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"Union infantry in shirtsleeves Epic Scale variants" Topic

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Baranovich11 Aug 2021 6:59 p.m. PST

While going through all of my sprues, I decided to do some variants to break up the monotony of endless blue and gray and butternut uniforms.

One idea I had was to do a couple battalions of Union troops in just their shirtsleeves. I figured these would look good and could be used as either Eastern or Western Federals in a summer campaign.

This is something that there is plenty of documentation of, as I know many of you are well aware of from your own readings and research. Official army supply records show that millions of issue flannel shirts were produced for Union soldiers along with matching drawers, most of which were either natural colored flannel or gray flannel. Other smaller production runs of shirts were done in red and blue.

Better reenactment reproduction makers like Nick Sekela and others make repro. flannel issue shirts in natural, gray and tan flannel.

I believe in 'Hardtack and Coffee' John Billings describes the infantry and artillery as being issued "mud colored shirts and drawers." Francis Lord references flannel shirts of natural and gray being issued in quantity of "three flannel shirts a year". The Company of Military Historians' have an excellent article on the "Union army standard size and make shirt" which has a photograph of a model wearing a set of these flannel shirts and drawers.




In one of my reference books a Union officer remarked in his diary that he saw a federal regiment nearby drilling in their shirtsleeves because of the hot weather. He mentions that, apart from the fact that the regiment was carrying Union flags, it looked very much from a distance like a rebel regiment because of their gray shirts.

So based on all this I settled on doing my shirts as a tannish off-white to represent the natural colored flannel shirts with some sweat and wear and tear ground in.

I think it's a pretty cool look and breaks up the mass of usual Union blue on the tabletop. The other thing is that Epic Scale works to your advantage because you can get away with painting the coats as if they were shirts, they're so small.

Here's the results:

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2021 7:34 p.m. PST

Neat idea!

Baranovich11 Aug 2021 7:48 p.m. PST


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2021 5:55 a.m. PST

It was and is common to strip off our blouse for fatigue detail, but I doubt that they would go into battle without their uniform on. Make a nearby friendly unit roll to see if they confuse these guys for Confederates.

Baranovich12 Aug 2021 7:51 a.m. PST

@79th Pa,

Yeah, I wondering about that aspect of it. The only references I could find where Union troops were in shirtsleeves were as mentioned previously during drill and for example the grand review parade at the end of the war where some of the Western armies marched the parade in their shirts so they could stand out from the Eastern army.

But as you say it is very unlikely they would have gone into combat that way.

I wonder if they ever did it or were allowed to do it on a long march?

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2021 1:30 p.m. PST


Note the supporting regiment the 9th MA stripped to their shirtsleeves due to the heat during the Battle of Gaines Mill

Don Troiani Brothers of Ireland

Baranovich12 Aug 2021 10:26 p.m. PST


Ahhhh fantastic! I had meant to do some Troiani digging and see if I could find any examples!

I've seen the full size print version of this painting in Gettysburg as well as a number of times in smaller samples.

Thanks so much for posting this. Troiani would not have painted a regiment in their shirtsleeves while engaged in battle if there was not some good documentation and source material for it. I have no doubt he made that choice for the painting due to a combination of first-hand accounts of soldiers from the unit during the battle in the form of letters and diaries.

Wonderful! Thanks again, it validates my conversions!

Totenkopf Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2021 2:02 a.m. PST

Do as you like they are your toys after all. However, I would recommend only painting the gray/off-white as far as the top of the belt. Shirts were typically worn tucked into the pants (with the exception of overshirts in some early war uniforms). As it is, your troops look more like they are wearing gray or off-white coats rather than shirts.

Baranovich13 Aug 2021 5:52 p.m. PST


Indeed, as a reenactor of many years and Civil War student I was aware that shirts were tucked into the trousers.

Honestly I didn't even think of that when I was painting them, completely slipped my mind!

I think I will take your suggestion and paint the trousers up higher so it looks like tucked-in shirts.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 7:03 p.m. PST

One thing to keep in mind: as there was no baggage train to carry the belongings of the private soldier, they would still have to carry their coats if they took them off or they would lose them. Also, if they were on the march and it started getting too hot, there's no easy way to take the coat off because all the straps for the gear are on top of the coat. The soldier would have to halt, take off all his gear, and then take off his coat. Obviously this could be done when the regiment halted for a break, but not on the spur of the moment while on the move.

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP23 Aug 2021 8:33 a.m. PST

If you want a one-off, the 69th NY were in their shirtsleeves at First Bull Run. Most of their shirts were red.

This factoid was appreciated by the enlisted men at the 150th reenactment where it was about 100 degrees (38 c). Alas, as an officer I was expected to wear a frock coat.

Baranovich23 Aug 2021 10:48 a.m. PST


Indeed. I was thinking about different scenarios where it would have been possible to do.

You are quite right about it being impractical if not impossible while on the march. As a reenactor of 25+ years I saw firsthand how difficult it would be to not only strip off all my gear and then put it back on again, but as you also point out where do you carry your coat or jacket? The only thing I can think of is that they would be piled in the rear of the regiment with the intention of coming back for them later.

Knapsacks were frequently dropped in this manner, where a regiment would pile them and plan to come back to pick them up later on. Of course, that plan would be totally useless is the enemy happened to overrun the area where they had left them!

I was thinking more along the lines of it happening before a regiment broke camp in the morning. Or perhaps in the Western theatre where there are some references to Western federal troops going into battle in shirtsleeves.

I would agree that it would have to be a decision made beforehand, whether it be a battle or a march.

If memory serves, the Troinani painting depicting the 9th Mass. in shirstsleeves at Gaines Mill is based on letters and records that refer to it being done prior to battle.

As you quite correctly pointed out, there were no baggage wagons committed to carrying any of the soldiers' actual uniform items or gear, so if a soldier dropped his coat, or any piece of gear individually, it would be lost.

And of course there was the practical reality of the government charging you against your personal issue account for any uniform items lost. I remember reading that this became very problematic for federal soldiers who had dropped gear on the march to lighten their loads, or had in some way or another lost a cap, hat, or canteen in any number of numerous ways, and were charged for them. I remember reading that even soldiers who had lost hats or caps in the course of a panicked retreat, where like a tree branch might have knocked their headgear off. Apparently there were few if any exemptions where you could avoid being charged.

I do remember a long while ago seeing a company of reenactors who had slung their fatigue blouses over their waist belts and pushed them around to the rear, so that the blouse was draped over the belt.

I also recall seeing reenactors who had rolled their blouses and frock coats into rough cylinder shapes and had strapped them to the tops of their knapsacks.

Those are both possible ways that Civil War soldiers might have done it as well, but of course it's all pure speculation.

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