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"Logistics of how stuff got made? Questions..." Topic

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Baranovich18 Apr 2022 4:07 p.m. PST

So this is something I've been recently pondering.

As a 30+ year veteran of Civil War reenacting and student of Civil War history, I have a good understanding of the logistics of how things got made for the Civil War in terms of mass production, the sizes of the armies involved, and the sizes of the economies that fought the war.

The bulk of the uniforms produced for the Civil War were fairly simple and utilitarian in design as far as the issue coats, trousers, caps, etc. There were many variations in issue clothing and gear to be sure, but as far as detail and complexity it was based on very simple patterns and designs.

The same forage caps for example could be issued to the infantry, artillery, or cavalry. Union fatigue blouses were about as simple as a garment as you could possibly imagine, and cranked out in the millions. Shirts and drawers were even more mundane.

Both the north and south were able to get a robust production system going to produce the clothing and gear it needed, although of course the Union was far ahead in infrastructure and facilities and far out-produced the Confederacy. But even the North couldn't keep up with everything, having to resort to importing purchased foreign blankets, muskets, etc.

By contrast, the Napoleonic Wars seem to have an absurdly insane variety of jackets, shakos, trousers, hats, etc. The infantry is bad enough, but the cavalry is even more so.

Given the fact that it took place in the early 1800s, prior to the true mass production of later wars, how on earth did the various nations manage to produce such a bewildering variety of clothing and gear during tha time and come close to adhering to any regulations of the day? Was it pieced out to the civilian population to make? How could the factories/facilities of that time in Europe possibly keep up with clothing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in uniforms with so much expense in them?

I'm thinking mostly of France in this regard. Things so specialized as to have different colors pompoms for different infantry companies, lace, trim, facings, and that's to say nothing of officers' uniforms, which were even more elaborate.

I'm thinking that there had to be massive streamlining and shortcuts going on, and they had to have taken extreme economical cut backs in terms of all the finery and colors and details.

I haven't read much about the subject but I do intend to because I find it fascinating that armies so huge at that time could possibly be so elaborately clothed and equipped. Doesn't seem possible to me.

14Bore18 Apr 2022 5:05 p.m. PST

Easiest I have read is Prussian Landwehr wearing their Sunday coat, and when possible putting men in companies with like kind. Russia issued descriptions of items and many factories did what the description says.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2022 5:06 p.m. PST

That is an excellent question – although as to the largest number of troops the French for example had essentially the same uniform for all their line and light infantry regiments; interestingly the Russians ha a tailor in each company who would get a stock of cloth and would make uniforms for their companies – which given Russian logistics could mean a regiment where there were different coloured green jackets in each company

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2022 5:13 p.m. PST

Company, battalion and regimental tailors and assistants made the uniforms out of cloth. Uniforms would not be purchased – they would be hand sewn from purchased cloth. There were also cobblers. Some miscellaneous items were contracted out by the governments. There is probably some variation by country, but officer's Uniforms were likely to be privately purchased items made to a higher standard.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2022 6:00 p.m. PST

The question is possibly back to front. In the ACW items were standardised because they had industrial mass production. In the Napoleonic era everything was hand made. It doesn't take longer to make two different uniforms by hand than it does to paint them.

d88mm194018 Apr 2022 6:09 p.m. PST

Indeed, I believe the French shared your concern over uniforms. Witness the 1812 Uniform Regulations: shortened tails, simplified plastron (breast part-not sure that's the term used), disks in lieu of pom poms and so forth.
Pants seem to have gotten baggier-don't know why, except for 'fashion'.
Shakos were even simplified with a stamped diamond shape in place of the eagle.

AussieAndy18 Apr 2022 7:49 p.m. PST

Well part of it has to be that, if you are in an era before the mass production of clothing, then there are going to be a lot more guys in the ranks with tailoring skills. A hundred years later, not so much.

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2022 11:33 p.m. PST

Additionally, a lot of the ACW production wasn't 'mass produced' at least not how we think of it. For example, while we might think of a Richmond Depot jacket as being produced in Richmond, it wasn't, and it was. There was no large factory making clothing. Most clothing was produced by piece work. A young woman would get cloth and sit at home producing nothing but jackets, or pants, or shirts. She got paid per piece produced. Both sides did this.

Ammunition, on the other hand, was mass produced in factories, as were some weapons. Others, usually edged weapons, were made in small shops.

