The shirt issued by the U.S. government before and during the war was made of white domet flannel, a cotton and wool material. This pullover Shirt was issued in a single size, with a single button at the neck and one at each cuff. The design made for ease of construction and certainly made requisition a simple matter of ordering enough to fill the need without regard to fit. During 1863, gray material was ordered as a secondary standard. From that date on, both were distributed on about an equal basis. Union soldiers are seen in numerous photographs in various styles and patterns of civilian shirts that were privately obtained; however, the use of civilian clothing by soldiers was discouraged and at times strictly for- bidden.the large purchase of jackets and orther items from Petter Tait in 1864. were described in the original letter sent to the seretary of war as “strong gray flannel”.
Army contract domet flannel shirt made by A. S. Saroni as part of his ontact for 50,000 shirts in December 1861. All of these shir were completely fabricated by hand, each requiring up to 2,000 stitches. A capable seamstress could make about three in a twelve- hour day, earning approximately 7 cents each. The contractors often made the overworked seamstresses furnish their own thread TROIANI COLLECTION
Of the shirts that might have been brought home by the veteran for sentimental or practical purposes, many were subsequently used up as work clothes around the farm or shop, eventually making theirway to extinction in the household rag box. By 1875, the stockpile of some 1.7 million shirts in Union clothing depots at the war’s end had been exhausted through issuances to the postwar regular army, state militias and the Freedman’s Bureau and by public auctions of outdated army ~lothing.~It doesnot seem that many shirts, if any, made it into the stocks of military surplus dealers as was the case, quite fortunately, with quantities of Union-issue forage caps, uni- form (dress) hats, overcoats and uniform jackets acquired for commercial resale by the firms of Francis Bannerman, W. Stokes Kirk, White’s and other late nineteenth-century deal- ers in military surplus. These early purveyors of military antiquities passed through their sales roomsmany of the Civil War uniforms, arms, and equipments that form private collec- tions today. As a consequence, the once-common shirt of the Union soldier is, today, astonishingly uncommon; there are very few of them for this future generation to “wonder at.” Even in the absence of a formal survey listing every known example, a casual census suggests there are probably only several dozen surviving shirts with solid provenance of Civil War soldier-use in the hundreds of museums, historical soci- eties and private collections around the country. Among that thin population are Union-issue shirts, state-issue shirts pro- vided in unknown variety and quantity to their respective units, and those purchased by the soldier or gotten from a local aid society or through an entreaty to a loved one at home. The purpose of this article is to provide a broad context for the manufacture and issuance of “the army standard size and make” shirt, and to describe in detail the best surviving example of one. The 1865 Quartermaster’s report stated that more than 11 million shirts had been purchased by Union clothing depots since May 1861.3 These shirts were generally categorized under one oftwo majorfabric types, either”knit,”or”flannel.” Flannel shirts were usually further noted as being either white or gray in color. In four years of war, the principal U. S. clothing depots located in New York, Philadelphia, and Cin- cinnati purchased more than 2.5 million knit shirts from twenty-nine different contractors through at least sixty-five different contracts. The first let for knit shirts were dated in August 1862. Contract language describing these shirts refers to them as “gray knit,” “mixed knit,” “with collars,” or “to be made like sample except that they are to have cuffs instead of elastic wrist bands.” Several knit shirt contracts required a weight of “11 pounds per dozen9’or, similarly, “each to weigh 14 ounce^.”^ Beyond these few meager clues in the contracts, little is known about the Union-issue knit shirt. Of the millions of knit shirts bought by the Quartermaster Department and issued to Union soldiers, not a single shirt of this type is known to survive. The knittingpattern probably resembled that found on machine-knit Civil War officers’ sashes of silk and non- commissioned officers’ sashes of wool. Over the course of the War, the Quartermaster Department awarded knit shirt con- tracts ranging in cost from as little as sixty-nine cents per shirt to as much as $2.34 each. Of the twenty-nine knitting manufactories supplying shirts to the army, most were located in and around Northern industrial centers with established concentrations of capital to underwrite their setup and opera- tion. Fifteen knitting contractors were located in New York City, with another seven in Albany, New York, and environs. Two were located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with one each in Trenton, New Jersey; New Britain, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts and Bennington, Verm~nt.~ Knit good contractors producing for the army employed new, expensive, power knittingmachinesdeveloped in the 1850swith capacity for large volume production required to fulfill goveniment shirt contracts.