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"Union Officers Greatcoats were a Dumb idea !" Topic

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941 hits since 9 Nov 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Trajanus09 Nov 2017 8:40 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.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 9:08 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 Inactive Member09 Nov 2017 9:25 a.m. PST

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

Trajanus09 Nov 2017 9:28 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 9:54 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 10:06 a.m. PST

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

Bill N09 Nov 2017 10:11 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 10:13 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 11:42 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 10:40 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 4:57 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 9:32 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.

AICUSV22 Nov 2017 3:50 p.m. PST

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

So was I, as I remember the temperature was almost 80F (26C). Under the Overcoat I was in my shirt sleeves.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Nov 2017 6:12 p.m. PST

I don't remember it being that warm, but it was very humid and when you got moving did seem very oppressive. And it took us all day to film about 30 seconds of what made it onto the screen :)

OTOH, I did have one of the more flattering moments of my reenacting career. I knew the head reenactor wrangler (Dana Heim) pretty well and when I asked him what rank I ought to come to the filming in he said, "Oh wear your colonel's uniform, we'll find a use for you." So I showed up as a colonel and believe me, I wasn't the only one. A lot of the hobby's top commanders were there and when we met with the director to plan out the day's action, I stood at the rear of the group not planning on saying anything. But then someone suggested that they film the 20th Maine deploying from a column of march into its line of battle before doing the charge. The director said: "Okay, how do we do that?" To my amazement, everyone turned around and pointed at me and said: "Ask him!" :) I do have a reputation as an expert in the drill, but I wasn't expecting that! Anyway, I explained how we should do it and we did, in fact do it and film it. Sadly none of that made it into the move. But it was still pretty neat! :)

Trajanus23 Nov 2017 4:03 a.m. PST

That's shame it would have been a nice addition and reference back to the earlier conversation on Drill between Chamberlain and Ames, regarding the importance of being able to move easily between column and line but that's the movie business!

One of my longstanding gaming pals has worked in the industry for thirty years an is a mine of stories regarding days of effort that are a blink on screen, or don't even make it that far!

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