Uniforms of the Orphan Brigade

    First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 


Uniforms of the Orphan Brigade

Text & Photos by Geoff Walden

As Kentuckians in the Confederate Army, exiled from their homes for most of their career, the Orphans were in a rather unique situation. They could not draw uniforms and equipment from their home states (in contrast to soldiers from North Carolina (for example), who were well supplied by their home state throughout the war), nor, for most of the war, could they reliably receive civilian clothing from home. From early 1862 until the end of the war, they were dependent on the Confederate Quartermaster system to clothe and supply them.

The Kentuckians training at Camps Boone and Burnett would have presented a motley appearance indeed. Some Kentucky State Guard (KSG) companies brought their uniforms and equipment with them into Confederate service, a few units wore uniforms specially made by the ladies of their home towns, but most men went into service wearing simply civilian clothing. Many retained this clothing even up to and following the battle of Shiloh. The original quartermaster records for the Kentucky Brigade, which are in the National Archives, show uniform issues beginning in mid-1862, and continuing through the end of 1864 (at which time record keeping largely broke down). In fact, except for periods on extended campaign, the typical Orphan Brigade soldier was tolerably well equipped from late 1862 through late 1864, and rarely presented the rag-tag appearance of popular conception. ("The Confederate Gray Uniform," Confederate Veteran 2(7), July 1894, p. 207 (William Bemiss was in the 6th Ky. Inf.); photos of the KSG encampment in Louisville, August 1860, Kentucky Historical Society collections; National Archives, Record Group 109, Chapter VIII, Vols. 67-72; Geoff Walden, "Clothing Issues of 4th Kentucky Infantry, CSA," Reenactors Journal 3(6), June 1992, p. 15)

The Kentucky State Guard uniforms varied by company. Some were gray, some blue; some followed Federal regulations, some were simple hunting shirts. An example of such a uniform may be the coat identified to Pvt. Henry Hall of the 4th Kentucky Infantry, now in Stones River National Battlefield Park. This cadet gray frock coat has blue trim, and it originally had Kentucky state seal buttons.

Coat of Pvt. Henry Hall, Co. A, 4th Ky Infantry, CSA, killed in action at Murfreesboro
(Stones River National Battlefield Park; photo by Dave Hunter)

Other early war uniforms were privately purchased, or made by concerned citizens at home. Images show soldiers of the 6th Kentucky Infantry in dark single-breasted frock coats and light kepis. Other images show 2nd Kentucky soldiers in light colored frocks and dark kepis.  The men of Co.G, 2nd Kentucky,the Hamilton Guards, wore a distinctive uniform made by the ladies of their home town in Bourbon County. Maj. James Hewitt of the 2nd Kentucky used his personal funds to purchase special overcoats for his regiment during the winter of 1861-62. One of these unique hooded coats survives today in the Kentucky Military History Museum. (Images of J.C. Peden and G.R. Peden, 6th Ky. Inf., Barren County Courthouse, Glasgow, KY; images of J.W. Payne and J.C. Bourne, 2nd Ky. Inf., Kentucky Historical Society collections;"The Flag of the Hamilton Guards," Confederate Veteran 33(10), October 1925, p. 363; Thompson, History of the Orphan Brigade (1898), p. 439)

Overcoat of D.F.C. Weller, 2nd Kentucky Infantry, CSA
(courtesy Kentucky Historical Society / Military History Museum; photo by Geoff Walden)

  Uniforms (Continued)

  Back to the top

We gratefully acknowledge the generous permission of the owners in allowing us to show their images and other information on this page.  All Kentucky Military History Museum items appear by the kind courtesy of Thomas Fugate, curator.

URL: https://sites.rootsweb.com/~orphanhm/uniforms.htm


Comments to page authors:

Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at) live.com
Laura Cook
: lcook62 (at) hotmail.com

All contents copyright 1996-2014, Geoff Walden, Laura Cook. All rights reserved.   No text or photos may be reproduced without the permission of the owners.  We gratefully acknowledge the generous permission of the owners in allowing us to show their images and other information on this page.

Homepage:  https://sites.rootsweb.com/~orphanhm/index.htm