La Fleche19 Apr 2022 2:10 a.m. PST

Funny you raise this topic as I too have been pondering this of late.

Variety of uniforms production is easy: regulations come from the centre but production would most likely have been based around the regimental depots.
Whole populations of areas immediately surrounding depots would have been largely employed in furnishing the day-to-day needs of the unit, as well as in manufacturing various items of clothing and equipment, much of it from locally sourced materials.
Much more difficult to source or manufature would have been items such as horses, firearms, cannon, as well as exotic items such as bearskin, tigerskin, ivory and, famously in the case of France, indigo. These would have been handled by more centralised, specialist, suppliers.
Aside from the most technical aspects of cannon making, there is little in the inventory of an army of this period that would not have already been the basis of industry from the smallest kitchen table endeavour to the largest usine; the only differences being centrally directed ordering and requirements for standardised production.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2022 5:17 a.m. PST

Worth remembering they didn't always adhere to regulations. The Swedes show up in 1813 wearing three successive uniform issues, depending on the regiment. The KGL "Light" Dragoons at Waterloo are still wearing their old heavy dragoon uniforms--the stable jackets, actually, since the coats had worn out. There's a French general in Spain bragging about finally getting his people out of white coats and bicorn jackets about five years after blue coats and shakos were made the official norm.

My miniatures are generally much more compliant with uniform regulations than the soldiers they represent.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Apr 2022 5:47 a.m. PST

Also worth remembering, in many cases the commander was given the money to buy these things from local suppliers. Some officers put extra money in, some skimmed off the top. Surely cheating the government is the second oldest profession?

And I remember reading a diary wherein the solider noted you could make a good living following new units on the march. Simply collect all the gear they toss and sell it back to the government…

Lilian19 Apr 2022 7:22 a.m. PST

Seen a letter from a French officer in Spain sent to his Capitaine d'Habillement at the Regimental Depot if I remember, where he gave some details about the way to dress the regiment, explaining for example he had a workshop in each company, however the uniforms and the shoes suffered a lot in campaign

not sure that such caricatures below were far from the reality sometimes

enfant perdus19 Apr 2022 1:50 p.m. PST

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned John Trotter, of bell tent and framed knapsack fame. Arguably the first major military contractor of the modern era. Other than weapons and uniform basics, the majority of the accoutrements, stores and equipment of the Napoleonic Era British Army was supplied by Messrs. Trotter & Company.

Interestingly, I was recently bidding on some British Army documents spanning 1694-1787, including a number that dealt with uniform and equipment purchases. It really reinforced how much rested on the shoulders of regimental and sometimes company officers when it came to fitting out their men.

ChaosMan19 Apr 2022 9:47 p.m. PST

From VOLUME 18, ISSUE 3 Journal of Military and
Strategic Studies, "An Analysis of the French economic industrial and military mobilization in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars 1789-1815"
Dr. Ioannis-Dionysios Salavrakos

"When, on 13 November 1805, the French Grand Armée occupied
Vienna, one of its citizens gave the following description:

'Many [of the French soldiers] were blouses of peasants or shepherds [with] animal skin. Some have a more bizarre appearance [with] long pieces of meat or ham from their belts. Others march with bottles of wine. Their poverty does not obstruct them to lit their pipes with Viennese
banknotes.' "

Michman20 Apr 2022 6:39 a.m. PST

Russian infantry regiments (3 battalions, 12 companies) were quite self-sufficient ….

(Regimental Command)
--- Regiment's Chief (general officer)
--- Chief's Adjudant (officer)
--- Chief's Carriage with 2x Servant (ranker)
--- Auditor (officer)
--- Regimental Clerk (NCO)
--- Caretaker Orderly (ranker)
--- Records Caisson with Driver & Guard (rankers)
--- 3x Battalion Adjudant (officer)
--- 3x Battalion Clerk (NCO)

(Regimental Command)
--- Regimental Treasurer (officer)
--- Treasury Clerk (NCO)
--- Treasury Caisson with Driver & Guard (rankers)

(Regimental Command)
--- Priest (officer)
--- 2x Accolyte (NCO)
--- Church Wagon with Driver & Guard (ranker)

(Regimental Command)
--- Chief Doctor (officer)
--- 2x Medical Servant (ranker) with pack horse
--- Hospital Ward Supervisor (NCO)
--- Apothecary Caisson with Driver & Guard (rankers)
--- 3x Battalion Doctor (officer)
--- 3x Battalion Corpsman (NCO)
--- 3x Medical Servant (ranker)
--- 6x Ambulance Wagon with Driver (ranker)
--- 12x Medical Orderly (ranker)
--- 12x Barber-Surgeon (ranker)

