SUVCW display of the Confederate Battle Flag
Confederate Prisoners, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863

The Rebel soldier - what did he look like?


Countless eyewitness descriptions allow us to evoke the popular image of the ragged Rebel

  • Uniforms were in shreds and tatters, described more appropriately as “multiforms”; faces were unshaven, unkempt hair stuck through slouch hats of all shapes and sizes, and the dusty roads only served to cake the soldiers in further filth 
  • Uniforms were ill-fitting; sleeves were too short, trouser legs too long, only adding to their multifarious appearance. 
  • Lee’s men were particularly deficient in shoes, underwear and blankets, and “Their coats were made out of almost anything you could imagine, butternut color predominating.”Their lack of shoes led to scores of footsore soldiers, and in many regiments the barefooted seemed to outnumber those with footwear.  
  • The weight of soldiers had also debilitated; a supposed diet containing large amounts of green corn and apples for subsistence ensured the Rebels became hollow-eyed and sullen-faced. 
  • James Steptoe Johnston, Jr. of the 11th Mississippi wrote that “it had become quite natural for us to starve.” 
  • One unnamed citizen in Frederick, Maryland wrote that “the filth that pervades them is most remarkable… They have no uniforms, but are well armed and equipped.” 
  • One witness said she felt “humiliated at the thought that this horde of ragamuffins could set our grand army of the Union at defiance”, but professed a certain sympathy “for the poor, misguided wretches, for some were limping along so painfully, trying to keep with their comrades.” 
  • Mrs. I.E. Doane was 81 years old when interviewed by workers of the WPA Federal Writer’s Project –These, ragged and half-starved, passed in hordes, raiding their provisions, killing their chickens, hogs and cattle. Although this was hard, Mrs. Cummings did not begrudge food to these soldiers. Mrs. Doane says she well remembers her mother and “Mudder” baking hoecakes in the kitchen for these hungry soldiers, who were so ravenous that they could not wait for the bread to be browned on both sides, but would snatch it from their hands and eat it half-cooked. She recalls seeing her mother dish up sauer-kraut for the soldiers until they had eaten her entire winter’s supply - two barrels.

From wildbillburroughs on Tumblr

comments powered by Disqus