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Rogers Historical Museum  


Donation of the Month

Confederate Officer’s Artillery Frock Coat?
1975.18.9
Donor: Betty Swearingen

Things aren’t always as they seem

The Civil War pitted the Northern states against the Southern states in a war that tore the country and families apart. Today wounds have healed, but many remain committed to keeping the memory of this tragic period alive. It was an uneven battle with most of the foundries and factories residing in the North; causing the Confederacy to struggle to provide arms and uniforms for its soldiers. However, what the Confederacy didn’t lack were people willing to fight for their homes and livelihood.

After the South seceded from the union, and the battles began, the Confederate government struggled to maintain a uniformed army amidst the lack of resources and independent nature of the militias. Since the end of the Revolutionary War the United States had not maintained a standing army, but relied on state militias. Each militia had their own colors; and uniforms were often provided by the state. This wide range in styles and colors did not bring a sense of uniformity to the battlefield. By contrast, the Northern army was provided a standard Federal blue uniform. In order to maintain some semblance of order, the Confederate government issued General Order No. 4, which spelled out uniform guidelines. It stated that uniforms were to be cadet gray double-breasted tunics extending to half way between the knee and hip, more commonly called a frock coat. A standing collar and twin rows of brass buttons along with a French style hat called a kepi completed the uniform. To distinguish rank different color braiding, and sashes were used; and to distinguish service branch different colors on the collar and hat, as well as lettered buttons were used. For example, artillery unit’s sported red on their collars, sleeves and hat; as well as, brass buttons with the letter “A”.

Many soldiers found this uniform difficult and dangerous to fight in; and they quickly abandoned it for the shorter shell jacket or civilian clothing. To make matters worse the Confederate government was never able to provide enough uniforms for the growing army, and soldiers were asked to provide their own. This caused the uniformity the government was striving for to break down. Not to mention, as uniforms wore out soldiers simply replaced them with civilian clothing or looted uniforms from deceased soldiers. Therefore, many soldiers went to battle sporting Federal blue or the homemade butternut uniform.

This uniform pictured on the right was reportably worn by the donor’s uncle, and is the standard drab gray frock coat style. Frock coats were worn by many men during the Civil War; and while easy to come by they were stiff and uncomfortable to fight in. The red accents designate the artillery branch of the army. Artillery, while important in today’s wars was overlooked during the early part of the Civil War. Because of this artillery officers were the last to shed their frock coats for the shorter shell jacket. This coat also shows some independence with the stripes on the sleeves, not standard issue; and some resourcefulness, as the buttons on the coat are Union issued brass buttons for the infantry unit.

Even before the war ended memoralists began reenactments at battle sites across the nation; and replicas of uniforms and arms began being made to outfit the reenactors. This fact makes it very difficult to authenticate Civil War materials. Many items, such as the coat, have family stories to back up their claim; however true or not, without documentation the claim will always be clouded by doubt. Without any documentation authenticity comes down to what the object can tell you. Many of the markers on this jacket date the coat to the period of the war; but, the stripes on the sleeves, the Union buttons, and the lack of soiling on the interior point toward coat being worn for a very short time. Could it be a replica for reenactments, or is it the real thing only worn for a short period? Further research and study of the coat many turn up a definitive answer to the question, but until then it is just a beautiful example of the type of uniform worn by a Confederate artillery officer.

Despite the Confederate governments struggle to outfit its army, the men continued to fight on. Most didn’t care about the political ramifications or even understand the reason for the fighting beyond a wish to keep the status quo. As the war came to a close, many began to commemorate the various battles with reenactments complete with men dressed in replicated uniforms. This fascination has kept the memory of this tragic period of American history alive, but it has also caused problems authenticating what was actually worn during the fighting.


