A Missouri Family in the Civil War.
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Joining Up
A Small Biography of
J.R. Bing
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Uniforms and Equipment

Soldiers with knapsack, canteen, haversack and cartridge box.

During the Civil War, Union soldiers were issued all their uniforms, guns, ammunition and equipment. Along with their guns, soldiers also carried knapsacks, haversacks and canteens. The knapsacks were made of black painted or rubberized canvas with leather straps. Infantry men were supposed to carry a double wool blanket, shelter tent, gum blanket, toilet articles, an extra pair of shoes and spare clothing in or strapped to the knapsack.
Soldier with gun, blanket roll, and tin cup.

Many soldiers hated their knapsacks because they were heavy, unbalanced and the straps rubbed their shoulders raw. Frequently, soldiers threw out their knapsacks and carried their essentials rolled in a blanket that they tied and wore over a shoulder. Rations and a mess kit were carried in the haversack. Made of black painted cotton cloth, it had an inner unpainted bag that could be removed for washing. A large tin cup was often tied to the outside of the bag. The canteen was made of tin with a pewter spout. It had a blue woolen cover and straps.

Uniforms

Drawing by Walton Taber.
Civil War infantrymen wore a variety of uniforms and hats. Drawing of Union soldiers at Corinth Mississippi by Walton Taber.
To see photos of actual artifacts visit Gettysburg National Park's on-line exhibit Camp Life.

The soldiers were issued a complete uniform from underwear to overcoat. Officially this consisted of a frock coat, sack coat, trousers, hat, forage hat, cravat or stock, boots, overcoat, flannel shirt, drawers and stockings. In practice there was a certain amount of variety in the dress of the soldiers, particularly among the independent minded Western soldiers. Frock coat

Frock Coat: A single-breasted, skirted coat, of dark blue cloth. It was mid-thigh length, had nine buttons and a stand-up collar. Infantry soldiers, like Bing, would have their coat collar and cuff edged with sky-blue welting. The frock coat was for formal occasions, parades and reviews. As a corporal, Bing's coat would have had two light blue chevrons sewn on the sleeve. Frock coat

Sack Coat: A fatigue or work coat named for its sack like shape. Made from dark blue flannel it was unlined, and had a falling collar, inside pocket and four buttons.

Trousers: Their trousers were dark blue cloth, a corporal's pants would have a half inch wide stripe of light blue along the side leg seams.
Portraits of a group of unidentified Federal soldiers.Credit

Portraits of unidentified Federal soldiers wearing a variety of uniforms, from the Library of Congress Photo Collection. Click on image to see full size view.

Slouch Hat: A black felt dress hat. Regulations directed one side be pulled up, but this was often ignored. Soldiers disliked the regulation slouch hat and often bought their own hats from private manufacturers. In fact, photographs of groups of Union soldiers show many hat styles, worn at all different angles. Frock coat

Kepi hat: A hat used for work and forage. It was made of felt and had a leather brim and chin strap.

Boots: Low-cut Jefferson boots, made in left and right pairs, they only lasted about 30 days for an infantryman on the march.

Overcoat: A long single-breasted coat made from sky-blue cloth, with a stand-up collar, elbow length cape and buttons down the front.

Flannel shirt: Three flannel shirts of coarse wool were issued a year. The soldiers thought they were uncomfortable and wore handmade shirts from home if they could.

Drawing by Walton Taber.
U.S. Springfield Rifled Musket Model 1863,
Caliber .58.

Guns and Ammunition

The exact gun the 29th Missouri volunteers were issued is not known. The 29th may have been issued the U.S. Model 1861 Springfield Rifle Musket. The Model 1861 was the most popular weapon for the infantry, and more the 700,000 were manufactured. They were simple in construction and very reliable in the field. The bullet was a .58-caliber minié ball which had to be pushed in from the muzzle of the gun. Drawing by Walton Taber.

This gun had two features that made it a formidable weapon: rifling and the minié ball. Rifling is spiral grooves etched inside the barrel of the gun. The groves make the bullet spin after it is fired, making it less wobbly and giving it more accuracy and greater range. Minié balls, named for their inventor Claude Minié, were soft lead bullets slightly smaller than the inside of the barrel. This allowed quick loading since the bullet slid easily into place when pushed with a ramrod. When the powder exploded the bullet flattened out a little, expanding into the grooves of the rifling. Because of its softness and large size (slightly more than one-half inch in diameter) the minié ball did enormous damage to the humans it hit. It made large wounds, pulling in fabric from clothing into the wound and shattering bones. If a soldier survied the impact and did not bleed to death, the wound would almost always become infected. At that time the only effective treatment was amputation of the limb.

The ammunition was packed in paper cartridges, which were paper tubes that contained a bullet and gunpowder. To load the gun the soldier bit off one end of the tube and poured the powder down the barrel, dropped the ball in after it, and rammed it in place with the ramrod. Then he placed a copper percussion cap under the hammer of the rifle and the gun was ready to fire. Cartridges were carried in a leather box that hung on a shoulder strap. The cartridge box had tin compartments that held forty rounds of ammunition. A smaller case for percussion caps and a bayonet in a scabbard were also worn on the belt.

XV Corps badge.

Corps Badge

As the war went on troops started wearing cloth symbols on their hats to indicate their corps. Men of the XV Corps (which included the 29th) met up with some of General Hookers troops proudly wearing their badges on their hats. When they asked the western soldiers where their badges were, one was supposed to have answered "My badge, do ye say? There it is!" and clapping his hand on his cartridge-box he said: "Forty Rounds" General Logan heard the story and created the symbol showing a cartridge box labelded ‘forty rounds' on a colored square set on its point.

Other Equipment

The regiment carried with it several wagon loads of supplies to make it self-sufficient. This equipment might include: two kegs horseshoes, 22 lbs. nails, 6 water buckets, 4 wagon sheets, 2 rasps, 1 1/2 reams letter paper, 24 penholders, 1/2 lb. sealing wax, 100 lbs. salt, great coat straps, spades, axes and helves, lamp kettle, shovels, drum and case, drum sticks, wall tent and fly, wall tent poles and pins, common tents, common tent poles and pins. Notice that no washing or laundry equipment is included in the list.