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 English Supplied Uniforms in the Army of Northern Virginia

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Date d'inscription : 29/06/2006

MessageSujet: English Supplied Uniforms in the Army of Northern Virginia   Ven 14 Mar - 19:20

English Supplied Uniforms

English Supplied Uniforms in the Army of Northern Virginia
by Eric Mink, 4th Virginia

The most perplexing of the Confederate soldier's outfit seems to be his uniform. As we struggle to come to some understanding of the clothing of the Confederate soldier, I felt I would contribute a few items concerning the usage of imported uniforms from England.

Beginning in late 1862, and continuing through the last years of the war, the Confederacy imported both wool and finished uniforms from Great Britain. The finished uniforms, as well as the imported wool, were kersey of blue-gray color. The uniforms are most often referred to as "Peter Tait" jackets, after the Irish clothier who supplied them. The jackets were similar in style to that of the Richmond Clothing Bureau in that it was a shell jacket with epaulets. The supply of wool was turned into uniforms in the Confederate Depots and followed their respective styles. For existing examples of these jackets, refer to Echos of Glory, pages 136-139.

The first large shipment of British goods appears to have arrived in the South in late 1862. A Texan writing from Culpepper, Virginia in mid-November of that year asked his sister to send him a "horseman's overcoat . . . to be made of the heavy bluish grey cloth now at the Qr. Mrs. Clothing depot in Richmond."[1]

We know of the issuance of these English blue-gray uniforms to the Stonewall Brigade in late May of 1863. In a letter written by Alexander Tedford Barclay, a member of Company I, 4th Virginia, dated May 26, 1863, Barclay wrote to his sister that:

"as I was getting tolerably ragged, the brigade secured a supply of English clothes. So as I was one of the needy ones, I am rigged in a splendid suit of blue."[2]

Although references to English cloth or uniforms appear in late-1862, these uniforms seem to really have been issued in large quantity during the last year of the war.

Luckily for us, one of General Meade's staff officers during the 1864 Campaign was rather naive and literate, thus recording almost everything he witnessed. On May 12, after the initial Union success along the "Mule Shoe" at Spotsylvania, this Yankee officer got an up-close view of Confederate division commander Major General Edward "Allegheny" Johnson. In describing Johnson to his wife, the impressionable officer stated that the Confederate General "was dressed in a double-breasted blue-grey coat." Almost a month later, during a truce at Cold Harbor, this officer spoke with some Tarheels from A.P. Hill's Corps and described them as "the most gipsy-looking fellows imaginable; in their blue-gray jackets and slouched hats."[3] Unfortunately, as he became more accustomed to army life, the Federal officer's descriptions grew shorter and shorter with less detail.

In late 1864, a Georgian from Hill's Corps wrote home to his wife describing the clothing he was receiving. He talked of drawing clothing that was "a blue in color, but not like the Yankee blue."[4] Interestingly, he complained that his pants and jacket did not match, which makes one wonder, which part of his uniform was of this non-Union blue?

I found another letter in the Manuscript Collection of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. This letter was written by George L. Slifer of Company G, 2nd Virginia on January 7, 1865. In this letter, Slifer reassures his uncle that:

"since we have bin down here we have bin supplied with clothing" and that he "drew a new inglish suit, so you can see I want nothing but piece and our independence."

This letter, as well as Barclay's letter would indicate that at least twice during the last two years of the war members of the Stonewall Brigade were issued uniforms of English origin.


[1] D. Giruad Wright. A Southern Girl in '61: The War-Time Memoirs of a Confederate Senator's Daughter. New York: Doubleday. 1905. P. 113.

[2] Ted Barclay, Liberty Hall Volunteers: Letters from the Stonewall Brigade. 1992.

[3] George R. Agassiz, ed. Meade's Headquarters 1863-85: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman. Salem:Ayer. pp. 111, 152.

[4] Henry Vaughn McCrea. Red Dirt and Insinglass: A Wartime Biography of a Confederate Soldier. Privately Published. 1992. p. 522.
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Date d'inscription : 29/06/2006

MessageSujet: Re: English Supplied Uniforms in the Army of Northern Virginia   Ven 12 Sep - 19:55


Articles › Whitworth Sharpshooter Rifle
by Bertil Häggman, LL.M.

