Finally Found! An Authentic Cadet Gray Trans-Mississippi Depot Jacket
by Fred Adolphus
After searching for twenty-four years, I finally found a fully documented, cadet gray, Trans-Mississippi, Confederate depot jacket. This “one-and-only” jacket was worn by Private John C. Bach; Company A, 31st Louisiana Infantry, and it resides in the Louisiana State Museum.
Why is this jacket more significant than all the other surviving Trans-Mississippi jackets? It is significant because it is depot-made and cadet gray. Despite the fact that the cadet gray jacket was the most commonly issued depot jacket in the Department of the Trans-Mississippi (DTM) from the fall of 1862 through the end of the war, no authentic jacket of this type has been discovered until November 2010. Thus far, with one exception, all surviving DTM jackets have actually been homemade, fake, or early war “mustering-in” jackets. The one exception is a white cotton jeans jacket, with a tentative provenance to the Shreveport Depot. The discovery of the Bach jacket makes it the only enlisted, depot-made, cadet gray DTM jacket known to exist.
I started my research on DTM uniforms almost a quarter of a century ago (in 1986) and have diligently searched for and studied the numerous photographs, diary accounts, and quartermaster reports available. Those and similar documents corroborate the prevalence of the DTM cadet gray jacket. However, the discovery of the Bach jacket substantiates this research with an actual original of this jacket type.
The provenance of the jacket is traced to John C. Bach, who was born in Nassau, Germany in 1821 (or possibly 1824). He was a blacksmith, who was described on a parole form as 5’6” tall with dark complexion, dark eyes, and dark hair. Bach enlisted in his regiment at Monroe, Louisiana on April 12, 1862 “for three years or the war.” He served with the 31st Louisiana from the time of his enlistment until the end of the Vicksburg siege. When the garrison surrendered, he was paroled, and he returned to Louisiana, pending exchange. Following its official exchange, the regiment re-mustered in February 1864 and spent the remainder of the war at either Shreveport or Pineville, Louisiana. Bach served from February until October 29, 1864. He was then discharged after receiving a surgeon’s certificate for ill health. Evidently, Bach drew his jacket sometime within his last nine months of service. The worn condition of the jacket indicates that he might have received it soon after returning to duty in February 1864. In 1916, Bach’s wife donated the jacket to the Louisiana State Museum. She was living in New Orleans at the time.
The jacket is best described as a “Charleston Depot” jacket, following the typology of Confederate jackets established by renowned uniformologist, Les Jensen. It has five buttonholes on the left lapel, one-piece sleeves, a six-piece body, and a two-piece collar. The bottom of the back seam comes to a distinct point. The jacket is lined with unbleached cotton osnaburg. The most notable feature that resembles the Charleston jacket is the “plumb edge” of the collar and left front lapel. However, unlike the Charleston jacket, it does not have belt loops. Perhaps its most unusual feature is the quarter-inch, red woolen tape sewn completely around the edge of the collar. This is noteworthy because Bach was an infantryman. Red signified artillery, and blue was the official infantry trim color. Also worth noting is the single remaining, postwar, Louisiana pelican button. Regrettably, none of the original buttons survived with the jacket.
I am confident that the Bach jacket is depot-manufactured jacket. Its characteristics adhere to those noted in contemporary records regarding cadet gray jackets of the DTM. It is likely that the jacket came from the Shreveport clothing depot, but it could also be a Houston jacket, as Houston furnished some clothing to the Shreveport in the winter of 1863-64.
Finally, and at last, the John C. Bach jacket affords uniformologists a chance to study a fully documented, DTM cadet gray, depot-made jacket. Yet, it is still astonishing that only one of these jackets survives today, even though most DTM Confederate soldiers wore them from the fall of 1862 until the spring of 1865.
My sincere thanks go out to the Louisiana State Museum, and especially to Mr. Wayne Phillips, Curator of Costumes and Textiles, for his time and patience involved with my research.