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"Union Officers Greatcoats were a Dumb idea !" Topic

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566 hits since 9 Nov 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Trajanus09 Nov 2017 7:40 a.m. PST

Sometimes history just makes you stop and think even after years of knowing a fact.

While painting up my Union Infantry in Greatcoats I put the officer on one side intending to paint his basic outfit when I come to do the rank and file's head gear.

Then while slapping on this mass of Sky Blue it occurred to me what a really stupid idea it must have been to be wandering around clothed from head to foot in Dark Blue in the middle of your men.

OK different era, different values, different weapons and different ranges and officers need to be seen by the men etc. but look at it from the Confederate firing line and tell me what your aiming point is going to be? (assuming you are aiming, of course)

I'm now puzzling over other armies where the regimental officers must have stood out so much in the close order drill era. Its proving a struggle.

andysyk09 Nov 2017 7:40 a.m. PST


andysyk09 Nov 2017 7:40 a.m. PST


ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 8:08 a.m. PST

Ah, but the officers' greatcoats are among the most stylish bit of military wear ever created! The added danger was well worth it! :) I've pretty much retired from reenacting, but I will still wear mine in cold weather.

I might add that when the regiment was in a firing line, the officers should all be behind the line with the file closers. OTOH, when the regiment was advancing, all those dark-coated officers would be right out in front. Maybe not such a good idea at that.

Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 8:25 a.m. PST

I wouldn't worry about it. They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--

Trajanus09 Nov 2017 8:28 a.m. PST


OTOH, when the regiment was advancing, all those dark-coated officers would be right out in front. Maybe not such a good idea at that.

Yeah that's the bit I'd worry about! ;o)

Trajanus09 Nov 2017 8:54 a.m. PST

Here's the obvious example!

YouTube link

Thought I'd post it before anyone else did!

Don't have anything against the Irish just think the camera work is better in this part.

Must have a look at the Officer casualties at Fredericksburg at some point.

donlowry09 Nov 2017 9:06 a.m. PST

Some officers bought enlisted-type greatcoats from the quartermaster. Grant wore a cavalryman's greatcoat.

Bill N09 Nov 2017 9:11 a.m. PST

How close do they have to be before you can clearly make out who is an officer and who isn't under battlefield conditions?

donlowry09 Nov 2017 9:13 a.m. PST

And how close do they have to be before you target an individual instead of the whole regiment? (or the colors)

BTW, weren't captains supposed to be in the front rank? (Lieutenants and sergeants were the file-closers.)

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 10:42 a.m. PST

Well, there was a long tradition – going back to Ancient Days – of officers being clearly distinctive from the rank and file, I suspect largely so the rank and file would know who was running the show

It was, for example, pretty easy to spot who the officer was in a Seven Years War Prussian grenadier or fusilier battalion


Early morning writer09 Nov 2017 9:40 p.m. PST

I recollect that an officer led from the front – at the start of the charge. And then carefully worked his way to the back by the time contact was made. Or so I read somewhere some when.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Nov 2017 3:57 a.m. PST

Trajanus, Yeah, I'm one of those dark-coated officers out in front of the charge :)

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP14 Nov 2017 8:32 a.m. PST

I used to be one of those officers out front, as well. But after eight years of officering the unit wisely returned me to the ranks.

For conduct unbecoming of an officer but perfectly understandable for an Irishman.

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