(The original text of this article appeared in issue 66 (September 2001) of Crossfire, the magazine of the ACWRT (UK) as 'Confederate Imports of Whitworth Sharpshooter Rifles from England 1861-1865')

Civil War re-enactor Bertil Häggman, a member of the Swedish Authors Association, is researching one of the lesser known imports of arms from Britain to the Confederacy, the Whitworth rifle. In his research he has found that the Manchester-made weapon is said by some to be one of the most accurate rifles used in the Civil War.

At the first meeting of the British NRA at Wimbledon in 1860 Queen Victoria opened the meeting by firing a specially prepared Whitworth from a mechanical rest at a target 400 yards away. It was a bull's eye, the bullet striking very close to the centre.

Little is public about Confederate imports of Whitworth sharpshooter rifles from England during the War Between the States.

During the course of the War Between the States, both the Confederate States Government and the individual Southern States sought to import necessary supplies and material from Britain. These vital stores were delivered by blockade runners. Running the blockade was extremely dangerous, but also extremely profitable. Many blockade runners came in off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, under the protection of Fort Fisher.

The great lack of arms of the CSA was overcome by importation of arms from abroad, mainly England. Around 400,000 arms of various types came from that powerhouse of industrialism of the era.

Britain was officially neutral but there was strong sympathy among segments of the English aristocracy for the Southern cause. The private English small arms makers had no problems with neutrality. They naturally wanted to sell as many arms as possible including to the South.

The Confederate authorities tried to purchase arms in an organized fashion, but communication was so slow that often instructions were obsolete before an agent reached England by ship. Confederate authorities thus tried to do the best they could under circumstances forced upon them.

Two Confederate-financed companies were established in Britain: Sinclair, Hamilton & Co. and Isaac Campbell & Co. The initials "SH over C" and the name "Isaac Campbell & Co". will be found on some arms. The South also established five primary English suppliers.

Among British companies established in the arms trade who acted as purchasers for the Confederate Agents were Bond, Freed & Co. and James, Kerr and Scott & Son. Arms acquired by each of these
suppliers can be determined by a capital letter stamped in the corner of the stock in the front of the butt tang.

The Confederate Government also set up a marking system. Each arm had a number from 1 to 10,000 engraved on the butt tang and shank of the ramrod, the hilt on the socket of the bayonet and the bayonet scabbard stud. Upon reaching 10,000 the numbering began again from 1 to 10,000 over the letter "A". To date, on the first 20,000 arms imported by the Confederate Central Government have been so identified. At the same time a Confederate government agent applied his inspection/acceptance mark to the belly of the stock but also occasionally to the comb of the stock.

"JS over Anchor" mark is seen on many of the guns. Georgia State purchases had their own series of numbers and the obverse stock was struck with a large "G". The same was true for South Carolina. Their stocks have a prominent "SC" on the obverse butt.

Louisiana arms were usually marked with a diamond with an inset "L" or had the numbers stamped on the stock behind the trigger guard. By comparison of known arms, it has been determined that rifles and rifle-muskets each had their own series of numbers, and some arms bought by private speculators only have initials on the comb or belly of the stock such as "SH over C" as discussed above.

In conclusion, one can identify at least 20,000 Confederate Central Government guns: numbers 1-10,000 over A, 10,000 G (Georgia) arms, and 10,000 SC (South Carolina) arms. Also readily identifiable are private purchases by the use of "SH over C" (Sinclair-Hamilton), "CH over I" (Caleb Huse Inspected) and IC (Isaac Campbell). The "JS over Anchor" is an inspection mark readily identifiable for Southern import.

At best one can positively identify less than 25% of the 400,000 or so arms imported from England by the Confederate Central Government and individual Southern States.

Whitworth Background

Sir Joseph Whitworth of England created a rifle with a twisted hexagonal bore and then shaped bullets to match this bore. (1) He patented his hexagonal bore in 1854. (2) A Confederate weapon in the Civil War, when outfitted with a telescopic sight this firearm had an effective range of 1,500 yards. The twisted hexagonal bore imparted a steadiness of flight to its .45 caliber bullet, and made this rifle the favorite of Confederate sharpshooters.