 

More Donations of the Month

Arts & Crafts
Charles Summey Painting
Elsie Sterling Drawings & Photo
Erwin A. Doege pastel
M.E. Oliver’s Strange Scenes in the Ozarks
Roy Harris Carved Wagon
Rogersopoly
Seed Art

War Eagle Store

Household Goods
Andersons Grade A Egg Scale
Applegate Apothecary Bottle
Benton County Wine Bottles
Candles
Circa 1923 Eureka Vacuum Cleaner
First M.E. Church, North souvenir plate, circa 1910
Gasoline powered iron
Grape Press
John Edwards china
Open Salts
Red Wing Crock, 1910s
Rogers Fairgrounds Souvenir
Cut Glass Dresser Box
Marshmallow Toaster
Fairy Lamps
Bubble Up Soda Bottles
Farmers Produce Co. Feed Sack
Butter Molds
Hand Painted China
Flow Blue China
Ritz Christmas Lites
Soap
Stove Top Steamer
Sunbeam Dairy Milk Bottle & Photo

Paper Ephemera, Books, & Photos
Advertising Folding Table
Blueprints
Camp Joyzelle Booklet
Callison-Lough Funeral Home Sketch
1943 Benton County Nursery Company Catalog
Apple Blossom Festival Postcard Booklet, April 1927
B.P.O.E. photo, 1960
Christmas Carols Songbook
Civil War Clothing Ledger
“Coin” Harvey family letters
Edsel Ford Poetry Books
Frisco Railroad Pass
Gold mine photos
Lime Works Stock Certificate
Louise Thaden Note
Menu from the Orchard Room
Cumberland Presbyterian Ladies Cook Book
Rogers Public School catalog, 1892-3
Elizabeth Miller Autograph Books
Discharge Papers
New Year Postcard
Political Campaign Buttons
Women's Study Club Program
Howard Fowler Photographs
Railroad Automatic Car Identification
1933 World's Fair Objects
Tobacco Tax Receipts
Valentines cards
Vandover & Sons Livery Stable Photograph
Printing Blocks
World War II Photos

Toys
Billiken Doll
Russ Troll Doll
Schoenhut Circus Toys
Steiff Teddy Bear
Horse Drawn Wagon
Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring
J.D. Kestner Doll
Winter Sled

Textiles, Clothing, & Clothing Accessories
Confederate Officer’s Artillery Frock Coat?
Apple Blossom Festival Crown
Bicorn Hat
Blackburn Preaching Shirt
Christmas Stocking
Friendship Quilt
Garrett family coverlet, 1860s
Hatpins
Help One Another Club Quilt
Loom
Mary Van Winkle Steele’s Traveling Dress
McClain Family Crazy Quilt
Norman Tailor System dress pattern
Pillbox Hat
Hannah Lumm Dress
Whig Rose Quilt
Celluloid Items
Hair Work Jewelry
Evening Gown
Mesh Hand Bags
Teddy
World War I Uniform
1906 Wedding Gown
Majorette Uniform & Spirit Ribbons

Furniture

1860s Green & Sager Bedstead
Henry Tribble’s Speaker Cabinet
Tom Morgan’s Desk & Chair
W.H. Jewett Piano
Adding Machine Stand
Apple Cider Press
Colonial Revival Dining Room Chair
B.F. Gleason Cooling Table
Grundig Majestic radio

Kroger Shelves

Other
Barbed Wire Samples
Betty Blake’s Composition Stick
Carry A. Nation Hatchet Brooch
Cash Register
Fiddle
Harris Baking Co. Souvenir
“Coin” Harvey Death Mask
KAMO Shovel
Erwin Funk’s Newspaper Convention Badges
Diamond Jubilee Badges
Tracy Lockhart’s Peddler Basket
Van Winkle Lumber
Surveyor's Compass
Remington Revolver
John Deere Corn Sheller
Rogers High School Dedication Stone
Permanent Wave Machine
City of Rogers License Plate
Chaplain's Field Kit
WWI Army helmet & print

Civil War Re-enactor Items
ViewMaster
Lever Action Winchester Model 1892
Silica mining bucket
 

 


 


 

 


 

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