The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Re: Correction: 34th @ Prairie Grove

This isn't the older post you were seeking, but thought I would respond. Unfortunately, there are no accounts that I'm aware of, that describe the overall appearance of the regiment concerning their specific uniforms/clothing and equipment. And photographic evidence is very limited. It's interesting to read accounts provided by Union observers after the battle. While these are descriptions of the Confederate army in general, there is a consistency among them that helps to form an idea of their appearance. Also, the descriptions given below are from soldiers/observers from Herron's troops who engaged Shoup's Division which included Fagan's Brigade of which the 34th Arkansas was a part. It is likely that their primary descriptions are from the part of the field where they fought- which is where the 34th Arkansas was located. Here are some of the accounts:

Letter from Colonel William W. Orme of the 94th Ill. Inf. to his wife on Dec. 9th:

"I rode all over the ground and viewed the result of the fight-- Oh but it was a hard sight-- Rebels and union men laid together promiscuously-- The rebels were all dressed in butternut colored clothes-- Many of them had only ears of corn in their haversacks."

Diary of Benjamin McIntyre of the 19th Iowa Inf. on Dec. 8th:

"The rebels seem to have been in possession of good arms and ammunition and plenty of it. They had good substantial clothes of the homemade factory butternut cotton & wool style-- they seemed to have plenty of provisions, for each haversack contained several days rations of corn bread, beef and salt. All had on nice woolen socks of country make--a luxury much needed by us."

The correspondent for the Missouri Democrat gave this description in his article:

"The Rebel expedition was carefully fitted out with comfortable clothing, an abundant supply of food, and the best of arms and ammunition. The muskets were a perfect copy of the Enfield gun, and stamped "C.S.A., Richmond, Va.," though they undoubtedly were made in England. A large number of them were captured and all showed the most perfect finish and workmanship. The packages of cartridges were stamped "J.D. Lowe, Birmingham."

Captain Edwin B. Messer, Co. F, 37th Illinois in a letter to the Waukegan Weekly Gazette on Dec. 10th:

"Their army is well armed and equipped, many of them with the best Enfield Rifles and entirely new equipments of the latest style, and furnished with the best cartridges bearing the stamp of the English manufacturer which shows that they have been lately filled out from the cargo of some blackade runner probably with the intention of invading Mo. They are also well and warmly clothed, the only thing they appeared to lack was good rations."

What I find very interesting about the above descriptions is that all of them use the words "clothes", "clothed," and "clothing", but none use the word "uniforms." This indicates the possibility that most Confederates were not wearing military style coats and jackets. While the field officers almost certainly had military style coats, they probably became more scarce among the line officers and enlisted men. There is a consistency describing the Confederate troops as having good, warm clothing that is butternut in color along with good arms and equipment. They do not describe a rag tag army that is completely mismatched in clothing with sub-standard weapons and equipment. The same reporter for the Missouri Democrat said earlier in his article about the Confederate troops:

"This splendid army, contrary to our expectations, was well clothed, well armed, and well fed, and better drilled than our own soldiery."

The only error that I noticed in a couple of the descriptions is that the Confederate army was well supplied with food. Colonel Orme and Captain Messer are accurate in describing the Confederates as being deficient in food. Perhaps McIntyre and the Missouri Democrat corespondent came across a few well supplied haversacks- but those would have been rare exceptions in Hindman's army. One can only speculate how those haversacks ended up with abundant food.

Specifically concerning the 34th Arkansas Infantry, there is one piece of military clothing that is known for a fact to have existed at the time of the battle and that is a butternut colored kepi with a black bill worn by Captain F.R. Earle of Company B. It has a bullet hole through the back that took off some of Captain Earle's hair and skin, but otherwise left him uninjured. It is preserved at The University Museum, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. It is also well documented that the 34th Arkansas received Enfield rifles. This would appear to be confirmed by the Union reports previously quoted. As I mentioned earlier, I haven't seen any descriptions made by soldiers of the 34th providing details of the coats and jackets they were wearing. Most coats were probably frock coats, but did they have a distinct military look with military style buttons or were they mostly homespun with standard buttons? It may have been a mixture of both, but there is no way to know without more evidence.

Using various sources pertaining to the 34th Arkansas Infantry and Fagan's Brigade, the following would be my interpretation of a well supplied soldier in the regiment:

His pants, shirt, belt/suspenders, socks and shoes would have been what he brought from home. His frock coat or jacket would most likely have been butternut in color and probably from a civilian source. A smaller percentage possibly obtained military style frock coats and jackets with military buttons. A number of soldiers would have been issued a butternut kepi (similar to Capt. Earle)- others wore hats. He would be carrying an Enfield rifle with a sling attached. He would have had a cartridge box, cap box, and bayonet belted around his waist. In addition he would have had a haversack and canteen slung over his shoulder. A few soldiers in the regiment carried knapsacks on their back, but they appear to be a minority. Most were traveling lightly and would have had a blanket rolled up and carried over the shoulder. Some soldiers personally carried a revolver or pistol that had been brought from home.

Like I said, this is my own interpretation which I'm sure is imperfect. It is based upon the sources I've seen pertaining to the 34th Arkansas, Fagan's Brigade, and observations made by Union soldiers that participated in the battle.

Allan

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34th AR Infantry Uniforms & Equipment
Correction: 34th @ Prairie Grove
Re: Correction: 34th @ Prairie Grove
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Re: 34th AR Infantry Uniforms & Equipment
Re: 34th AR Infantry Uniforms & Equipment
Re: 34th AR Infantry Uniforms & Equipment