The Confederacy imported a small number of the rifles from the Whitworth Rifle Company of Manchester, England, beginning in 1862. (3) A total of 13,400 Whitworth muzzleloading rifles, including 5,400 for the military, were produced from 1857 to 1865. Generally the early Whitworth rifles were marked on the lock "Whitworth Rifle Co. Manchester." After about 1860 the locks were marked "Whitworth." In the spring of 1862 the lock markings were changed to " Manchester Ordnance & Rifle Co." In the latter part of 1863 the lock markings were changed indiscriminately and will be found marked "The Whitworth Company Limited" and "Manchester Ordnance & Rifle Co."

The military rifles were made in groups of 1000. When the next batch of 1000 was begun, numbering started with 1 and a prefix of A, B, C, D, E, or F. By 1864 (the beginning of the demise of the muzzleloader), the lock markings on the high "E" numbers and the rest of the "F" numbers were worded "The Whitworth Company Limited" and "J. Whitworth & Co. Manchester". Often the inside of the lock is marked "Joseph Brazier, Ashes " indicating the name of the lock maker who is still in business. There are examples where Joseph Brazier is simply noted by the initials "J.B."

A very limited but unknown quantity of Whitworth rifles was marked "2nd Quality" on the rearstrap of the triggerguard. These rifles were purchased by the Confederate service during the Civil War.

The balance of the production of the 13,400 pieces were commercially produced by Bissel, Beasley Brothers, McCririck, the British Small Arms Company and others.

Cased rifles that were presented through military or civilian channels for certain events are known. The varnished oak case is unlined and finished in natural color. In 1860, Whitworth rifles sold for about US $96 for the rifle alone, or US $120 with cased accessories. But I have seen prices ranging up to US $ 500.

The Imports

It has not been possible to find any concrete evidence or material on the actual purchase by Confederate agents of Whitworths in England.

I have seen a quote on a first visit made by Confederate agents at the factory in Manchester but no record of purchases. Some sources indicate that the Whitworth Rifle Co. of Manchester went bankrupt after the war and that the records of the company are not preserved.

Based on information in Anderson Morrow (4), 'The Confederate Whitworth Sharpshooters' in the United States (privately printed book -1989), I believe that arms importing companies in New Orleans, LA, Memphis, TN, Charleston, SC, Lynchburg, VA and elsewhere in the South imported the rifles on blockade runners (very often via Mexico) and sold them or even presented them free of charge as gifts to the Confederate army.

One way to continue the research is of course to try to find the records of these companies in the United States in archives of respective cities. But there is of course a great risk that such records are not preserved. They were private and may not be preserved in public archives.

Anybody with information on importers and the way of purchase and import of Whitworth sharpshooter rifles in the Confederate States of America is most welcome to contact me.

The Inventor

Sir Joseph Whitworth was born 1803 in Stockport (the son of a schoolmaster) and as a young boy went to Derbyshire and learnt about textile machinery. At the age of 22 to he went to London working for Maudsley & Co., a leading engineering firm in Britain. In 1833 he returned to Manchester, where he had worked before going to London. He founded a company named after himself producing machine tools but gradually shifted to arms.

Possibly his greatest invention was the Sharpshooter Rifle, which was hexagon-bored but Confederate Sharpshooters seem mainly to have used cylindrical bullets.

Whitworth Rifle Company, 51 Sackville Street, Manchester, was the outlet from 1860-1862. The rifles were almost certainly constructed by J W Edge of Manchester, using Brazier locks and metal components from Preston and Palmer.

Manchester Ordnance & Rifle Co., the follow up, seems to have been in business from 1862-64 at Sackville Street in Manchester.

Confederate purchasers thus certainly visited Sackville Street in Manchester many times during the war.

The Whitworths surpassed modern sniper rifles. The sniper with most "kill-confirmations" seems to be Matthias Hetzenauer, WWII German soldier on the Russian front, with 345 certified "kill-confirmations" (that is with probables or unconfirmed excluded). His longest kill was 1,000 meters. There are numerous verified reports of "kills" at far longer distances by Confederates with Whitworths. But the CSA had no system of "kill-confirmation", so we do not know the actual figures.

I am now looking toward further information on the actual sales and how the rifles were received in the Confederate States of America. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Bertil Häggman
SCV Europe Camp # 1612


(1) Pageant of the Gun, by Harold L. Peterson.

