Home of the fighting 1st Virginia Cavalry,
           the feared "Black Horse"

Uniforms of the 1st Virginia Cavalry


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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 General.

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 time.

Trooper, 1st Virginia Cavalry Regiment, C.S.A., 1861-62

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.

Assembling YOUR uniform

Shell Jacket

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 right.

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.

Mounted Trousers

For 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.

Trousers should be quite loose in the seat and thigh area, as was style during the period. They also have a 1” higher rise than today’s modern slacks.

Again, 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.

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First Virginia Cavalry
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Revised: June 06, 2006