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|The 1st Virginia
Cavalry began the war as a group of independent companies of horse from the Shenandoah
Valley, organized into a regiment by J.E.B. Stuart, later, of course, to become a Major
Stuart's horsemen wore chiefly
homespun clothing of plain gray or butternut with black facings, or "Hussar's
Bars" sewn onto the front of the jackets. The short jackets early in the war
were similar to the Richmond Depot Type I shell jacket design, which had epaulets, sleeve
trim, and belt loops. Although the traditional trim color for cavalry was yellow,
the 1st Virginia wore black-trimmed uniforms instead, including a broad-brimmed black hat
with black plume.
They were well-armed, and carried Sharps
carbines slung by leather shoulder belts and the standard model U.S. cavalry saber of the
|Although the traditional wearing of pants was
outside the tall cavalry boots, many troopers chose to tuck their pants into their boots
for a bit of style. They carried one or more Colt Navy Model 1851 .36 caliber
revolvers, many of which were captured from the U.S. Cavalry. The long gauntlet
cavalry gloves were tucked in the belt when not in use.
Since uniforms were subject to wear and damage as the war
bore on into the second year, one might find the light blue Federal uniform pants being
worn by Confederate troops as well, taken from the battlefield dead. Indeed, much of
the Confederate equipment was captured from the Union troops. The uniforms were not
reissued until 1863. Shirts were a matter of individual choice and style, and
colorful calicos as well as white muslin or plain Onasburg cotton could be seen throughout
the war on both sides. The well known "CS" belt plate was not issued to
the Army of Northern Virginia, so belt plates from earlier state militia units were often
seen, as well as a captured "US" belt plate worn upside-down.
Although the mechanical sewing machine was
available prior to the Civil War, such machines were more scarce in the south and
principally of the "chain-stitch" variety, which easily came undone. Thus,
many uniforms and most shirts were entirely hand-sewn by the tailors or ladies of the
south, or hand-repaired by the individual soldier.
At the First Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861,
Stuart's horsemen achieved considerable renown as the dreaded "Black Horse
Cavalry," although the origin of that sobriquet is obscure. For the remainder
of the war, the 1st Virginia performed outstanding service with the Cavalry Corps of the
Army of Northern Virginia, and were feared by all that encountered them.
Anyone with reasonable sewing skills can sew a
civil war uniform, given the correct pattern and correct materials. However, you
should be warned that considerable time is required to do a good job, and the authentic
fabrics are expensive.
For those who lack the time or skill to create
their own, ready-made or custom-made uniforms are readily available on the web. The
1st Virginia uniform, being non-standard in color trim, falls somewhere in between.
Based on a traditional shell jacket pattern (which every tailor of that era knew how to
make ) an authentic 1st-issue jacket requires black trim as shown in the image at the
One company offering a custom 1st Virginia shell
jacket is the Quartermaster Shop, which has an excellent web site at www.quartermastershop.com .
In particular, the 1st Virginia shell jacket as
pictured at the right is described on their Confederate
Army Early War Jacket order page.
Officer's or Enlisted men on horse, the mounted style has an extra layer of wool in the
seat and inner leg area. Typical of Confederate styles- trousers have the split back without
cord tie. Side seam pockets are standard.
should be quite loose in the seat and thigh area, as was style during the period. They
also have a 1 higher rise than todays modern slacks.
you can build 'em or buy them, and the example shown at the right is again from the
Quartermaster Shop, and is described on their Confederate
Army Mounted Trousers order page.