(2) The Gun and its Development, by W.W. Greener.

(3) Information about Whitworth rifles can be found in the Dixie Gun Works Catalog, USA.

(4) Morrow is a Georgia-born great-grand nephew of Confederate Partisan Ranger Col. John S. Mosby. He is a teacher and has served with the 101st Airborne Division and with Special Forces.
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MessageSujet: Re: English Supplied Uniforms in the Army of Northern Virginia   Ven 12 Sep - 20:44

The British Involvement in the American Civil War

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In 1861, the United States of America split into two, the industrial North and the agricultural South. The reasons were complicated enough, but the motivation for the split revolved around the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. One of his policies was the abolition of slavery, which he saw as being against the principles of the Constitution. That same Constitution outlined that each state could act 'in its sovereign and independent character'.

These 'state rights' were interpreted by some as the right to set their own laws and not have them imposed by federal government. To the Southern States, this promised imposition threatening their economy was the last straw. One by one they left or seceded from the Union.

The Rift

There was much talk about Free Trade - the trading of goods without let or hindrance. The Northern States supported home trade and imposed high tariffs on imports from Europe (mainly Britain). This, the South supposed, allowed them to sell goods like tools or machinery at inflated prices, while making imports even more costly. Since these Northern States held the majority in Congress, it was not easy to change these policies.

The South's major exports were cotton and tobacco - crops whose main destination was Britain. Both of these products were grown on vast plantations and cultivated using slave labour. The abolition of slavery, they claimed, would make them slaves to the Northern industrialists. If they were free of federal intervention, they could sell direct to their suppliers and obtain imported goods from them at lower prices.

The Secession started in January 1861, and on 9 February they formed a government under Jefferson Davis and blockaded federal forts within their territory. Despite assurances from Lincoln on his inauguration, on 12 April, the Confederate States began bombarding Fort Sumner and the American Civil War began. It was to last four bloody years.

Britain and North America

Britain had no love for the United States as it had suffered humiliating defeats in the Wars of Independence. In 1812, when the USA tried and failed to take Canada, Britain took revenge in 1814 by invading and burning the Capitol in Washington. The Northern States in particular disliked the idea of being subservient to the British and their imposition of import tariffs hit British exports hard.

Free Trade was seen as being 'British' and many believed (and still do) that British finance and influence in the South was akin to a British colony within the USA. Given the trade links with the Southern cotton and tobacco industries, and the hostility with the North, it was natural that the British should side with the Confederate States. The recognition of the Confederate States as a belligerent power did nothing to improve relations between Britain and the Union.

Britain and the Blockade

On the outbreak of war in 1861, the US Navy was directed to blockade all maritime traffic into and out of Confederate ports. This effectively cut off all legitimate imports. This was particularly galling for the Confederates as they had no major arms or manufacturing industry and had to import most of their military goods from Europe. They were lucky to have a number of agents in England who were able to acquire large amounts of arms and equipment.

Both sides used the Enfield Pattern 1853 rifled musket but the South also bought Armstrong rifled cannon and muskets. The Armstrong rifle was especially valued for its accuracy and it was used as a sniping rifle. Footwear for the South was manufactured in Northampton and amounted to $1 million in the first 18 months alone. The Confederate army also depended on procuring supplies from Europe. As well as arms, they purchased uniforms, leather goods, hospital stores, and numerous other necessities.

The US Navy blockade necessitated a new route for imports. Nassau in the Bahamas was used as a staging post for Confederate supplies along with Bermuda and Havana. The supplies were then loaded onto blockade runners, ships of mainly British registration, and taken to the ports on the Gulf of Mexico. About $200 million worth of goods from British ports got delivered to the Confederacy this way. The blockade was still effective at preventing the export of Confederate goods and, since these were to pay for the goods imported, it caused many financial problems for the South.

So few blockade runners were caught, about 1500 vessels all told – about 18% - that the British argued that it was only a 'paper blockade' and therefore not recognisable by international law. The Confederates expected the British to break the blockade or escort ships through it, but this never happened. Unusually, Britain did not even object to the seizure of British ships running the blockade.

