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 Iron Brigade
Wisconsin's "Black Hat" Brigade

last updated 02/28/2007


2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan, Bttry B - 4th US Art.


Image History
Edwin Brown
Military Organization
IB Composition
Rufus Dawes
Who & Why

Wisconsin's First Uniforms for the Boys at Camp Randall

At the beginning of the Civil War, the Army and the Navy did have fairly standardized uniforms.  However, States, Counties, and Cities had been mustering and drilling men for generations.  Most of these organizations were more like clubs for the men to meet and socialize.  Some where decidedly more military then others.   Thus a wide array of uniforms for these "volunteer" organizations were in use.  Some were take off's of uniforms used by Napoleon's Guards, complete with Bear Skin hats,  some French zouave's themselves patterned after armies of the middle-east, some looked like holdovers from the war of 1812 with swallow-tail coats.  Others were simply so unique as being indescribable.  The most interesting  fact about these uniforms, both north and south, is that they had no regard for national colors.  Some were blue, some were gray, some green, etc.  When the Civil War broke out these organizations would join as organizations and their uniforms would go with them.  Individual states were left up to cloth the men without direction from the national government.  

Wisconsin was a state that was fond of Gray uniforms and thus, after the men were sworn in at Camp Randall in early 1861 gray is what they received.  I can not pretend to give a better description of the uniform then one James "Mickey" P. Sullivan of Company K of the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers.  The following is from "An Irishman in the Iron Brigade" by W. J. K. Beaudot and L. J. Herdegen.

The uniform was a short gray jacket reaching to the hips, faced with black at the ends of the collar, on the upper side of the cuff, on the shoulders and straps on the sides to hold up the waist belt, gray pants with a black welt in the outside seam, a fatigue suit of pepper and salt gray cotton, (i.e., a sack coat and trowsers with red welt in outside seam,) two heavy dark blue woolen shirts, two pairs of drawers, two pairs socks, a pair of cowhide shoes, a linen and glazed cloth cap cover, cap, etc. every article received from the state was of excellent quality, except the dress caps, and that was something wonderfully and fearfully made.  What a carpenter would call the carcass was made of hair cloth; the inside finish of black alpaca and the cornice base board, and outside trimmings of patent leather, a front vizor or porch square with front elevation and projecting on a level; a rear vizor or piazza extending downwards at one-third pitch, and the whole heavily and strongly put together according to specifications.  The caps afforded the boys an unlimited opportunity to exercize their powers of sarcasm, and they were universally named after a useful chamber utensil, and many were the theories advanced and overthrown in regard to the use of the hind vizor or tail piece; but Hugh Talty finally solved the vexed question by asserting in an indisputable manner "that whin we were fi'tin', the inemy couldn't tell whin we were advancin' or retratin'," which was accepted as the only correct and reasonable hypothesis.  The caps furnished considerable exercise in "hop, step and jump," the jump generally ending on top of somebody's cap, but the caps like Banquo's ghost, would not down but spring up refreshed after every disaster.....  The size of the shoes, also, furnished much harmless mirth and jokes; and "gunboats", "flatboats," "schooners," "ferryboats," "mudscows," etc. were mild terms applied to those worn by such as Ira Butterfield, Winsor, and Chase and others of the No. 13s, while Flynn said that the writer could go through all the facings without moving the toes of his shoes from the front.

The quality of the uniforms were appreciated better when latter the Brigade drew new regulation uniforms.   This was not done until after the battle of first Manassas where several incidents of misidentification occurred on both sides, with disastrous results.