at Petersburg and around Richmond, many of the troops received their final uniform, a jacket and trousers made of dark blue-gray kersey or "English Army Cloth". This was probably the only time the ANV came even close to achieving any type of uniformity.

This article written by Christopher White