Confederate Commerce Raiders

One aspect that the Union did object to was the building of Confederate ships in British dockyards. These were purely commercial transactions with civilian shipbuilders to build unarmed vessels. These were built, engined and fitted out for seaworthiness before they were dispatched to a rendezvous with supply ships and fitted out as fighting ships. The crews were generally European, mainly British, but with the guns came Confederate officers. Thus manned, equipped and led, these ships wreaked havoc with Union shipping, forcing an increase in insurance for merchant ships.

Although not in the same league as the Royal Navy or US Navy ships, they made names for themselves. The CSS Alabama (built Liverpool 1862) went to the Indies and took 40 US merchantmen1. After putting into Cherbourg for refit in June 1864, she sailed out to attack the USS Kearsarge and was sunk. The CSS Shenandoah (built Glasgow 1864) went to the North Pacific and attacked the US whaling fleet. On hearing the news of the Confederate defeat, she sailed to Britain and surrendered to the Royal Navy in Liverpool on November 1865, six months after the war ended.

Charles F Adams

One of the reasons why Britain and France did not recognise the Confederate States was the efforts of Charles F Adams, the US Minister to England from 1861 to 1868. His first diplomatic emergency was the Trent Affair in which two Confederate diplomatic agents on the British merchantman Trent were seized by the USS San Jacinto in international waters. This threatened a British intervention on the Confederate side which may have tipped the balance of any military action in their favour. After much diplomatic wrangling, the two were released into British custody and an official apology given.

Adams spent much of his time looking for ways in which the British violated their neutrality. He was not best pleased with the British involvement in the building of commerce raiders, particularly the CSS Alabama. He realised that much of Britain's grain imports came from North America and used this and other threats, as well as appeals to the British people, to keep Britain out of the war. He did this in a very low key way, avoiding much publicity and consequently, his actions were little known in the USA.

Despite this, he made a real and effective contribution to the Union's war effort. Due to his interventions, he kept Great Britain and France out of the war as they may have gone to the aid of the South. As it was, the Confederacy was never recognised and support dwindled to nothing as the war progressed. James Russell Lowell said of him:

None of our generals, nor Grant himself, did us better or more trying service than he in his forlorn outpost of London.
Those that Fought

The British never entered the war as a nation, but many individuals served in both armies, most of them in the Confederate Army. There were never many of them but they were noted for their previous military service and often became leaders. One member of a Union unit wrote home:

The Corporal of our detachment is an Englishman and celebrates today as the anniversary of 'Inkerman'2 and wears his medals on his jacket, including the Victoria Cross with silver bars3, possibly the greatest honour an Englishman can earn. He was Sergeant Major in the Rifle Brigade and I can assure you he is by far the best soldier in our company. I find it worthy of mention that there are about 20 Englishmen in our Company (about a fifth) and although we are small in proportion, every Sergeant is English excepting the Quartermaster Sergeant who is Scots.
British nationals in the Union Army won 67 Congressional Medals of Honor4 during the Civil War. Many who fought for the Confederacy were undocumented, but a number of senior officers were British. As ever in fields of battle, there was a generous representation from Ireland, including General Patrick Cleburne of the Confederate Army, born in Cork, commanding a division in the Army of Tennessee. He too had served in the British Army, the 41st Regiment of Foot, in which he reached the rank of Corporal.

Healing the Wounds

At the end of the war, Britain retained the diplomatic position it held during the war. Some complicity in the Confederate cause was identified and at the Tribunal of Arbitration held in Geneva in 1872, Charles F Adams served as an arbitrator to settle any financial claims of damage against Britain. Damages of $15.5 million were awarded to the USA in respect of the damage caused by the commerce raiders to the US merchant fleet and their cargoes. Thus ended the involvement of Britain in the American Civil War

Related Links

Blockade Runners
The American Question Abroad
The Confederation and England
The Lincoln Presidency: Foreign Affairs
Charles F Adams
Related BBC Links

Check out BBCi to see just how the Anglo-American Relationship has improved over the years.

1 A merchantman is a ship that carries merchandise.
2 A battle of the Crimean War 1855, noted for its ferocity. It is also noteworthy as an purely infantry battle.
3 This is probably the Crimea Medal with bars denoting areas of service, which may have been worn with the Victoria Cross which had no bars at that time.
4 The highest award for bravery in action in the US Forces.
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