(Regimental Command)
--- Regimental Quartermaster (officer)
--- Wagonmaster (NCO)
--- Supply Clerk (NCO)
--- 12x Quartermaster Corporal (NCO)
--- 12x Rations Wagon with Driver & Guard (rankers)
--- 12x Ammunition Caisson with Driver & Guard (rankers)
--- 24x Provisions Cart with Commissary (ranker)

Repair & Maintenance
(Regimental Command)
--- Master Woodworker (NCO)
--- Master Gunsmith (NCO)
--- Master Machinist/Mechanic (NCO)
--- Farrier-Vetrinarian (NCO) with pack horse
--- Tools & Equipment Wagon & Limbered Forge with Driver & Guard (rankers)
--- 6x Blacksmith (ranker)
--- 6x Gunsmith (ranker)
--- 12x Master-of-Arms (NCO)
--- 12x Woodworker (ranker)
--- 12x Carpenter (ranker)
--- 12x Equipment & Materiel Wagon with Driver & Guard (rankers)

Note : Each officer had a riding horse – company commanders and above also a pack horse
Note : Each company had a set of 40 entrenching tools (axes, steel shovels and pick-axe/mattocks) carried by rankers
Note : Wagon : large size, 4-wheels, 4 horses / Caisson : medium size, 2 wheels, 3 horses / Cart : small size, 2 wheels, 1 horse

Mike the Analyst20 Apr 2022 12:39 p.m. PST

Reading the operations journal of one of the corps in 1807 there was a lot of correspondence about cavalry remounts and demands for saddlery etc. from the local community.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Apr 2022 12:03 p.m. PST

I have in my possession 4 actual 1st empire period French Shakos. I have looked into glass cases in museums in France and saw 100s more.
Regardless of the "assigned year" the single thing they have in common is they do not resemble each other.
This is why I have argued for many years with gamers as to their thoughts on rigid uniformity.
In Vietnam in the 60s every US Marine would have somewhat different dress including the color of green -- the older the utilities the lighter the green to almost a white.
Also, all forms of weapons were present. I personally saw several Thompsons being carried, M1s, AKs, shotguns, etc.
I personally carried two short barrel Smith and Wesson 38 police specials while on patrol -- one down each pants pocket.
There is NO "uniformity" amidst Kaos.

Russ Dunaway

Russ Dunaway

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Apr 2022 12:07 p.m. PST

Michman, just because a Russian Document-- or any document states this does not make it so.

Russ Dunaway

Michman22 Apr 2022 7:00 p.m. PST

Thank you, Russ. I appreciate the correction.

I should have been much more careful to note that what I posted was the official "establishment" and that actual returns show some billets were not filled from time to time and that rich officers might have personal horses and in excess of the allowance and poor ones tried to avoid having a horse so that they could sell the horse's rations and some Native cavalry units had emams or shamans for priests. And so on. And so on.

The thing is, the Russian units often took the field with extra officer "volunteers" and over-complement or "outside of the line" other ranks. So getting someone to fill an empty support billet was usually pretty easy. For example, a full-stength platoon formed for combar in 24 files of three ranks – 144 rankers per company. But the full-stregth (late period) establishment gave 21 more men. They also had 6 senior-soldiers pre-qualified for corporalships, either acting or permanent, per company.

On campaign, battalions and regiments with losses were combined to keep units nearer to full-strength.

So while in no way correct or accurate, as you say, the Russian "establishment" was rather likely to be have its support billets getting filled.

I thought people might be interested because ….
(i) it is really lots of "support" at the low levels of command, with the "active" mobile forces – not at a fixed depot in the rear.
(ii) it is not how other armies were organized,
(iii) it allows for all sorts of "unique" models which some people really like to add to their "regular" forces.

But, as you noted, I should not have suggested or implied that the establishment, a document, was actually correct. I should be far more careful of that now.
So, thanks again.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 Apr 2022 7:25 a.m. PST

The Viennese banknotes, ChaosMan. Remember the only paper money the French soldiers had been exposed to previously was the assignat. They'd experienced a lot of transitory inflation.

Old Glory, it was no different in Cold War Germany in the 1990's. I like to think that the armed forces provide their own chaos.

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